Fallin questioned repercussions in custody dispute

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/30/2014 08:39 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sought to speak with advisers about repercussions with the Cherokee Nation as she considered intervening in a custody dispute involving a Cherokee girl, according to correspondence released to The Associated Press under an open records request.

Fallin’s spokesman, Alex Weintz, emailed Fallin’s legal counsel on Aug. 13, saying the governor would like to meet to go over issues, including “Repercussions with Cherokees ... repercussions with national guard.”

The bitter custody case centered on a 4-year-old girl named Veronica. Her birth mother was pregnant when she put the girl up for adoption, and Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island, S.C., had been lined up to receive custody since 2009. But Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and his family claimed the Indian Child Welfare Act mandated that the child be raised within the Cherokee Nation, and he won custody when the girl was 2.

The case went in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, which found in June 2013 that the federal law did not apply. Brown refused to give up custody, and he was charged in South Carolina with custodial interference. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley made a request for extradition on Aug. 12, but Fallin said she wanted to wait until Brown had his day in court.

This appears, based on the documents the AP obtained, to have been a concern for Fallin and her aides, who were cognizant of how it would be perceived that one governor was not responding to another governor’s request.

“Just FYI I spoke with (South Carolina’s communications director) and explained our position,” Weintz wrote in an email to Fallin and Denise Northrup, Fallin’s chief of staff, on Aug. 14. “He said thanks, they understand. Also said they weren’t doing any national media appearances on this subject and were conscious of avoiding a Gov vs. Gov storyline.”

Two days later, Fallin was set to sign a compact with the Cherokee Nation. Weintz emailed Fallin to tell her that the state’s largest tribe was planning to bring a camera crew and that they may ask her to make comments.

“I think its (sic) a good thing ... As much as we can show cooperation on any issue during the whole baby veronica deal,” Weintz wrote, to which Fallin responded: “Sounds good.”

Fallin signed the extradition order Sept. 4 for Brown to face the criminal charge. Later that month, after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an emergency stay that kept Veronica in Oklahoma, Brown handed her over to the Capobiancos. The extradition order was then dropped.

The emails were among more than 2,600 pages released to the AP that included correspondence between the governor and her advisers; emails and Facebook messages from constituents as well as out-of-state individuals about the case; and news articles. The records only included non-privileged documents relating to the case.

Weintz did not respond to a phone message and email on Friday about whether any documents were not released due to privilege and if so, what privilege was being cited.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/22/2015 01:00 PM
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BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2015 02:00 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will be meeting via conference call at 9 a.m. CDT, June 2, 2015. To attend, please use the conference call information listed below. The meeting agenda is <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9284_150602_EBAgenda.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>. Dial-in: 866-210-1669 Entry code: 4331082
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2015 11:00 AM
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BY STAFF REPORTS
05/20/2015 10:00 AM
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BY STAFF REPORTS
05/19/2015 04:00 PM
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. – The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation recently renovated a park in Locust Grove for children of all ages to enjoy. The $30,000 renovation project helped provide new picnic tables, slides and a swing set for the park located on the corner of Delaware Street and Ross Avenue. “The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is constantly looking for project opportunities that not only benefit Cherokee children, but all children in our communities, and taking advantage of this opportunity at Locust Grove was a no-brainer for our group,” HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper said. “This newly restored playground gives the children of the community a safe and fun place to come and just enjoy time in the sun.” The HACN used money from Housing and Urban Development funds for the renovation project. “The Cherokee Nation and the Housing Authority are doing so much to promote healthy families. This play structure will be a place for children to come and have fun while they stay healthy,” Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor said. “I appreciate Principal Chief Bill John Baker and the Housing Authority’s enthusiasm for this project for the Locust Grove community.” CN citizen and Locust Grove resident Amber Buckskin Swarer said the addition is exciting for the community, including her two boys. “We are just so excited to have somewhere we can take our kids,” said Swarer. “Before this, there was not really anything. Now we have something and can get our children outdoors and active, and we don’t have to drive to another town to take advantage of it.” Locust Grove resident Ema Parker said she is thankful the new playground equipment is age-appropriate for toddlers, such as her 13-month-old, Chett. “It’s nice to have somewhere with safe, clean equipment that I can bring my son to so that we can play outside, and I’m so glad they put in the baby swings because there wasn’t much catering to babies before,” said Parker. “I appreciate everything the Cherokee Nation and Housing Authority have done to help out and give the kids a good place to play here in Locust Grove.” For more information on the HACN, visit <a href="http://www.hacn.org" target="_blank">www.hacn.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/19/2015 01:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – People can support the “Remember the Removal” bike ride by purchasing T-shirts that support the ride and the cyclists taking part. Proceeds from the sales of the shirts will help support the riders as they travel 950 miles retracing the Trail of Tears in June. The shirts (adult S-XXXL) cost $15 and are available at the Cherokee Nation Gift Shop Tahlequah and online at CherokeeGiftShop.com. Youth sizes small through large are $10. “Remember the Removal” staff members will be selling the shirts at local events such as the upcoming Strawberry Festival. Currently, 12 CN citizens are training to retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas before returning to Oklahoma. They will put their bodies to the test as they travel an average of 60 miles a day, mirroring in part the hardships of their Cherokee ancestors who made the same trek on foot 176 years ago. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees who were forced to make the journey to Indian Territory from eastern Tennessee and other sites in the old CN, 4,000 died due to exposure, starvation and disease. On the journey, the “Remember the Removal” cyclists visit various gravesites and historic landmarks along the trail, including Blythe Ferry in Tennessee, which was the last piece of Cherokee homeland the ancestors stood on before beginning the trek to Indian Territory, and Mantle Rock in Kentucky, which provided shelter to their ancestors as they waited for the Ohio River to thaw in order to cross safely. The cyclists and staff will leave on June 3 for Cherokee, North Carolina, where they will join up with seven cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The EBCI has been participating in the ride since 2011. The cyclists will begin making their way back from New Echota, Georgia, on June 7 along the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears and arrive in Tahlequah on June 25. For more information, visit RememberTheRemoval.Cherokee.org. The public may follow this year’s journey on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/removal.ride" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/removal.ride</a>.