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 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.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/01/2015 12:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Principal Chief Bill John Baker recently named Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor as the tribe’s representative to the Claremore Indian Hospital advisory board. Taylor, of Pryor, replaced Tribal Councilor Dick Lay who resigned in December. As a board member, Taylor will work to promote the CN’s interest in decisions that are made at the Indian Health Service-operated hospital. “A lot of positive changes have been made at Claremore Indian Hospital in the last couple of years, and I hope to be a part of it,” Taylor said. “Claremore Indian Hospital is unique in that it is not controlled by the Cherokee Nation, like our other health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital are. For that reason, continuing to have a Cherokee Nation representative on this board will help our own health care system work toward a seamless transition for our citizens using Claremore Indian Hospital.” The advisory board meets quarterly to discuss current hospital policy and operations. “Councilor Taylor brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the board of directors. She will be a strong advocate for the hospital’s commitment to quality health care for Native people in northeast Oklahoma,” Baker said. Taylor had her first meeting as a board member on Jan. 20.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
01/13/2015 02:29 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Jan. 12 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the construction of a transmission power line that would carry power generated by windmills in western Oklahoma through the state and Arkansas into Tennessee. With Julia Coates absent, the 16 Tribal Councilors present voted against the 750-mile project being proposed by the Plains & Eastern Company based in Houston. Legislators are particularly opposed to the line running through Sequoyah County, which is within the tribe’s jurisdiction. Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts initially abstained from voting for the resolution in committee because she said she did not have enough information. “We don’t have information, all the information, I think. Even if it is accurate and it’s going to impact our facilities or places and locations and historic places and routes, not just in Sequoyah County but also in Arkansas, we have a lot of work to do,” Cowan Watts said. “What came out in committee was potentially they had been contacting the tribe for three years, and we (council) hadn’t been informed. So, I think there’s additional investigations that need to occur about what did or didn’t happen with involvement with the tribe.” Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright, who helps represent Sequoyah County, said she has attended public meetings regarding the transmission line and heard from landowners who may be affected and who do not want to give up lands. She said landowners, some of them CN citizens, also do not want to see 200-foot towers on their lands or hear humming noises emitted by transmission lines. There is also the possibility that the lines would emit a low-grade level of radiation, Fullbright said. She said 800 Sequoyah County residents have signed a petition against the transmission line and that Sequoyah County commissioners are also against it. Also, the line would run near and parallel to the marked Trail of Tears trail in the county, she said. Tribal Councilor Jack Baker, who serves as the president of the national Trail of Tears Association, said the superintendent who oversees the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail is also opposed to the project because it would affect Trail of Tears sites in Oklahoma and Arkansas. “I’m also opposed to it simply because of the affect it will have on Cherokee citizens as it crosses their property,” he said. In other business, the Tribal Council unanimously approved Nathan Barnard nomination to the CN Administrative Appeals Board, which hears appeals from people who have lost employment with the tribe. Barnard is filling a vacancy left by Lynn Burris, who resigned after being confirmed to the tribe’s Supreme Court. Bernard will serve from Jan. 13 to Oct. 31. Supreme Court Judge John Garrett swore in Barnard during the meeting. “I want to thank Chief (Bill John) Baker for nominating me, and I want to thank the council for the opportunity to serve the Nation, and I will certainly do my very best,” Barnard said after taking his oath. During his State of the Nation report, Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced that the tribe has expanded maternity leave for tribal employees. “This means it’s on our insurance, and it doesn’t mean it is sick leave or vacation. It’s above and beyond (employee insurance), so that our young mothers, and fathers, can nurture our young Cherokee children,” he said. Also, for tribal employees, the CN has adopted a new emergency communications system to better inform workers of “bad weather days.” “The system will allow us to send voice mails and/or text messages directly to the staff in the event of a closing or a delay or any emergency,” Principal Chief Baker said. The Tribal Council also honored CN citizen and artist Donald Vann for his support of fellow Cherokee veterans by donating his art to them and for his achievements as an artist. Vann is a veteran who served in the Vietnam War and was assigned to the 1st Calvary Aviation Division. In November 1969, Vann’s helicopter was shot down. Only he and his crew chief survived the violent crash. After recovering from his injuries, Vann rejoined his unit in Fort Hood, Texas, where he was assigned to desk duty and later went on to be a drill instructor. In March 1973, he received an honorable discharge. He earned several medals, including the Purple Heart, National Defense, Good Conduct, Vietnam Campaign and Republic of Vietnam Campaign. Vann’s Stilwell High School principal, Dr. Neil Morton, spoke about Vann during the meeting saying he recognized that Vann was not like other students and enrolled him in an alternative program and allowed him to paint murals on the school’s walls for two hours every day. He said Vann’s first mural was a depiction of the Trail of Tears. Vann thanked the body for the honor and his business partner, Scott Bernard, for his assistance since moving to Tahlequah from Austin, Texas, about five years ago.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/01/2015 04:00 PM
During the 6 p.m. Nov. 13, 2014 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed: • A resolution confirming the reappointment of James Amos as a commissioner of the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Board of Commissioners • A act amending the Legislative Act #25-14 authorizing the comprehensive operating budget for FY15 ...and more. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2014/12/8797_Nov13_2014CouncilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> the Nov. 13, 2014 meeting minutes. <a href="https://cherokee.legistar.com/DepartmentDetail.aspx?ID=3301&GUID=C557BD6A-E296-4A30-BF3E-2035FF8607CC&Mode=MainBody" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> the Nov. 13 Tribal Council meeting video.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
