Freedom Of Information Act was first in Indian Country

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
06/12/2014 10:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation enacted its Freedom of Information and Rights of Privacy Act in 2001, becoming the first Federally recognized tribe to allow citizens access to public records of a public body. Governmental bodies in the United States, including some tribes, have similar laws governing the availability of information contained in public records.

“Native Americans have as much right as anybody else to get information from their government,” Kevin R. Kemper, former journalist and University of Arizona assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences, said. “When a tribe doesn’t have a freedom of information law, it’s extremely tough for journalists and the public.”

Kemper, who also serves as a Native American Journalists Association Legal Hotline intake liaison, said he believes strongly in freedom of information and tribal sovereignty.

“Each tribe needs to have the opportunity to have a freedom of information act, incorporate freedom of information as a way of helping the people,” he said.

According to the CN FOIA, a public record includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body.

“The requirements under FOIA are that (a request) be in writing to the department with a specific request for the document you are requesting,” CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said. “The department will take it, the process is to have it reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office to see if it meets the requirements of FOIA, and we handle it according to process.”

However, Hembree said there are documents, such as meeting minutes of a public body, that don’t need a formal request.

Each department of the tribe’s executive and legislative branches, after receiving a records request, has 15 business days to fulfill the request. According to the act, if written notification of the response is neither mailed nor personally delivered to the person requesting the documents within the 15 days, the request must be considered denied and the requestor may appeal the denial.

After reviewing the CN FOIA, Joey Senat, Oklahoma State University School of Media & Strategic Communications associate professor, said if a record is obviously public information then the person handling it should know that.

“Anyone should be able to walk up and make a request right there,” Senat, who served on the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Committee, said. “If the law was written so it was effective, it would allow anyone in the tribe to walk up to a public agency and make a request for a record that’s with that agency or with that official.

“If the record is right there and it can be made a copy, it should be provided on the spot, under the ways our law is written,” he added. “Having a 15-day delay wouldn’t be acceptable under (Oklahoma) state law.”

Hembree said he hasn’t received any complaints about the current process so he assumes it’s working fine. However, he said his staff has been overwhelmed by an increase of requests that come from a select group of people.

“The purpose of the act ¬– and it’s a great purpose – is to make sure that citizens know how their government is run, know how their money is made, know how their money is spent and the system has worked greatly up until October 2011, at which time there had been a dramatic increase in the amount of FIOA (requests),” he said. “That’s always been my number one goal, people will have that right and I, for one, will never stand in the way of that right.”

But Senat said because the CN FOIA gives tribal citizens the right to know what their government does the costs and number of requests shouldn’t matter.

“God forbid that the citizens know what their government is doing and that they want to find out,” he said. “It costs too much and there’s an increase? Well God forbid that the public actually put into effect the statute that says they have a right to know. That’s the purpose of these statutes and people should put them into effect and make requests. That’s why they’re there.”

Senat added that a list of all record requests should also be a public record and anyone should be able to ask for it.

“It’s a way to provide a paper trail so that the public can judge how well their government is responding to records requests,” he said. “Every time they have gotten a request, that’s a record.”

What records are public?

Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered exempt or confidential. Under the CN FOIA, certain categories are specifically made public information, however the use of the information for commercial solicitation is prohibited.

Public information includes the names; sex; race; title and dates of employment of all employees of public bodies; administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public; final opinions; documents identifying persons confined in any jail, detention center or prison; statements and interpretations of policy; statute and the Constitution; written planning policies and goals and final planning decisions; final CN audits and of its subsidiaries; information in or taken from any account; voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds by public bodies; the minutes and votes of all proceedings of all public bodies; and reports that disclose the nature, substance and location of any crime or alleged crime reported as having been committed.

“Tribal people expect transparency and accountability from their leaders, and there are a lot of great leaders throughout Indian Country,” Kemper said. “The best leaders tend to recognize transparency.”

The Nation’s FOIA states that any person has a right to inspect and/or copy public records.

“That’s one of the problems with how it is written now,” Senat said of the tribal law. “It should say ‘have the right to inspect and copy.’ It shouldn’t say ‘or.’ You should have the right to inspect a record and make your own copy if it means with a pencil and paper, to write down what you’re reading. Even with technology today, with a cell phone, the simplest thing is to take a photograph of a document.”

