Council alters its travel policy

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
02/11/2014 08:09 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilors on Jan. 30 altered their travel policy prohibiting any councilors who declare their candidacies for the principal chief or deputy chief seats from using council travel funds or being reimbursed for any travel other than to committee and full council meetings.

The policy, sponsored by Tribal Councilors Tina Glory Jordan and Jodie Fishinghawk, passed 10-5 in the council’s Rules Committee meeting. Tribal Councilors Jack Baker, Julia Coates, Don Garvin, Lee Keener and Cara Cowan Watts voting against it. Tribal Councilors Harley Buzzard and Frankie Hargis were absent.

Because it is a policy change the item did not have to appear on the Tribal Council’s Feb. 10 agenda, and Glory Jordan was expected to sign the amendment, making it effective in February.

Under the new policy, once Tribal Councilors declare or announce their respective candidacies for the principal chief or deputy chief seats they will not be allowed to use council travel funds and shall not be reimbursed for any travel other than to regular or special committee and full council meetings.

“I believe firmly that council members should use travel money only for official business, not for politics,” Fishinghawk said. “A majority of councilors agreed. The policy is simple: a councilor can travel anywhere they want and even campaign for chief; they just cannot use tribal funds to do so. A couple of our colleagues appeared to be crossing the line, but that won’t be a problem anymore.”

Fishinghawk said the change was brought up because she believed that Cowan Watts and Keener have been abusing the travel policy by “politicking on the tribe’s dime.”

In a Jan. 10 Cherokee Phoenix article, Cowan Watts and Keener stated their intentions to campaign as running mates with Cowan Watts vying for the for principal chief seat and Keener for the deputy chief post in the tribe’s 2015 election.

Fishinghawk said she saw a Facebook posting by Cowan Watts announcing her intention to run for principal chief. She added that if any other councilor had announced their respective intentions to run for a higher office, the policy would also apply to them.

Those interested in running for CN governmental seats in the tribe’s next election can’t file until March 2015.

Keener said the policy change was a simple case of “tyranny of the majority.”

“They think they can do whatever they want to attempt to silence the minority and keep us from doing basic job functions required by the Cherokee Nation Constitution, law and policy,” Keener said.

He said the change was arbitrary and that it denied Cowan Watts and himself travel reimbursements for official business such as to the Joint Tribal Council with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians or the National Congress of American Indians.

“Other official travel required to do our jobs is also stopped,” he said.

Legislative Act 17-09 gives the legislative body the authority to set its own rules and procedures for travel expense reimbursement. The act states that council shall develop internal policies and procedures for reimbursement of mileage and travel expenses concerning any meetings of the Tribal Council, conducting official tribal business or attending other meetings in furtherance of their duties of office.

But Cowan Watts said with the new policy she can’t get reimbursed for traveling to the district she represents for community meetings.

“I live about 20 miles away from the nearest border of District 13 because the same group (of majority councilors) put me in a district where I do not live,” she said. “The majority has taken away reimbursement and funds for travel within my own district when I still have more than a year and a half to serve the Cherokees in portions of Tulsa and Rogers counties.”

At the Jan. 30 meeting, Cowan Watts made a motion to make a friendly amendment to the policy suggesting that it allow councilors who declare or announce their principal chief or deputy chief candidacies to be reimbursed when traveling to the Cherokee National Holiday, Joint Council, Presidential Inauguration events and NCAI meetings. The friendly amendment was denied.

“I understand tribal resources are not to be used for campaigning,” Cowan Watts said. “I do not understand the behavior of tyrants who abuse their power to silence the voice of the minority. By cutting Lee Keener and my day-to-day travel monies for council business, as well as other official travel such as Joint Council with the Eastern Band, the majority has deliberately penalized the minority for disagreeing with the chief and is stopping us from doing our job.”

tesina-jackson@cherokee.org


918-453-5000, ext. 6139

About the Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter.    

In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.
TESINA-JACKSON@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000 ext. 6139
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter. In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.

