Former councilors charged with fraud

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
04/30/2004 02:40 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Three of four former Tribal Councilors who are charged with misusing tribal funds appeared before the tribe's district court April 16.

In March, tribal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Mary Flute Cooksey of Flute Springs, Stephanie Wickliffe-Shepherd of Mayes County and Don Crittenden of rural Hulbert accusing them of defrauding the Cherokee Nation and filing a fraudulent claim to pay Tulsa attorney Richard Toon $10,447 in tribal funds. Toon represented the former councilors when they challenged the results of last year's tribal election.

If convicted each of the three councilors face one-year of imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,000, or both fine and imprisonment for each charge.

Former tribal councilor Harold DeMoss is charged with conspiracy to

defraud the tribe. He was chairman of the Tribal Council's executive and finance committee at the time Toon was paid and approved and presented a check request for the $10,477 transaction in July 2003.

Documents show in June 2003 Crittenden, Cooksey and Shepherd signed a legal representation contract with Toon and agreed to reimburse him for "expenses incurred." The following month the Toon Law Firm was paid using tribal funds. Title 26, Section 102(A) of the tribe's codes prohibits the use of public funds to pay an individual's attorney fees to contest a tribal election.

Crittenden did not attend the April 16 hearing. District Judge John Cripps issued a continuance for him, Cooksey and Wickliffe-Shepherd until 2 p.m., May 21. Cooksey and Wickliffe-Shepherd tried to enter a not guilty plea but were not allowed to do so by Cripps because their attorney was not present.

DeMoss pled not guilty and informed the court he would represent himself. Cripps reminded DeMoss of the charge against him and outlined the penalties he is subject to if convicted, which include one-year of imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,000, or both fine and imprisonment.

The possible penalties did not deter DeMoss from representing himself at a court date also set for 2 p.m., May 21. He also chose to have his case heard before Judge Cripps at a bench trial rather than having it heard before a jury.

"I don't believe I did anything wrong, so I don't think I need counsel," he said.

The tribe's General Counsel, Julian Fite, also filed a civil suit in district court against Crittenden, Cooksey and Shepherd in an effort to recover the $10,447.

All four of the defendants ran for re-election in May 2003 but lost. After the election, Crittenden, Cooksey and Wickliffe-Shepherd filed suit against the tribe's Election Commission alleging irregularities in the election. The three asked the tribe's Judicial Appeals Tribunal to overturn the May election citing irregularities in the election process that the tribe's Election Commission failed to address. The court ruled 2-1 that sufficient evidence wasn't presented to warrant a new election.

Wickliffe-Shepherd said the tribe's accounting documents show that each of the three councilor's expended $3,482.37 of their own legal expense fund and that they filed the election appeal petition as "a current council representative."

She said the funds were not federal dollars, but general fund monies approved and passed in the 2003 fiscal year budget. She said the funds were established by resolution on May 1997 with legislation that states "an individual council member may engage legal counsel without approval of the council or deputy chief so long as the cost of such legal fees are limited to $5,000 per council member each Cherokee Nation budget year."

She said the tribe's comptroller approved the attorney contract with Toon, and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Smith signed the check last July.

"Council members have used funds in this manner over the last eight years," Wickliffe-Shepherd said.

Regarding the signing of the Toon contract, Chief Smith said, "We respect the separation of powers and the role of the legislative branch, so we don't generally scrutinize their requests for payment. We didn't suspect these councilors would be expending tribal funds illegally on their own campaign and election challenges."

Cooksey said she agrees with Wickliffe-Shepherd and that the councilors had the right to use the funds because the funds were not federal money, but funds set aside for each councilor to use "as they saw fit with things and issues affecting them."