Some record copying may require a fee

According to the act, a public body – which is any CN board, commission, agency, authority, any public or governmental body or political subdivision of the Nation, including any organization or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds – may establish and collect fees that do not exceed the actual cost of searching for or making copies of records.

However, records must be furnished at the lowest possible cost and be provided in a form that is both convenient and practical for use by the person requesting copies of the records concerned. Fees may not be charged for examination and review to determine if the documents are subject to disclosure.

Open meetings and their rules

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, an executive session is a meeting or portion of a meeting that is convened in private. Only members of the governing body are entitled to attend but they may invite others to stay at the pleasure of that board, council, committee or commission. A motion is required to go into executive session and a majority must approve it. Those present must maintain the confidentiality of the discussion.

The regular meeting minutes should indicate when the board went into an executive session, what the primary reason was, any formal decisions that were made in executive session and when the board, council, committee or commission came out of executive session.

Investments or other financial matters may be in executive session if disclosure of the deliberations or decisions would jeopardize the ability to implement a decision or to achieve investment objectives.

A record of the board or of its fiduciary agents that discloses deliberations about or a tentative or final decision on, investments or other financial matters is exempt from disclosure as long as its disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement an investment decision or program or to achieve investment objectives.

The panel may discuss, deliberate on and make decisions on a portion of the annual investment plan or other related financial or investment matters in executive session if disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement that portion of the plan or achieve investment objectives.

A record of the panel that discloses discussions, deliberations or decisions on portions of the annual investment plan or other related financial or investment matters is not a public record to the extent and so long as its disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement that portion of the plan or achieve investment objectives.

Matters exempt from disclosure

A public body may, but is not required to, exempt from disclosure information of a personal nature that would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy, trade secrets, records of law enforcement under investigation and documents to proposed contractual arrangements and proposed sales or purchase of property.

Specific, individual salaries are also exempt from disclosure but annual budgets contain position listings without names.

Senat said omitting salaries from the public eye is “fodder for corruption.”

“You can go down to OSU and you can ask to see what I get paid as a state employee,” he said. “There’s no way to figure out who’s getting paid what? The public is the employer. The tribal citizens are the employer. They’re the ones paying the bill. They should be entitled to know who’s being paid what specifically. It should be open because that’s one way to fight corruption. That opens it up to favoritism, political patronage, basic corruption.”

Information that would violate attorney-client relationships, the identity of the maker of a gift to a public body if the maker requests to be anonymous and the identity of an individual who makes a complaint, which alleges a violation or potential violation of law or regulation also may be exempt from disclosure.

Memoranda, correspondence and working papers in the possession of individual members of the executive and legislative branches or their immediate staff are exempt. However, nothing may be construed as limiting or restricting public access to source documents or records, factual data or summaries of factual data, papers, minutes or reports.

Other memoranda, correspondence, documents and working papers relative to efforts to attract business or industry to invest within the CN may be exempt from disclosure. However, any record that is requested and is exempt and not disclosed or is disclosed and marked confidential should have a statement explaining the reasons for that determination.

“It does has a lot of common exemptions,” Senat said. “This is a strength under the law where it says that if they’re going to deny it they have to explain why something is exempt. These statutes can be very strong, but if they’re not enforced they’re worthless.”

Photographs, signatures, addresses, race, weight, height, Social Security number and digitized images from a driver’s license or personal identification cards are also not considered public records.

“Some leaders keep things secret and that could violate the right of the people,” Kemper said. “You see a lot of that throughout Indian Country and the tribe will have to sort that out.”

Kemper added that he believes there are some understandable exceptions such as sacred knowledge.

“Every tribe’s culture is different, that’s why it’s important to create freedom of information that’s a cultural match,” he said.

Penalties for not providing records

Any CN citizen may look to the District Court for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in FOIA cases as long as the application is made not later than one year following the date on which the alleged violation occurs or one year after a public vote in public session.

The court may order equitable relief as it considers appropriate and a violation must be considered to be an irreparable injury for which no adequate remedy at law exists.

If a person or entity seeking such relief prevails, they may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and other costs of litigation. If they prevail in part, the court may award them reasonable attorney fees or an appropriate portion.

