Rules Committee amends Governmental Records Act
BY JAMI CUSTER Reporter TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Rules Committee on May 31 amended the Cherokee Nation’s Governmental Records Act with the expectation of quickening information requests from Tribal Councilors. The change allows councilors to directly ask for CN governmental information through GRA or Freedom of Information Act requests to the department or individual that has the needed information. Before the amendment, a person requesting governmental information sent the request to an individual who then had to get the information from whatever department had it. According to the act, the GRA’s purpose is to provide open access to records for each councilor and to provide procedures under which the council and its members shall obtain such records. Tribal Councilor Jodie Fishinghawk, who sponsored the amendment, said she requested the change because she was “having problems getting answers to questions, GRA and FOIA requests” from the Chad Smith administration. “I’m running into the same problems this time (with the Bill John Baker administration). What it simply does is your GRAs will be directed to one of the legislative aids, and then to whichever department, agency, CEO, supervisor, entity or director and they will come back to us,” Fishinghawk said. “I got aggravated with the last one (administration)…I’m going to hold this one to the same standards.” Councilor Cara Cowan Watts asked if amending the GRA meant requests would go directly to the person the information was being requested from instead of going to a designated information requests person. Fishinghawk said the act called for requests to not “be funneled through the chief’s office any longer.” Cowan Watts also asked if the amendment affected how information request responses are distributed among councilors. “How I’m understanding it, once I read it again, they’re going to be made part of the record so that any council member who wants it (can get it),” Fishinghawk said. Tribal Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr. then asked Tribal Council attorney Diane Barker Harold if the amendment would require the appropriate department, agency, CEO, supervisor, entity, director or principal chief that receives the GRA or FOIA request to respond. Harold said that was correct and that often a request would sit in the administration before anything is done with it. She added that the required response time of six working would not changed with the amendment. “It’s just getting straight to the person that has the information as quickly as possible,” she said. The council passed the amendment 15-0, with Councilors David Thornton and David Walkingstick absent. The amendment is slated to go to full council on June 11.