In August 2003, Fite gave Cooksey, Crittenden and Wickliffe-Shepherd 10 days to make restitution to the tribe or his office would "pursue further remedies" against them. No restitution was made and tribal prosecutors continued their investigation of the alleged misuse of public funds.
About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
08/18/2017 03:15 PM
ROCKY MOUNTAIN, Okla. – The Rocky Mountain Community Organization is hosting two events in August at its community building near Stilwell. RMCO will host the Adair County Historical & Genealogical Association at 6 p.m., Aug. 22. ACH&GA volunteers will be on hand to discuss area history and genealogy. Beans and cornbread will be served at 5:30 p.m., and everyone is welcome to attend. The Adair County Historical & Genealogical Association is a non-profit organization maintained by volunteers. Located in the rehabilitated 1915 Kansas City Southern Railroad Depot in Stilwell, the association collects countywide research materials, genealogies of county families and artifacts of historical and cultural significance. Volunteers provide research and genealogical assistance to individuals interested in learning more about their family’s past. Tours of the county history museum provide access to artifacts that provide a deeper appreciation of the county’s history. Also, at 7 p.m., Aug. 26, RMCO will host a Movie Night where “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” will be shown. Admission is free, and the concession stand will open at 6 p.m. Seating is available, but moviegoers are welcome to bring their own chairs. People also have an opportunity to win a door prize by signing in when they arrive. For more information, call 918-696-4965.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
08/18/2017 08:15 AM
OOLOGAH, Okla. – For more than 20 years, the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore has paid homage to Will Rogers and Wiley Post with an annual fly-in at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch. Rogers, a Cherokee Nation citizen, and Post, a famed aviator, died in a plane crash on Aug. 15, 1935, in Point Barrow, Alaska. Tad Jones, the museum’s executive director, said this year commemorates the 82nd anniversary of their passing. “His (Rogers) character is what we want to try to keep alive. He was a guy that respected everybody, which I think it’d be great for our entire nation now to show that respect towards others,” he said. “I know Will Rogers, if he was here, he would love it because he was a man that just loved action activities, and this event has just gotten to be huge over the last number of years.” The event kicked off at 7:30 a.m. Jones said people and planes began arriving as early as 6:45 a.m. The free event offered more than 100 planes, a car show, Cherokee storytelling, 19th century games for children and the opportunity to tour Rogers’ birthplace home. The planes landed on an airstrip adjacent to the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch allowing visitors to get an up-close look at them. “You get to walk around with the planes, so it’s not just looking at them from a distance. But when they land you can walk out among the planes, and sometimes they’ll let you sit in the cockpits,” Jones said. Rogers’ great-granddaughter, Jennifer Rogers-Etcheverry, said the event is a great way to continue Rogers’ legacy while helping others learn his story. “This is what I love the most is seeing these young children out here with a mixture of older generations because that’s who needs to learn about Will Rogers is these up-and-coming children,” she said. “I am just so grateful that people want to continue his legacy, and to bring their families out to something that’s a tradition like this. And what better place than his actual birth home.” Rogers-Etcheverry said seeing people honor Rogers’ means “everything” to her. “There’s nothing negative when you talk to people who remember him or have heard about him, it’s always positive,” she said. “He was such a role model to so many people, so that means everything to me.” Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said the tribe annually contributes to the museum and ranch to ensure they remain “healthy and strong.” This year the CN gave $25,000. “This is a state of Oklahoma facility, and they are really struggling with their budget,” he said. “It’s important to us as Cherokee people to support this and make sure that it remains healthy and strong.” For the past three years there has also been a National Day of Remembrance during the fly-in for those who have died in small airplane crashes. “We have Will and Wiley who died in a small airplane crash, and so we want to honor anyone who has died in a small airplane crash. You hear a tragedy with the big airplanes, but there is a lot of people who have passed away in small airplane crashes,” Jones said. “At 10 o’clock (a.m.) we have a National Day of Remembrance that we put on Facebook all over the country, and we honor those that have died in small airplane crashes. We have a 35 second moment of silence, which is for 1935 when Will Rogers and Wiley Post died.” For more information, visit <a href="http://www.willrogers.com" target="_blank">www.willrogers.com</a>.