According to the act, any person or group of persons who willfully and maliciously violates the provisions of the FOIA may be found guilty of a crime and upon conviction shall be fine not more than $100 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days for the first offense. For the second offense, the fine shall not be more than $200 or imprisoned for not more than 60 days and shall not be fine more than $300 or imprisoned for not more than 90 days.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/22/2017 04:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Trainers are legging-up their horses for a 30-day thoroughbred meet returning March 13 to Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs. The spring meet holds to the return of a more traditional calendar from this past year, running through Preakness on May 20. Races begin at 1:05 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday beginning March 13, and every Monday, Tuesday and Saturday for April and May. The 2017 thoroughbred meet kicks off with a new series of starter allowance races. The races are designed specifically for horses that have started on turf in their most recent starts. “While Will Rogers Downs doesn’t offer turf racing, we do have horses in our population that have been racing on turf at other tracks,” said John Lies, racing secretary and track announcer for Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs. “Thanks to this new offering, they now have a division of their own to face each other on our main track, which had a perfect safety record last spring.” The series will run a six-week period within the meet, offering nine races, including a sprint division and three races for fillies and mares. “Our stakes schedule has been given a nice makeover but still offers eight races with the same 10 percent increase in winnings we offered in 2016,” said Lies. “Four of the races have been rebranded to bear the names of memorable thoroughbreds either here in Claremore or in the state of Oklahoma. It’s an exciting change.” The Miranda Diane, formerly the Wilma Mankiller Memorial, guarantees $50,000 on April 3, along with The Highland Ice the following day, named after an accomplished sprinter inducted into the Oklahoma Racing Hall of Fame. “The recently renamed Cinema Handicap and Will Rogers Downs Handicap have been moved to create a stakes double header situation on both April 24 and 25,” said Lies. “This gives those same horses the opportunity to come back three weeks later to face each other in a finale of sorts, the final two stakes races in May.” Those races – the More Than Even on May 15, named after a multiple Will Rogers Downs winner of the preceding race and 2015 horse of the meet, and the Cherokee Nation Classic Cup on May 16 – both offer purses of $55,000. For the spring 2016 Will Rogers Downs meet, more than $19 million was wagered on live racing, with four days surpassing $1 million. Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs is located 3 miles east of Claremore on Highway 20. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeestarrewards.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeestarrewards.com</a> or call 918-283-8800.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/21/2017 05:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to Election Commission documents, five people received challenges to their respective Tribal Council candidacies during the EC’s period to contest a candidate’s eligibility, which ran Feb. 10-16. Of the five challenges, two were based on residency, two on possible conflict of interest with other tribes and one on whether a candidate has to be Cherokee by blood to run. Cherokee Nation citizen Angela Collins, of Gore, contested Dist. 4 candidate Bo Highers claiming he did not fulfill the residency requirement. In her challenge, Collins claims Highers has an at-large residence at 116 N. L St. in Muskogee County. According to CN Registration records, Highers’ address is 3805 Chandler Road in Muskogee. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Highers for comment, but as of publication he had not responded. Collins also requested the EC investigate “the interest” Dist. 4 candidate Sarah Cowett “has with the Creek Nation.” According to Cowett’s Facebook profile, she works at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Division of Health. According to the tribe’s Constitution, any person “who holds any office of honor, profit or trust in any other tribe or Nation of American Indians, either elective or appointive shall be ineligible to hold simultaneously any office of honor, profit or trust of the Cherokee Nation” unless approved by the Tribal Council. The tribe’s election law states the “candidate shall not hold any office of honor, profit or trust in any other tribe of Indians, either elective or appointive, if elected to the Cherokee Nation office which he or she is seeking.” Cowett said she does work for the MCN, but doesn’t hold office. “Yes, I do work for Creek Nation Department of Health as a patient benefits coordinator. This position allows me to help our tribal members as well as members from other tribes to obtain benefits for health care that they may not know about. I take it a step further and find about their lives so that I may be of further assistance to them,” she said. “I do not hold an office nor would I be eligible to vote in any election that they may have because I am Cherokee not Creek. I am honored to be able to run for the D4 position.” CN citizen Dalene Kirk, of Jay, challenged the candidacy of Dist. 