AG opinion: Councilor wrongly barred Phoenix video

BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
11/26/2008 11:11 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In a Nov. 18 opinion, the tribe’s Attorney General’s Office stated Council Speaker Meredith Frailey wrongly denied the Cherokee Phoenix video coverage of a June public forum concerning the tribe’s planned takeover of W.W. Hastings Indians Hospital.

“The Cherokee Nation Freedom of Information and Right of Privacy Act of 2001 provides members of the public and the press with a statutory right to make sonic recordings at open meetings,” the opinion states. “Government employees and officials do not have the authority to restrict the tribal newspaper staff from making a video recording of a public meeting or forum unless the restriction is reasonable, narrowly tailored, advances a substantial government interest and does not obstruct other alternative forms of communication.”

Cherokee Phoenix staffer Craig Henry said Frailey told him he was not allowed to video record a June 26 public forum where tribal health officials, administration cabinet members and councilors answered questions from the public and discussed Cherokee Nation’s planned assumption of Hastings.

He said before the event Frailey asked CN Communications Officer Mike Miller and CN Leadership Group Leader Todd Enlow if they had set up the camera.

“They told her no, so she turned to me and said I had to take it down,” Henry said. “She told me they (she and forum co-sponsor Councilor Bradley Cobb) were not allowing anyone to record the meeting. She said they were afraid people would be reluctant to speak if there were cameras.”

Henry also said Frailey told him several other media outlets had inquired about video access and that they were denied.

“We considered this a public forum, and it was called primarily for the benefit of W.W. Hastings employees so they could learn and discuss freely the topics concerning the future of Hastings hospital,” Frailey said. “We felt that video taping such an event would have a rather chilling effect on the free flow of ideas and communications concerning the issues that arose.”

However, according to the opinion, “Members of the public may be unable, due to work or family commitments, to attend the forum on the date and time prescribed. Having a recording of the event available to the public allows a larger number of citizens to benefit from the public discourse. Many of the questions asked by members of the public at the forum may be questions of interest to all of the citizens of the Cherokee Nation.”

Jami Custer, the staff writer who covered the forum, said no audience comments were made during or after the officials’ presentation and that audience members wrote questions on paper and put them into a box.

The questions were later read by Cobb, who allowed officials to answer. She added that the only audience member who spoke during the forum did so to reiterate a question he wrote for the panel to answer.

Frailey said the forum’s original plan called for allowing public comments, but because the forum ran long, Cobb, who moderated the event, didn’t open it up for comments.

The two councilors sponsored the forum so the tribe’s negotiation team could publicly present an overview of the proceedings with Indian Health Service about the planned Hastings takeover from the IHS.

Secretary of State Melanie Knight said Cobb and Frailey were two of the four councilors designated by the council’s Health Committee who attended the negotiations.
About the Author
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties.

He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design.

Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper.