BY LINDSEY BARK
News Writer
08/17/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Dr. Mike Dobbins, of Fort Gibson, said he’s ready to serve his first term as the Dist. 4 Tribal Councilor and looks to improve the Cherokee Nation’s health care system. Dobbins will take his councilor seat with 37 years of experience in health care, practicing dentistry for 20 of those years. “I chose to run because from a distance I’ve become quite familiar with the Cherokee health system, and there are some great things about it. The framework’s in place…and a lot of good has transpired. With my experience I feel like I can lend some expertise to help improve the system. That was my primary motive in running for council...to see what I could do to improve the health care system,” Dobbins said. He said he has more to learn about the CN Health Services and how it functions on a daily basis. Dobbins is also involved in higher education, teaching at dental schools for the past 17 years and assisting Cherokee students interested in health care. “I’ve assisted multiple Cherokee students with scholarship opportunities, not only with Cherokee scholarships, but with other Native American scholarships and try to help them go through college with little-to-no debt as possible,” he said. He said in Dist. 4, he’s also heard concerns from CN citizens about housing issues. “I’m also knowledgeable of the fact that there’s a lot of other Cherokee needs (including) infrastructure, housing, elder care. I’m also sensitive to those areas as well. I plan to be a multi-purpose councilman,” Dobbins said. “I’m on the outside right now, but I intend to see (and) get familiarized with the housing program and make sure that citizens of District 4 are considered for any housing possibilities.” The 2017 Tribal Council election was Dobbins’ second attempt at becoming a CN legislator. He said he learned from his “mistakes” four years ago and that it was a “less stressful” campaign this time around. “I ran four years ago and lost by two (votes) to an 18-year incumbent,” he said. “You learn by experience, and I enlisted more help, actually, this time. I tried to do a lot of myself four years ago. I’d say…most importantly I learned what not to do rather than what to do.” Dobbins said he has an obligation to serve not only the CN citizens who helped or voted for him, but also those who did not. “I’m their councilman now, and I feel a deep debt of obligation to fulfill that duty,” he said. “I just look forward to serving the Cherokee people on the council. I do have a busy schedule but I feel like I will be accessible. I have a busy schedule outside my councilman responsibilities, but my councilman responsibility will be my priority.”
BY LINDSEY BARK
News Writer
08/16/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – E.O. Smith, of Vian, on Aug. 14 will begin serving his first term as the Dist. 5 Tribal Councilor after winning a July 22 runoff election. He will take the seat being vacated by Tribal Councilor David Thornton. Smith won the runoff against Cherokee Nation citizen Uriah Grass by receiving 52.26 of the vote. He previously spent eight years as a CN Food Distribution warehouse manager in Sallisaw. His platform includes improving education, employment and health care for Cherokees. “I want to help. There’s some of these families, they don’t need to live in the condition they live in. (Cherokee) Nation is strong but I’d like to help make it stronger. I just care about people…I just want to make things better for District 5,” he said. Born in Mexico, Smith moved to Vian with his mother and father at age 2. “My dad was a farmer, and back then there wasn’t any farm aid or anything, and a flood wiped them out and they lost everything they had. So he had to move out to Mexico and worked in the oil fields, saved up money to come back home,” he said. After seeing his father’s work ethic and ability to move back to the United States to become a business owner, Smith followed in father’s footsteps by becoming a business owner, operating two stores in Vian for 29 years. Smith was also involved with youth and youth sports, coaching sports teams for more than 42 years. “That’s my passion. That’s what I love to do. I like working with kids,” Smith said. As a councilman for the city of Vian, Smith said he see too many young people, Cherokees and non-Cherokees, with no desire to work and wants to motivate them to find jobs. Smith said in his travels in the CN, about 85 percent of people he talked to brought up improving health care, especially for elders. “Overall, I just want to help improve things. I’m for all the programs we got going. I don’t want to cut any. I’d like to see some improve,” he said. He said he had a tough election but is ready to get his feet on the ground and see what lies ahead of him as a Tribal Councilor to improve programs and other issues in the CN and Dist.5 “We all want good things for the (Cherokee) Nation, or we wouldn’t be running. I’m just so excited for this chance. I can’t wait to get started. I really want to try to help. I’m 66. I feel good and this may be my last chance to do something good,” Smith said. Smith said he is creating an office in Vian where he will be available from 9 a.m. to noon five days a week and will also be accessible by phone at 918-705-1845. “Let’s pull together and help me make this a good four years. Let’s don’t fight. Let’s pull together,” Smith said.