9 candidate Anthony Cochran claiming Cochran did not live in the district the required number of days before filing for office. According to CN law, the “candidate shall have established a bona fide permanent residence in the district for which he or she is a candidate for no less than two hundred seventy (270) days immediately preceding the day of the general election in which he or she is seeking election.” Cochran said he did not have a response regarding the residency challenge, but said that there will always be challenges in life. “There will be people opposed to what you do, what you say, how you do it and why you do it,” he said. “How you take on and deal with these challenges and oppositions is what will determine what kind of person, role model and leader you will be. I believe everything has a way of working itself out.” CN citizen Chance Hayes, of Vinita, challenged the candidacy of Randy White in Dist. 11 claiming he wasn’t “Cherokee by blood.” White said he did not have a comment as of publication, but would comment after the EC hearings. According to election law, a candidate “shall be a citizen of Cherokee Nation, in accordance with Article IV of the Constitution of Cherokee Nation and shall be a citizen by blood of Cherokee Nation.” According to the Constitution, all CN citizens must be original enrollees or descendants of original enrollees listed on the Dawes Commission Rolls, including the Delaware Cherokees…and Shawnee Cherokees and/or their descendants. CN citizen Kathy White, of Midland, Texas, challenged At-Large candidate Shane Jett claiming his work with the Citizen of Potawatomi Nation poses a conflict of interest. The Phoenix attempted to contact Jett for comment, but as of publication he had not responded. According to letters given to each candidate and petitioner, the EC had scheduled hearings for all five challenges for 1 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the EC Office located at 17763 S. Muskogee Ave. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2017/2/11031__2017CandidateContests.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a>the candidate challenge documents.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/21/2017 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix was the first Native American newspaper and the first bilingual publication in North America. And on Feb. 21, it celebrates its 189th birthday. The newspaper’s first issue was printed on Feb. 21, 1828, in New Echota, Cherokee Nation (now Georgia), and edited by Elias Boudinot. It was printed in English and Cherokee, using the Cherokee syllabary created by Sequoyah. Rev. Samuel Worcester and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions helped build the printing office, cast type in the Cherokee syllabary and procure the printer and other equipment. Also, Boudinot, his brother Stand Watie, John Ridge and Elijah Hicks, all leaders in the tribe at that time, raised money to start the newspaper. In 1829, the newspaper name was amended to include the Indian Advocate at the request of Boudinot. The Cherokee National Council approved of the name change and both the masthead and content were changed to reflect the paper’s broader mission. In the 1830s Boudinot and Principal Chief John Ross used the Cherokee Phoenix to editorialize against the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the growing encroachment and harassment of settlers in Georgia. The newspaper also contained news items, features, accounts about Cherokees living in Arkansas and other area tribes, and social and religious activities. The two U.S. Supreme Court decisions (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia), which affected Cherokee rights, were also written about extensively. As pressure for the Cherokee to leave Georgia increased, Boudinot changed his stance and began to advocate for the removal of Cherokee to the west. At first Chief Ross supported Boudinot’s opposing view but by 1832 the two leaders’ differences caused them to split and Boudinot resigned. Elijah Hicks, a brother-in-law of Ross, was appointed editor in August 1832, but the Phoenix was silenced in May 1834 when the Cherokee government ran out of money for the paper. Attempts were made to revive the paper. When word leaked that Chief Ross intended to move the printing press from New Echota to nearby Red Clay, Tenn., the Georgia Guard, who were already brutally oppressing the Cherokee people, moved in and destroyed the press and burned the Cherokee Phoenix office with the help of Stand Watie who was a member of the Treaty Party. The party advocated selling what remained of Cherokee land and moving west. Four years later most of the Cherokees who remained on their lands in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina were rounded up and forcibly marched or sent by boat to Indian Territory. A Cherokee Nation newspaper was again published in September 1844 in the form of the Cherokee Advocate. The paper was published in Tahlequah and edited by Cherokee citizen William Potter Ross, a graduate of Princeton University. The Cherokee Advocate returned after the Cherokee government was officially reformed in 1975. The newspaper continued under that name until October 2000 when the paper began using the name Cherokee Phoenix and Indian Advocate again. Also, that same year, the Tribal Council passed the Cherokee Independent Press Act of 2000, which ensures the coverage of tribal government and news of the Cherokee Nation is free from political control and undue influence. In January 2007, the newspaper began using the original Cherokee Phoenix name, launched a website and began publishing in a broadsheet format. Today, the newspaper reports on the tribe’s government, current events and Cherokee culture, people and history. The news organization has also broadened its outreach to include locally aired radio shows that are also available online and social media.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