Council

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/04/2015 12:00 PM
Click on a candidate's name below to read their complete Council Questionnaire answers: <strong>Dist. 1</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_RexJordan_Dist1.pdf" target="_blank">Rex Jordan</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_RyanSierra_Dist1.pdf" target="_blank">Ryan Sierra</a> <strong>Dist. 3</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BrianBerry_Dist3.pdf" target="_blank">Brian Berry</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BrandonGirty_Dist3.pdf" target="_blank">Brandon Girty</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_KathyKilpatrick_Dist3.pdf" target="_blank">Kathy Kilpatrick</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_DavidWalkingstick_Dist3.pdf" target="_blank">David Walkingstick</a> <strong>Dist. 6</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_NatalieFullbright_Dist6.pdf" target="_blank">Natalie Fullbright</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_RonGoff_Dist6.pdf" target="_blank">Ron Goff</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BryanWarner_Dist6.pdf" target="_blank">Bryan Warner</a> <strong>Dist. 8</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_CoreyBunch_Dist8.pdf" target="_blank">Corey Bunch</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_ShawnCrittenden_Dist8.pdf" target="_blank">Shawn Crittenden</a> <strong>Dist. 12</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_DickLay_Dist12.pdf" target="_blank">Dick Lay</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_DoraPatzkowski_Dist12.pdf" target="_blank">Dora Patzkowski</a> <strong>Dist. 13</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BuelAnglen_Dist13.pdf" target="_blank">Buel Anglen</a> <strong>Dist. 14</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_KeithAustin_Dist14.pdf" target="_blank">Keith Austin</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_WilliamPearson_Dist14.pdf" target="_blank">William Pearson</a> <strong>At-Large</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_TreyBrown_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Trey Brown</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_PamelaFox_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Pamela Fox</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_ShaneJett_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Shane Jett</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_TommyJones_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Tommy Jones</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_DarellMatlock_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Darell Matlock</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BenjaminMcKee_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Benjamin McKee</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_DeborahReed_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Deborah Reed</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BetsySwimmer_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Betsy Swimmer</a>
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/03/2015 08:00 AM
<strong>During the 6 p.m. March 16, 2015 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed:</strong> • A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE SUBMISSION OF A GRANT APPLICATION BY THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDRENS, YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES TO THE U.S. DHHS, FAMILY VIOLENCE PREVENTION AND SERVICES PROGRAM, FOR VICTIMS OF FAMILY VIOLENCE Councilor Walkingstick moved to approve. Councilor Hargis seconded the motion. The motion carried. • A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING CAREER SERVICES TO DEVELOP AND SUBMIT A GRANT APPLICATION TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION FOR FUNDING THE VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION PROGRAM Councilor Hargis moved to approve. Councilor Baker seconded the motion. Councilors Thornton, Keener, Walkingstick, Taylor, Baker, Lay, Fullbright, Fishinghawk, Snell, Byrd, Vazquez, Garvin and Buzzard requested to be added as sponsors. The motion to approve carried. ...plus more. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9229_March16TribalCouncilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the March 16, 2015 Tribal Council meeting minutes.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
04/14/2015 03:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At their April 13 meeting, Tribal Councilors questioned Cherokee Nation Businesses interim CEO Shawn Slaton about home construction projects that Cherokee Nation Construction Resources, a division of CNB, is overseeing in West Siloam Springs and Roland. Slaton said construction in West Siloam Springs “is making progress.” “Our housing up at (West) Siloam (Springs) is making progress. They’ve got the gravel down for the roads. They got the utilities in. The house pads are there. We would have been making more progress on that had the pads not been so wet the last couple of weeks,” he said. “As soon as they dry out we’ll begin to put the foundation in and get going there.” He said the construction of homes in Roland would be on the same track as soon as the water from the recent rainfall clears. Tribal Councilor Dick Lay then asked how many houses are to be built in each location. Slaton deferred the question to CNB Executive Vice President Charles Garrett, who said 29 houses are expected in West Siloam Springs and 23 are expected in Roland. Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard then asked if occupants have been chosen for the houses yet. Slaton said CNB is building the homes and the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is picking applicants for them. Buzzard said he doesn’t anticipate there will be a problem filling the houses. “I don’t think we’ll have any problems at West Siloam Springs because I heard housing is really, really short,” he said. “I’ve also heard that there is some excitement about us building houses.” Lay asked Slaton if CNB is using the list of people from the HACN for the homes. Slaton said he wasn’t sure of the process of choosing the applicants. Principal Chief Bill John Baker told the Tribal Council that there are two lists from which the HACN chooses its applicants. “One is if you own your property and another list that has come up is if you don’t own your property,” he said. “So as I understand it, they’ll start though time and date of people that said that they wanted a house, but they did not own land. All of them are not going to want to live in West Siloam Springs, but the ones that do, it’s first-come first-served, time and date on the list.” Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan said the way she understands the process is the applicants “designate the area that they would like to get a house in if they don’t have land.” HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper confirmed Glory Jordan’s understanding of the process. “They designate a county and then we narrow it down by that way. For instance, in West Siloam (Springs) what we would do is because it’s right there on the county line we would merge Adair and Delaware County and we would work on finding families to take those,” he said. “Every application we collect is by date and then time of the application, so everyone is assigned a number. That’s how it’s placed on the waiting list. So either they have land or they don’t have land. We will take those who are on the waiting lists for the folks who don’t have land for Adair and Delaware County and ask them if they would be interested in one of those (houses).” Cooper said HACN officials have sent out approximately 144 letters to tribal citizens in those counties to see if there was an interest for these homes. According to a December 2014 Cherokee Phoenix article, CNB will sell the homes to the HACN once they are built. Then the HACN will find occupants to fill those homes. In other news, Baker introduced the tribe’s 2015 “Remember the Removal” riders at the meeting. There are 12 riders participating this year from the CN. Citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will also participate in the ride. The CN participants are Billy Flint, Shawna Harter, Hailey Seago, Caleb Cox, Tanner Crow, Maggie McKinnis, Kayla Davis, Tennessee Loy, Haylee Caviness, Wrighter Weavel, Alexis Watt and Tristan Trumbla. The participants will bike the nearly 1,000-mile trip that retraces the Trail of Tears through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas and will end in Tahlequah. Legislators also approved Eddie Morrison as an advisory committee member for the Cherokee National Treasures Program for a term of one year. They also modified the tribe’s comprehensive budget for fiscal year 2015 for a total budget authority of $639 million. Approximately $653,310 came from grants, while $8.45 million resulted from modification requests. Approximately $6.89 million is going to the General Fund and $1.57 million is going to the Motor Fuel Tax Fund. The next Tribal Council meeting is slated for 6 p.m. on May 11.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/01/2015 02:00 PM
<strong>During the 6 p.m. Jan. 12, 2015 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed:</strong> • A RESOLUTION CONFIRMING THE NOMINATION OF NATHAN E. BARNARD AS A BOARD MEMBER OF THE CHEROKEE NATION ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS BOARD Councilor Fishinghawk moved to approve. Councilor Taylor seconded the motion. After a few questions from Councilor Cowan Watts the motion to approve carried with no opposition. Supreme Court Justice Garrett performed the swearing in ceremony for Mr. Barnard. • A RESOLUTION OPPOSING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN ENERGY LINE ROUTE BYT HE PLAINS AND EASTERN CLEAN LINE IN SEQUOYAH COUNTY, OKLAHOMA LOCATED WITHIN THE CHEROKEE NATION JURISDICTIONAL AREA Councilor Fullbright moved to approve. Councilor Baker seconded the motion. After discussion was held the motion to approve carried with no opposition. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9111_Jan12TribalCouncilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> the Jan. 12, 2015 meeting minutes. <strong>During the 6 p.m. Feb. 26, 2015 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed:</strong> • A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING BUSINESS LEASE ON TRUST LAND IN ROGERS COUNTY, OKLAHOMA Councilor Taylor moved to approve. Councilor Keener seconded the motion. Councilors Keener, Fullbright and Fishinghawk requested to be added as sponsors. The motion to approve carried with no opposition. • AN ACT RELATING TO SALARIES FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND TECHNICAL AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2012 RELATING TO THE STIPEND FOR THE CITIZEN COMMITTEE Speaker Glory Jordan requested the amended handout be approved. Councilor Fullbright moved to approve the revised handout. Councilor Garvin seconded the motion. The motion carried by acclimation. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9111_Feb26TribalCouncilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> the Feb. 26, 2015 meeting minutes.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
03/17/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During the March 16 Tribal Council meeting, Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced that the Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry law firm and attorney Lloyd Miller have jointly donated $200,000 for the construction of Cherokee Nation health care facilities. “We’ve fought the fight on self-governance issues, your battles with the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, your battles to ensure the integrity of the Cherokee Nation sometimes against other tribes, and it’s all been successful,” said Miller, who is employed with the law firm that has worked with the tribe for more than 20 years. “You’ve been wonderful to us in terms of your confidence in us, your trust in us, and it’s our pleasure to be able to give back to you.” Baker said the tribe has been successful with Miller as its attorney on contract support costs. “He originally won a lawsuit of about $12 million. Then we just won another one for $20 million with part of the settlement being they (federal government) will fully find contract support costs from now on.” The donation will go to CN construction projects such as health care clinics in Ochelata and Jay as well as a new W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. In other business, Tribal Councilors unanimously authorized CN Human Services – specifically children, youth and family services – to submit a grant application for fiscal year 2016 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts absent. Tribal Councilor Frankie