He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.
TRAVIS-SNELL@cherokee.org • 918-453-5358
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties. He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design. Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper. He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
02/12/2016 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Budget cuts of 3 percent that began in January for Oklahoma agencies, including its public schools, will grow deeper beginning in March, the state's finance director warned on Monday. Collections to the state treasury have continued to come in below projections, exacerbating the revenue failure that was declared in December, Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said in an email to state agency directors and finance officers. "We are communicating as proactively as possible because we recognize how challenging continued changes to the reduction levels will be for agencies," Doerflinger wrote. The exact amount of the reductions won't be known until next week after the state's Board of Equalization updates the forecast for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Doerflinger noted that because the Legislature is in session, state leaders could take further actions that could affect the size of the next reduction. House Speaker Jeff Hickman said before the session started that lawmakers might consider a bill to adjust agency allocations to protect priority areas like education and public safety, mandating deeper cuts to a state agency to ease the reductions for another. The 3 percent cuts ordered last month are expected to cost public schools about $47 million for the rest of the fiscal year that ends June 30. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said at the time she believes continued cuts could force some school districts to close their doors before the end of the current school year. Already, the University of Oklahoma announced a plan to cut about $20 million in spending through a voluntary retirement offer, travel restrictions and a reduction in staff resulting from attrition. OU President David Boren announced Monday he also intends to recommend a pay cut of 3 percent for himself and other top administrators, including vice presidents and deans, for the upcoming fiscal year. Revenue collections have fallen below the estimate upon which the state-appropriated budget for this fiscal year was based. Lawmakers are facing even deeper cuts to agency budgets for the fiscal year that begins July 1, with a hole of about $900 million, or 13 percent. That figure is expected to grow larger once the final revenue figures are certified next week. Much of the decline is a result of the plummeting price of oil and natural gas, and the impact of the energy industry's contraction on the state's economy. The state's individual income tax rate declined in January from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, a move that will cost the state about $147 million annually when fully implemented.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
02/11/2016 11:30 AM
STILWELL, Okla. – According to Adair County court records, a Cherokee Nation marshal on Jan. 12 arrested CN employee Joshua Lee Littlefield, 26, for claiming ownership of tribal equipment that was pawned at a shop in Stilwell. Court documents state that James Harper, a Cherokee Nation Marshal Service investigator, arrested Littlefield for pawning an Infocus projector to H&H Pawn Shop on or about Dec. 7 and signing an ownership certificate for the projector when it belongs to and was stolen from the CN. According to state law, any person selling or pledging property to a pawnbroker who uses a false declaration of ownership shall be guilty of a felony, upon conviction. The fine for a violation shall not exceed $500. Court documents show District Court Judge Liz Brown on Jan. 11 issued an arrest warrant and a $3,000 bond. Records state the warrant was served on Jan. 12 and that Littlefield posted bond that day. According to court records, Littlefield on Jan. 20 pleaded not guilty to one felony count of false declaration of ownership to a pawnbroker and that he was to reappear on Feb. 17 in Adair County District Court. In a Feb. 10 email, Chrissi Nimmo, CN senior assistant attorney general, said the CNMS was investigating possible theft of electronic equipment but did not state if Littlefield was the focus of that investigation. “Regarding…inquiry regarding J. Littlefield, and his state arrest for ‘false declaration of ownership of pawn,’ I can tell you that the Marshal service has an open investigation regarding possible theft of electronic equipment. Because it is an open investigation, we are unable to release any additional details at this time,” Nimmo wrote. Human Resources officials said Littlefield, as of Feb. 10, still worked for the tribe as a health technical analyst for Health Services’ Information Technology department. CN Communications officials added that Littlefield was on leave, but didn’t specify what type. As of publication, the Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Littlefield for comment but was unable to reach him. Court records show no attorney listed for Littlefield.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/10/2016 02:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission on Feb. 9 voted to recommend election law changes that will go before the Tribal Council’s Rules Committee on Feb. 17. Election Commissioner Carolyn Allen made a motion that the EC adopt the law changes that were discussed during the EC’s Policy Committee meeting. Allen then made a motion to recommend those changes to the Tribal Council. One election law change the EC recommended defines “term” to mean a full four years in which the elected or appointed officer may perform the functions of office…and shall not include the remainder of any unexpired or partial year. Another recommendation adds language that fines $5,000 to any person who fails to file as a candidate for office after receiving in-kind contributions and/or raised funds in excess of $1,000. Also on Feb. 9, the EC voted to purchase a safety deposit box and selected the commissioners and staff needed to be able to retrieve the box. The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. on Feb. 17. The election law amendment item is No. 8 under New Business, according to the Rules Committee agenda.