02/21/2017 10:00 AM
BOSTON (AP) — Native Americans hope President Donald Trump doesn't forget America's first inhabitants as he promises to put "America first." Tribes have been reaching out to the Republican administration since it took office last month, saying they're ready to help it meet its campaign promises of improving the economy and creating more jobs for Americans. Five large tribes in Oklahoma — the Cherokee, Chickasaw , Choctaw, Muscogee Creek and Seminoles — have requested a meeting with the New York billionaire during his first 100 days in office so they can talk about ways to advance their common interests. In Massachusetts, leaders of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, descendants of the Native Americans who first encountered the Pilgrims nearly four centuries ago, have been echoing similar sentiments to Trump officials as they seek approval of reservation lands to build a $1 billion resort casino south of Boston. "Tribes are pouring billions and billions of dollars into the U.S. to help make America great again," said Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the 2,600-member, federally recognized tribe, playing off Trump's campaign slogan. "All of these economies we're creating, from resort casinos to malls to businesses. We're job creators. That's a story that's never really told." But tribes elsewhere have already steeled for battle just weeks into the new administration. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota has asked the courts to overturn recent federal approvals for the Dakota Access pipeline. The tribe and its supporters are also planning a large demonstration in Washington on March 10. "The Trump Administration is circumventing the law: wholly disregarding the treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux," Jan Hasselman, an attorney representing the tribe, said in a statement. "It isn't the 1800s anymore — the U.S. government must keep its promises." The tribes along the nation's border with Mexico have also voiced concerns about the impact Trump's proposed wall will have on their sovereign lands. And other tribal advocates are closely watching what comes of Republicans' promises to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. The law included federal funds for tribal health care programs, and stripping them could have "disastrous consequences," dozens of tribal groups wrote in a December letter to congressional leaders. Despite the uncertainties, many tribal leaders say they're still hopeful they can build on the strong relationships enjoyed under prior administrations. They've found reason to cheer in Trump's pick to lead the Department of Interior, Ryan Zinke, a Republican congressman from Montana who's pledged to "restore trust" between the agency, the states and Indian tribes. "Yes, we are looking for ways to partner. Now, do we have assumptions because he's been in battles with other tribes? Sure, and we're looking to clarify those assumptions," says Gary Batton, chief of the roughly 200,000-member Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. "Is he open to considering that each tribal government is its own separate entity and unique? That's the way we're approaching this." On the campaign trail, Trump gave little indication how he might approach tribes, but many see promise in the administration's broader goals. "Infrastructure, energy development, education and job creation," said Jacqueline Pata, a member of the Tlingit-Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska's Central Council and executive director for the National Congress of American Indians. "Those are things that have been critical in Indian Country for a long, long time." Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation, says his members will be looking for greater control over water, land, criminal justice and taxation on their sovereign lands, which straddle parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. "If Trump is about self-sufficiency and self-determination, let's see if he really means that," he said. "Give us full authority over our lands. If this land is ours, why are we asking the federal government for permission?" Tribes with casino dreams, meanwhile, are optimistic that Trump's experience in the industry, as well as his promises to ease businesses regulations, will work in their favor, said Jason Giles, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma and executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association. Trump once owned three Atlantic City, New Jersey, casinos, though two have since shuttered and one operates under different owners. Tribes are even willing, for now, to overlook the president's past off-color statements about Native Americans. Testifying before Congress in 1993, the then-casino mogul questioned the legitimacy of some of his tribal rivals. "Go up to Connecticut," Trump said, referring to the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino. "They don't look like Indians to me." Giles called Trump's past remarks "troublesome" but says he and other tribal representatives have been assured by Trump's advisers that those statements aren't reflective of the current administration, which didn't respond to requests for comment for this story. "We're taking them at their word," he said. "We're going into this with open arms."