BY CHANDLER KIDD
Intern
08/16/2017 12:00 PM
JAY, Okla. – After winning a July 22 runoff, Mike Shambaugh is the new Tribal Councilor for Dist. 9, which covers the southern half of Delaware County and part of eastern Mayes County. The current chief of police in Jay, whose has been involved with law enforcement for 28 years, said he’s a goal-oriented person, and it’s been a lifelong goal to serve on the Tribal Council. Shambaugh obtained that goal after by earning 54.96 percent of the vote in the runoff against Cherokee Nation citizen Clifton Hughes. “The opportunity came up, and I thought it would be a great time to run and I won,” he said. Shambaugh said he began his career in law enforcement as a patrolman and worked his way to a district attorney investigator. As Jay’s chief of police and holding an administrator position, Shambaugh is accustomed to dealing with people’s problems in a professional way, he said. “You have to learn to listen as an administrator. Everybody has a story to tell when they have a problem,” Shambaugh said. “The first thing that is out of my mouth is ‘What can I do to help you today?’ I want to know how to help them or where I can send them to get help.” He said he’s most excited to be working and meeting people of Dist. 9 while representing the CN as a whole. He also said he plans to incorporate his experience with doing paperwork to help CN citizens get services while he serving for the next four years. “A lot of people have trouble doing paperwork with the Cherokee Nation because it is pretty extensive in some areas. Well, I would be willing to sit down with them and even write it out for them if they were having trouble filling it out,” he said. Shambaugh added that he believes it is important for people outside of the CN to know the Cherokee people are here to help. He stated that the Nation is always pushing forward to make things better for its people. During his time as a tribal legislator, he said wants to work to improve elder care. “I have already had four of five phone calls from people who need help, and my job hasn’t even started yet. Whether it is handicap ramps or something else,” he said. “Health care, elder care and education are three big things with me, and the Cherokee Nation has shown that these are important issues with them also.” Shambaugh said he’s proud of his Cherokee heritage, and to honor it while on the Tribal Council he said he plans on incorporating his board position at the United Way in hopes of delivering school supplies to schools in the CN that need assistance. “My mother was full blood, and my family as far back as I first remember spoke mainly Cherokee when I was young. Everything that I have seen with the Cherokee Nation has made me proud because the Nation has made great strides to help their citizens,” he said. Shambaugh and the other eight Tribal Councilors who won seats in this year’s elections were inaugurated on Aug. 14.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
08/15/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The former Cherokee Nation Marshal Service building located west of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex has had many uses since it was built in the 1980s, but its days are numbered. The building will soon be taken down to provide more parking for the Tribal Complex, on which a second story was recently added to provide more office space and accommodate the tribe’s courts. “The building will be disassembled rather than demolished,” CN Construction Project Administrator Paul Crosslin said. “We’re hoping we can save some parts for future construction projects.” Crosslin said he is not certain when the building will be disassembled. Tests such as tests for asbestos levels first need to be completed. “We’re hoping to start the disassembly next week (week of Aug. 14) but that decision hasn’t been made yet,” he said. Longtime CN employees estimate the building was constructed in the mid-1980s as a green house with no insulation. In the 1990s, the building housed the Cherokee Gift shop. “I worked there when I started in 1992,” Cherokee Gift Shop General Manager Linda Taylor said. “That was before the gift shop was moved to the front of the Cherokee Nation Annex building. CNMS Capt. Danny Tanner said the building housed the CNMS from 2001 until this past March. “Our new location (inside the Cherokee Nation EMS building east of the Tribal Complex) was actually built for the Marshal Service, but the CN Election Commission ended up moving in,” he said. Tanner said he was grateful the CNMS was able to move to its new location. “This is where Cherokee Marshal Service should be located.”