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/09/2016 04:30 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Steve Gragert, former Will Rogers Memorial executive director, will open the 2016 Milam Lecture Series telling about his Aug. 15 visit to the plane crash site that claimed the lives of Will Rogers and Wiley Post. Rogers and Post died Aug. 15, 1935, in Point Barrow, Alaska. The lecture will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 in the Will Rogers Memorial Museum Theatre in Claremore. Admission is free and open to the public. Gragert, who started his involvement with Will Rogers in 1967 working on the Will Rogers Research project at Oklahoma State University, was named museum director in 2006, serving until 2014. He edited or co-edited 17 of the 22 volumes in the scholarly series “The Writings of Will Rogers,” published by OSU and two volumes of “The Papers of Will Rogers.” Gragert is also expected to share his most recent research on Will Rogers the humanitarian. For more information, call 918-341-0719 or toll free 1-800-324-9455.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/09/2016 01:15 PM
GLENPOOL, Okla. – Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Cherokee artist Bill Glass Jr. were honored at the 2016 Greater Tulsa Indian Art Festival on Feb. 5 at the Glenpool Expo Center. As part of its 30th anniversary, the GTIAF honored veterans and Native Code Talkers. Crittenden, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, said he was surprised and humbled at being selected as the honorary chairman of the GTIAF. “The theme of this year’s festival was honoring our veterans and Code Talkers,” he said. “CNB (Cherokee Nation Businesses) represented the Cherokee Nation with a sponsorship at the Bear level, $5,000.00. It is my understanding that we have helped with this event in the past.” According to the GTIAF program, Crittenden is a champion for the rights and privileges of American military veterans, and during his tenure as deputy principal chief he has supported programs to better serve the brave men and women who have served the United States. Among the featured artists was Glass, who was honored as the elder artist. According to the GTIAF, the festival annually honors a Native American artist whose support of American Indian art has been extraordinary throughout his or her lifetime. “It’s an honor and its fun to see the new artists that are coming up and doing so good. I always think of art as cultural retention for our tribes,” Glass said. “This is the first time in a long time that I’ve been here. Some friends nominated me and it’s an honor to be selected.” This year’s featured artist was Choctaw Nation citizen Gwen Coleman Lester, who paints and draws Choctaw history, legends and culture. According to the GTIAF, “Lester began her artistic career in the commercial sector and gradually moved to fine art working in colored pencil, charcoal, pastel, watercolor, acrylic, and occasionally oils.” A primary mission of the festival has been to provide scholarships to Native students. Money raised via sponsorships and auctions helps aid that cause. The weekend event included an art market, cultural demonstrations, silent and live auctions, honor dances and Cherokee fiddling. “Today the Greater Tulsa Indian Art Festival is a national premier juried art show, which showcases Native art, cuisine and entertainment. Most importantly, many Native students have been recipients of the Festival’s scholarship program. Scholarships began in the early 1990s,” a GTIAF official said. The art festival is a project of the National Indian Monument and Institute, a national non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
02/09/2016 08:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Officials with the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission are urging CN citizens who want to vote in the 2017 Tribal Council elections to register to vote or ensure that their voter registration information is correct at the Election Commission Office. “The 2017 election year is fast approaching and we would like to encourage the Cherokee citizens who would like to vote in the 2017 Council elections to register to vote,” an EC press release states. “Registered voters of the Cherokee Nation who have had an address or name change should also complete a voter registration form and submit to the Election Commission Office to update your registration information.” According to the release, a registered voter living in the tribe’s jurisdiction who has moved to a new district and wishes to change precincts within his or her district shall re-register for a new district and/or precinct on or before the last business day in March of the election year. In 2017, that day will be Friday, March 31. According to CN law, every resident registered voter shall be registered to vote in the district of his or her residence. Also, a resident registered voter shall have the right to vote only for a Tribal Council candidate of the district in which the voter resides and cannot vote for a candidate of any other district. Tribal Council seats that are up for election next year are districts 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15, and one At-Large seat. EC officials said At-Large registered voters should be registered to vote in the At-Large District, unless a voter has elected to remain a voter in a district pursuant to Article VI, Section 3 of the CN Constitution. At-Large voters who move to new at-large address should provide the EC their new addresses for registration and mailing purposes. At-Large voters who move to addresses within a jurisdictional district should reregister within the district of their new addresses. EC officials also stressed that tribal citizenship cards do not automatically register citizens to vote in CN elections and that citizens wanting to vote must register with the EC. According to CN law, one must be 18 years old as of the election day to register to vote. Also, a person must be registered to vote no later than the last business day in March of the election year. Registration and change of address forms are available at the EC Office located at 22116 S. Bald Hill Road or online at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/election" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/election</a>. For more information, call 918-458-5899 or toll free at 1-800-353-2895. One can also email <a href="mailto: election-commission@cherokee.org">election-commission@cherokee.org</a> or visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/election" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/election</a>. The EC’s mailing address is P.O. Box 1188 Tahlequah, OK 74465.