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/21/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During a special meeting on Feb. 16, Election Commission Administrator Brooke Tillison submitted her resignation letter to the EC, citing job stress. At the meeting, commissioners went into executive session to discuss personnel. Upon returning Commissioner Pam Sellers motioned to accept the resignation. The motion stated that Feb. 24 was to be Tillison’s last day of employment. It also put Tillison on administrative leave until her resignation took effect. Commissioner Carolyn Allen seconded the motion and it passed unopposed. In a statement, Tillison wrote that she “enjoyed making a difference” at the EC, beginning her tenure at the commission as a clerk before being promoted to administrator. However, she cited job stress as the reason for resigning. “Unfortunately the tremendous amount of stress has made it impossible for me to continue being the Administrator,” she stated. “I am very appreciative of the Commissioners and staff who continue to give their best efforts while maintaining strong morals. I wish you all the best of luck in the election and the future.” Previously, Wanda Beaver, who stated having grievances with Commissioners Bill Horton, Hart, Martha Calico, Shawna Calico and Allen, resigned in 2014. Former Administrators Keeli Duncan and Madison Thomas resigned in 2016 and 2015, respectively. The Phoenix requested comment from Duncan and Thomas but didn’t receive a response from Duncan, and Thomas declined to comment. The Phoenix was unable to contact Beaver. The Phoenix requested a statement from the EC regarding Tillison’s resignation, but had not received one as of publication. The EC also held a meeting on Feb. 14, in which it amended each commissioner’s contract and its attorney’s contract in the amounts of $15,600 and $24,000, respectively. Also approved were three press releases to be sent to the Phoenix regarding the upcoming Tribal Council elections and a process for someone who becomes incapacitated during an election, but still would like to vote. Commissioners also went into executive session for personnel reasons. Upon their return, they said no action was taken.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
02/17/2017 11:15 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Despite denying he did anything wrong, Cherokee Nation citizen and Dist. 86 Rep. Will Fourkiller said he would accept the recommendations from a House of Representatives committee that investigated him and another state representative for sexual harassment claims. “I take this matter very seriously and want to take steps to avoid even an appearance of impropriety,” Fourkiller, D-Stilwell, stated in a letter delivered Feb. 13 to House Speaker Charles McCall. The special House committee recommended on Feb. 2 that Fourkiller undergo sensitivity training and have no interaction with the legislative body’s page program for a year. He was accused of making inappropriate comments to a high school-age House page in 2015. According to the program, high schools students from the state serve as pages for a week during regular legislative sessions and do interact with legislators. The committee’s report states when the accusation was made in 2015 Fourkiller did not acknowledge or deny making the comments. Fourkiller has since denied any wrongdoing. “I have made the decision to voluntarily agree to follow both recommendations of the Committee,” Fourkiller wrote in the letter to McCall. On Jan. 17, Fourkiller declined to appear before the committee saying he would only speak the to the Special Investigation Committee if the proceeding was open to the public. According to reports, the committee had heard from witnesses in only closed sessions. “A confidential, closed-door proceeding does not provide the equitable forum to repair my character and reputation,” he told Rep. Josh Cockroft, who chaired the committee, in a letter. Fourkiller on Jan. 11 said he was made aware in 2015 that a page had indicated he had said something that made her uncomfortable and he had apologized. “I do not know what I did or said, but whatever it was I certainly didn’t mean to do it, and I apologized,” he said. He added that the 2015 incident is the only one that he was made aware of by House staff. The House has declined to release the complaint, citing personnel reasons. With his decision, Fourkiller avoids a vote in the Republican-controlled House on the committee’s recommendations. The committee also recommended expelling Tulsa Republican Rep. Dan Kirby from the House. The committee’s report says Kirby took one of his legislative assistants to a strip club and received topless photos of her. Kirby submitted his resignation on Feb. 4, which was to take effect March 1. He initially resigned in late December after reports of a publicly funded settlement with another woman surfaced, but later rescinded his resignation. The committee also determined the House had the authority to spend money to settle the wrongful termination agreement paid to one of the accusers. Officials said there was no financial settlement in the complaint against Fourkiller. Fourkiller was first elected to the Dist. 86 seat in 2011. He was re-elected in 2013 and 2015. He also ran for principal chief of the CN in 2015, finishing third at 10.58 percent with 2,040 votes.