Hargis said earlier in the day at the Community Services Committee meeting that the grant is a formula-based grant with a minimum funding of $350,000 for victims of family violence. Tribal Councilors also authorized CN Career Services to submit a grant application to the U.S. Department of Education for vocational rehabilitation program funding. Since 1992, the tribe has operated the vocational rehabilitation program, which assists in ensuring self-sufficiency for tribal citizens. It is Oklahoma’s longest running tribal vocational rehabilitation program. According to the resolution, individuals with disabilities are in need of employment and training activities so they can enter jobs and become self-sufficient, and the Department of Education has funding available for vocational training programs for such individuals. The grant requires that a 10 percent cash match be made available to the program each year of funding. Hargis said the grant is new and would be approximately $600,000 per year for a five-year period. Legislators also approved Bobby L. Vaughn as a governing board member of the CN Comprehensive Care Agency for a term of three years from March 2015 to March 2018. “I’m the patient safety officer at Hastings Hospital right now, and I’d just like to say what an honor it is for me to be nominated for this position by the chief so it’s really near my heart,” Vaughn said during the Feb. 26 Rules Committee meeting. “I hope to do an excellent job for you.” J. Blake Fletcher was reappointed as a commissioner of the CN Environmental Protection Commission for a three-year term. “I just want to thank the council for allowing me to serve in this capacity and I really look forward to continuing that service,” Fletcher said on Feb. 26. Marty D. Matlock was also reappointed as a commissioner of the CN Environmental Protection Commission for a four-year term. The next Tribal Council meeting is scheduled for April 13.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
02/27/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its Feb. 26 meeting, the Tribal Council approved an act that gives Cherokee Nation motor vehicle tax revenues to schools outside the tribe’s jurisdictional boundaries but within Tulsa, Rogers, Mayes, Wagoner and Muskogee counties. The monies those schools receive would be based off the number of CN citizens attending each school. Tribal officials said schools would receive about $143 per CN citizen enrolled. Officials said the tribe has garnered about $1.5 million in motor vehicle sales in the non-jurisdictional areas of the five counties since Nov. 1, 2013, when the compact went into effect. Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, who sponsored the bill, made the motion to approve the act and was seconded by Tribal Councilor Don Garvin. However, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay said he didn’t think the bigger schools in the non-jurisdictional areas of Tulsa, Rogers, Mayes, Wagoner and Muskogee counties should benefit from the funding and that the tribe should focus more on the rural schools. Lay also motioned to amend the legislation by asking that half the money go to the schools in the non-jurisdictional area of the five counties and half stay within the tribe’s jurisdiction. “I motion to amend the legislation to leave everything the same except the new jurisdiction, compact jurisdiction, to share the revenue and proceeds 50/50 with the old in-jurisdiction legislation,” he said. He then asked Vazquez if his amendment would work. “I’m not sure its up to me. I would like to have input from our secretary of state (Chuck Hoskin Jr.),” she said. Hoskin said the tribe’s administration was confident in the legislation as written. “The legislation we put before you is consistent with the compact that this body approved, that the Cherokee Nation signed. And I, with respect to Councilman Lay, think that would not be consistent with it,” Hoskin said. “I’ve heard his arguments and respect him greatly but respectfully disagree.” Vazquez refused the amendment and Lay requested that it be put in the form of a motion, but his motion failed for lack of a second. The act passed 10-3 with Tribal Councilors Tina Glory Jordan, David Walkingstick and Lay voting against it. Tribal Councilors Curtis Snell, Julia Coates, Cara Cowan Watts and David Thornton were absent. The council also confirmed CN citizens to various boards and commissions. Carrie Philpott was approved to the Registration Committee, and Rick Smith, Frances Head, Lyndon Emberton and Joe Hutchison were approved to the Elected Officials Citizen Committee. Also, surplus office equipment was approved for donation to the Indian Capital Technology Center’s criminal justice program, Hulbert School, Greasy Community Building, the Tri-Community W.E.B., Chewey Neighborhood Association, the Chelsea Boys and Girls Club, Safenet Services Organization, Friends of the Library in Delaware County, Delaware County Fair Board and Delaware County Boys and Girls Club. Councilors also approved two five-year, trust-land leases for TNT Fireworks. Each lease will last for four weeks in June and July. One lease was approved in Kay County for $7,328 annually and one in Rogers County for $5,000 annually. Also passed was an act to set stipends for the Elected Officials Citizen Committee. The act will pay each member $500 “to cover all expenses they incur to attend up to three of their meetings.” Members are charged with the responsibility of setting salaries for all CN elected officials. Councilors also approved Human Services to submit an application for funding to the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs for Youth Shelter Services and Prevention. Legislators also authorized the Bureau of Indian Affairs to revise and update the tribe’s inventory of tribal transportation facilities. Other resolutions passed consisted of support for the Autry National Center’s Civil War and the West exhibit and the placement of land into trust for the Clinic in the Woods and Cascade properties in Tahlequah. Officials said the properties would be used for the tribe’s Behavioral Health. Councilors also unanimously passed an act relating to intoxicating liquors. The act allows the tribe to take Cherokees into tribal court and offer them services that may not be available outside of the tribe’s courts. Also, Tribal Councilor Jodie Fishinghawk was elected the council’s new secretary until her council term ends in August.