The tribe has spoken.
In a dramatic "Survivor" style, Bradford Island landowners have deposed from their governing board a man who hasn't paid his taxes in 1 1/2 years and drove the tiny levee maintenance district to its financial knees.
Then, after Paul Sosnowski and his girlfriend, Holly Davis, vacated their seats, the remaining board members moved Tuesday to auction off his land in an attempt to recover an estimated $159,470 in unpaid assessments and penalties.
Sosnowski owns the most property on the island and his assessments add up to a third of the district's annual income, which pays for levee repairs and maintenance, and a ferry to the 2,172-acre Delta island.
"I'm barely able to pay the bills," district manager Angelia Tant told the board. "I sometimes go three months without a paycheck and I have four kids. But we've all been doing our best to keep the district going."
Sosnowski, who has called the reclamation board's members "stupid" and its landowners "dumb," appeared blindsided by the action to remove him from his seat.
He and Davis arrived at the board meeting to find no chairs for them at the voting members' table or their customary binders packed with agenda documents.
The pair insisted, however, on having seats brought to the head table in the district's small lobby, where they and about a dozen people listened very closely to legal counsel Mia Brown explain the strange turn of events.
As a result, the board's expansion is void and it must return to its original configuration of three members, Brown said.
And the two seats happen to be the ones that Sosnowski and Davis occupy, and neither looked happy about it.
Sosnowski, who has long hoped to develop on the island, wrested majority control of the district last year when he secured a third seat for his employee, Steve Lucas.
Sosnowski perched uneasily on the folding metal chair Tuesday and forcefully questioned the attorney's conclusions on the acreage calculations and demanded a new property survey.
In the interim, Sosnowski told the board that county "Assessor (Gus Kramer) would give me a letter today saying the survey is inaccurate" and suggested the county official's opinion could serve as the basis of a request for a court stay of the seat reduction pending the completion of a new survey.
Whether Sosnowski has sufficient money to reverse this turn of events is an open question.
In addition to his unpaid reclamation assessments, he is behind on his general property taxes. On June 30 Sosnowski agreed at the final minute to a payment plan -- not his first -- and averted a public auction on this bill, according to the county.
From comments at the meeting, it appears Sosnowski will find little sympathy among district employees, contractors or fellow landowners who complained about how he conducted his business.
In the meantime, the district says it lacks the funds to buy emergency supplies before the next spring snow runoff, such as those big water-stopping rocks and plastic sheeting.
Gene Lewis, who has owned a piece of Bradford Island with his wife, Esther, for nearly two decades and sat on the board, vividly remembers 1993 when water poured over the levee.
"Just because a major landowner doesn't pay his assessments, are we going to sit around and wait for the island to flood?" an angry Lewis asked. "The sole purpose of this board is to protect the island from a flood. This has to stop."