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 JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
12/08/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit on Nov. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against the United States, Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies claiming the federal government mismanaged the tribe’s trust funds. According to a CN Communications release, the suit asks the U.S. to give an “accurate accounting of the Cherokee Trust Fund, which includes property, land, funds and other resources.” The lawsuit states the intent is to “resolve accounting and related equitable claims” that the CN brings against the federal government and some of its agencies and bureaus relating to the government’s management of the CN’s trust fund, including money generating obligations owed by the government to the CN. “Within the Trust Fund, the United States held and managed vast resources for the Nation including inter alia, money; proceeds from the sale of land or profits from the land; money from surface leases for agriculture, surface, oil and gas mining leases, coal leases, sand and gravel leases, businesses, and town lots; income from property owned by the Nation’ buildings; the Nation’s records; and money resulting from treaties or other agreements,” the lawsuit states. During an April 28 Rules Committee meeting, prior to the Tribal Council’s approval of the litigation, Attorney General Todd Hembree said the lawsuit’s purpose was to have a proper accounting of and to rectify any and all trust violations or trust responsibilities that were not fulfilled by the U.S. to the CN. “This is a monumental lawsuit. We discussed the details of the arrangement…This does involve treaty rights. So therefore, in accordance with the Consent to Litigation Act, before going forward we must have a council resolution,” Hembree said. “ This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of suit, and we hope to be very judicious in its prosecution and to be a game changer for the Cherokee Nation when it’s all complete.” When the Tribal Council discussed the lawsuit on April 28, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay asked if there was any kind of waiver of sovereign immunity included with the legislation. Hembree said “no” and that the lawsuit wouldn’t require a waiver either. “It is very advantageous for the Cherokee Nation. The way it’s structured, if I was the plaintiff in this lawsuit I’d be comfortable with it,” Hembree said. According to the suit, outside attorneys representing the tribe are from the Indian and Environmental Law Group in Tulsa, Hunsucker Goodstein PC in Washington, D.C., and Askman Law Firm in Denver. The Cherokee Phoenix requested costs for the outside attorney contracts through CN Communications and a Freedom of Information Act request on Dec. 5, but as of press time neither had been received. Some Tribal Councilors during the April 28 meeting said other tribes had seen success with similar lawsuits against the U.S., so in essence the groundwork had already been laid for the CN. Tribal Councilor David Thornton said the case was not expected to be resolved quickly, but over several years. Hembree said he hopes to prosecute the case within three years, but believes both sides would settle at some point. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2016/12/10841__nws_161205_TrustLitigation.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a>the complaint document.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/08/2016 10:00 AM
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — A judge has refused to move the trial of a woman charged with crashing into spectators at the Oklahoma State homecoming parade and killing four. The Payne County district judge on Tuesday turned down the request by attorneys for 26-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Adacia Chambers. Defense attorneys argued that Chambers couldn't get a fair trial in Payne County because of pretrial publicity. Judge Stephen Kistler also rejected other motions, including one to suppress statements made by Chambers, who witnesses said commented about being suicidal following the October 2015 crash. Other motions denied include one to suppress autopsy photos of victims and to order the families of victims not to show emotion while in court. Chambers has pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and 42 counts of assault and battery.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
12/08/2016 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to unofficial results, Joe Bunch won the Dec. 5 runoff for United Keetoowah Band principal chief against Anile Locust. Unofficial results show Bunch received 58.64 percent of the votes (302 votes) while Locust received 41.36 percent (213 votes). A total of 515 UKB citizens voted in the tribe’s nine districts. Bunch said he thanks the UKB citizens for “overwhelmingly” electing him for his first full term as principal chief. He has served as interim-principal chief since May after the Tribal Council voted to remove former Principal Chief George Wickliffe from office, a decision that the UKB courts later upheld. “I look forward in using my 32 years experience in tribal government moving our tribe forward. It will be an honor and privilege working with federal agencies in resolving our shortage of federal resources provided to all federally recognized tribal governments,” Bunch said. “I plan to move our tribe forward by getting land in trust, re-establish our gaming portfolio and develop our economic status while safeguarding our rich Keetoowah tradition and heritage. Thank you Keetoowah voters for your confidence in me.” In a Facebook post, Locust commented about conceding the race to Bunch. “It was truly a great race for the office of the chief. I had fun. I met a great bunch of people, and I was honored to have so many people support me…Pray for Joe Bunch and the rest of our leaders as this is what we are commanded to do,” she states. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted Locust for comment but she declined. Bunch was expected to be sworn into office on Jan. 7. According to the UKB Election Board, results would not be official until five days after the date of the election for any protests, appeals or recounts of election votes.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/07/2016 12:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center will close to the public for 16 days beginning Jan. 1 after another season of promoting Cherokee history and culture. “This has been a busy year for the heritage center, and we have welcomed visitors from across the country,” Tonia Hogner-Weavel, interim CHC director, said. “We are thankful for the generous support of all of our sponsors and donors and look forward to bringing a full, fun-filled schedule again in 2017.” As the tourism season winds down, CHC will operate under holiday hours effective Dec. 1. The CHC will be closed to the public Dec. 23-26. From Dec. 27-31, it will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. From Jan. 1-16 it will close to the public, and from Jan. 17 to May 27 it will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Guided tours through the ancient village Diligwa will be offered twice daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. While the CHC operates independently from the tribe, it continues to promote tourism within the Cherokee Nation. More than 50,000 guests visited the CHC throughout the year, taking advantage of everything the organization has to offer. In addition to permanent exhibits and archives, CHC featured four exclusive exhibits, four art shows, monthly cultural classes, group tours and various educational events. It is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For information on 2017 season events, operating hours and programs, call 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.CherokeeHeritage.org" target="_blank">www.CherokeeHeritage.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/07/2016 09:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden issued a statement today regarding the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His statement is as follows: “President Franklin D. Roosevelt said Dec. 7, 1941, is a date which will live in infamy, and those words ring as true today as when he gave the famous speech 75 years ago. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed the course of history for our great country and the lives of those men and women serving at Pearl Harbor and those who served in World War II. As Cherokee Nation citizens and Americans, I encourage you to take a moment today and recognize and honor the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice on that day. Also, remember to keep in your mind and heart those who answer the call to protect our freedoms and country today, especially on this day of remembrance when the United States faced and overcame its greatest challenge.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/06/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials will attend area Christmas parades with floats during the holiday season. At 6 p.m. on Dec. 9, the CN will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Lights in Tahlequah. The tribe will also have a float in Catoosa’s Christmas Parade, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10. The tribe will also have a float in the Christmas Parade in Jay, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10, as well as the Christmas Parade in Hulbert, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10. Finishing out the holiday parade season, the CN officials will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Sallisaw, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10.