12/22/2014 10:59 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to a Dec. 19 statement, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay said he is resigning his position as a Cherokee Nation member of the Claremore Indian Hospital advisory board effective immediately. “I have worked hard and greatly enjoyed my opportunity with the Claremore Indian Hospital Unit in service to Cherokee Nation citizens of the Claremore service area,” he said. He added that during his tenure on the board he helped accomplish: • Taking over the contract referrals for CN citizens in most of the service area, • Supporting the purchase and installation of the MRI equipment at the hospital, • Having the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service assist in law enforcement at the hospital, • Having CN physicians on loan to Claremore hospital when needed, • CN assist with Claremore patients during emergencies, and • Providing all Claremore board reports to the Tribal Council and CN administration. He said overall there the board has achieved “great cooperation” with the Indian Health Service, federal authorities, Claremore management, Claremore hospital personnel and the CN. Lay added that serving on the board has helped him serve not only the hospital but also the tribe, which was one of his goals as a representative. “I would like to thank all the Claremore advisory board members for their friendship and their service to the board,” he said. “Thanks also to the UKB (United Keetoowah Band) representative Dr. Charles Gosnell for his friendship and great insight. Thank you to (Principal) Chief (Bill John) Baker and his Cabinet for their trust in me and allowing me to serve our people.” The Cherokee Phoenix asked for a reason for his resignation, but Lay declined to comment. Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. released a statement on Dec. 22 stating the tribe appreciated Lay’s service on the board but that the position is an CN administration appointment and the executive branch was in the process of selecting his successor.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
12/17/2014 12:48 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously amended the tribe’s fiscal year 2015 comprehensive operating and capital budgets. The operating budget increased to $622.9 million from $615.4 million. The extra funds came from FY 2014 carryover funds. The $7.5 million is to provide $2.1 million to operate the Ochelata Health Center and add new jobs, while $2.4 million will add employees at other CN health facilities. The CN health center in Bartlesville will move from its 5,000-square-foot space to a new 28,000-square-foot stand-alone facility in Ochelata. Approximately $2.7 million will be allocated to additional child care resources for CN citizens who meet income guidelines, and another $300,000 will go toward miscellaneous grants. “Providing Cherokee citizens with quality health care is the top priority of this body, and in order to achieve that goal we must ensure our health facilities employ staff that will meet the health needs of the citizens,” Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan said. “We not only want to build first-class health care facilities, but we want to staff the facilities with first-class personnel. This increase in funds helps the Cherokee Nation work toward that goal.” The capital budget increased by $4.8 million to $124.5 million. The money is earmarked for medical equipment for the four new health centers, which are under construction. “Big, aesthetically pleasing health care facilities are only as good as the equipment and staff inside,” Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright said. “By increasing funding for staff and earmarking money for medical equipment, the Cherokee Nation is making it known the tribe is committed to the health of its citizens.” Officials also honored three Cherokee veterans with Cherokee Medals of Patriotism. Arthur “Watie” Bell, 80, of Claremore; Robert G. Ketcher, 72, of Stilwell; and Samuel W. O’Fields, 80, of Claremore, were all presented plaques and medals by Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden. Bell enlisted in the Navy in 1951 and was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Miramar-San Diego from 1951-53. While there his assignment was base security, which included roving patrols and brig force gate duty. He also trained guard dogs. Bell completed eight weeks of Airman Class P School in Norman in 1953 and reported to the USS Tarawa CV-40 where he was assigned to the aviation gasoline division. Bell maintained the inert gas room and refueling aircrafts on the flight and hanger decks. Bell made one cruise, which encircled the world and ended in October 1954. He was later released from active duty and returned to reserve status and was eventually discharged from the Navy in 1955. He then joined the Army Reserve and completed his eight years of military service. Bell was discharged from the Army in 1959. “This gentleman serves on our color guard, honor guard and does a great job and we’re so thankful for that,” Crittenden said. Ketcher enlisted in the Army in March 1966. In December 1966 he deployed to Vietnam where he became the 1st Calvary’s squad leader and fired 81mm mortar guns. While there Ketcher’s mission was to “search and destroy.” He was discharged in 1968. O’Fields enlisted in the Army in 1956. He completed seven weeks of basic training and specialty unit training in California. He was sent to Bamberg, Germany, and served in the Tactical Operations and Equipment unit, which was part of the Mortar Battery, 2nd Battalion Group, 29th Infantry. O’Fields’ rank was private first class when he was discharged in June 1962. Terry Crow, 47, of Tahlequah, was to be honored but was not able to attend. Crow enlisted in the Army in 1989. He served in Desert Storm in Iraq. Crow received a Bronze Star during his service and was discharged in 1992. During Cherokee Nation Businesses interim CEO Shawn Slaton’s monthly report, Tribal Councilor Lee Keener questioned Slaton about what would happen to the former American Woodmark building in Tahlequah that CNB purchased in 2012. The building was home to Cherokee Nation Industry employees who evaluated and repackaged televisions that had been returned to United States-based Wal-Mart stores. CNI had a two-year contract with Miami, Florida-based company TRG to repair and refurbish TVs for Wal-Mart. The contract ended Dec. 1. Slaton said employees were cleaning the site and he hoped to have something in the building as soon as possible. “We’re currently in the process of giving that a good scrub down and cleaning. (CNB Executive Vice President) Chuck Garrett’s group is actively searching for the next tenant. We’ve got two or three possibilities, one from Muskogee. We’re just trying to work those possibilities to see what we can land there.”