Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard discusses a friendly amendment regarding changes to the Cherokee Nation’s Governmental Records Act during the Tribal Council’s June 16 meeting in Tahlequah, Okla. Buzzard requested the number of days for a GRA request response be lessened to 10 days rather than 20 days as stated in the legislation. JAMI MUPRHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Tribal Council amends FOIA, GRA

BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
06/18/2014 10:23 AM
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After several turbulent months of protest from citizens and some Cherokee Nation legislators, Tribal Councilors amended the Freedom of Information and Governmental Records acts during their June 16 meeting.

Amendments included increased time limits for responses under both laws. For the FOIA, the time limit goes from 15 days to 20 days. The FOIA amendment also included an additional 10-day extension, but only after the requesting party is notified in writing. The GRA time limit was increased from six days to 10 days, following a friendly amendment from Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard.

“And the amendment that I’d like to offer is to take away some of the days for the GRA act. We’re presently at 20. What I would propose to do is add four days to the existing act. Make it, I believe, 10 days,” he said. “It would be consistent with what we’re going to be doing with the FOIA, we added four (days). I would ask that we add four days to the present act which would make it 10 day turn around on documentation.”

The FOIA bill also creates an information officer position within the Attorney General’s Office to serve as a liaison for CN citizens seeking public records. The officer is to be independent of political influence and could only be terminated for cause and will be responsible for facilitating, gathering, tracking and responding to FOI requests, as well as providing monthly reports to the Tribal Council.

Both laws increase protection for CN citizens regarding personal information. Amendments included protecting a citizen’s Social Security number, date of birth, tribal citizenship number, email and other electronic identifiers specifically exempted under the FOIA.

“With technological advances, cases of identity theft have increased exponentially, and there are no indications of the trend changing course,” Tribal Councilor Tina Glory-Jordan said. “Along with other enhancements to this essential piece of legislation, this body wanted to ensure our citizens’ sensitive information on requested documents will remain private. Cherokee citizens can rest assured this body has taken every step needed to protect their identity and assets through this law.”

Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts expressed concern regarding “privileged or confidential” items that would be exempt.

The act states that privileged and confidential information is “exempt from disclosure under the Cherokee Nation Freedom of Information and Rights of Privacy Act, as amended, or is confidential under Cherokee Nation law, that record shall, nevertheless, be produced or otherwise made available to the requesting Council member…”

“So that still denies a council person the ability to have that electronically. So for instance, myself, that lives an hour to hour and a half away, I would still have to drive to the AG’s office to review the information it would not be given to me,” Cowan Watts said.

Glory Jordan said they had made no changes in that area and asked Attorney General Todd Hembree to respond.

“This law makes no changes to the current language that is in our Governmental Records Act. The question that you asked is precisely subject matter to a Supreme Court appeal to which Ms. (Julia) Coates is a plaintiff. We have our interpretation. Ms. Coates has her interpretation. There are going to be five members of the justice that’s going to decide that issue,” Hembree said.

Cowan Watts asked Hembree if the language would affect current lawsuits, to which he replied no.

The FOIA also clarifies that proprietary bid documents will be exempt from public disclosure. The law states that a contract is not exempt from disclosure once executed, but bid or other financial documents of the vendors who bid on a project will be exempt.

The FOIA bill passed 10-6, with Tribal Councilors Cowan Watts, Lee Keener, Coates, Don Garvin, Dick Lay and Jack Baker voting no. Councilor Jodie Fishinghawk did not attend the meeting.

The GRA bill passed 14-2, with Cowan Watts and Keener opposing.

Coates requested six friendly amendments to the FOIA bill, but they were voted down. They included:

• Any person denied a document request pursuant to the act for either copies or inspection, and any person denied attendance of a “work group or subcommittee meeting of the Tribal Council may appeal that decision to the Administrative Appeals Board or the District Court within 10 days of the denial of the request or deadline for providing the request if no response occurs,” and

• Any person alleging a violation of Section 107 (Meetings of public bodies shall be open) may seek relieve from the Administrative Appeals Board within 10 days of the alleged violation.

Glory Jordan said her biggest problem with the motions regarding the appeals board is that it is not set up to hear those types of cases.

“That means that we got to go change that law,” she said. “And I don’t see how we vote on doing this tonight without changing that law to broaden their ability to hear this type of case because they were set up to hear basically wrongful termination-type cases.”

Councilors also confirmed CN citizens Robin McClain Smith to the Cherokee Nation Community Association Cooperation and Jennifer Goins to the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission.

The Concurrent Enrollment Scholarship Act was also amended to allow students to enroll in more college hours and receive more funding.

“The amended legislation now allows eligible high school students to receive scholarship money for up to nine hours of college course work, rather than just six,” Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick said. “The more hours our students enroll in shows their dedication to academics and their futures, and saves families money.”
About the Author
Reporter

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

Council

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.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/01/2014 02:54 PM
During the 6 p.m. Oct. 13, 2014 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed: • A resolution authorizing the submission of an application to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for FY15 funding for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program • A resolution confirming the nomination of T. Luke Barteaux as an Editorial Board member of the Cherokee Phoenix • A resolution confirming the nomination of Kendra Sue McGeady as an Editorial Board member of the Cherokee Phoenix ...and more. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2014/12/8710_Oct13_2014CouncilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> the Oct. 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 Oct. 13 Tribal Council meeting video.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/28/2014 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council approved Cherokee Nation citizens Luke Barteaux and Kendra McGeady to the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board during its Oct. 13 meeting. Barteaux replaces board member Claryce Doyle, whose term ends October 2014. Under the Independent Press Act, Doyle’s term might have been a six-year term. Section 6 of Legislative Act 16-09 states “the terms of office of the Board members shall be six years.” In an opinion, Attorney General Todd Hembree addresses the discrepancy in the length of Doyle’s term after having a question presented to him by Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. The question asked was “Will Claryce Doyle’s term as Editorial Board Member of the Cherokee Phoenix end in October 2014?” According to Hembree’s opinion, “there is nothing ambiguous about the language used in the (Doyle’s) Resolution.” “Because there is no ambiguity in the language used by the Tribal Council, it is the opinion of the Attorney General that the resolution must be taken at face value; the body has expressed its intent in the language of the Resolution, and the Council must have intended the result that it dictated,” the opinion states. “The Attorney General cannot re-write the resolutions and acts passed by the Tribal Council, and the plain language of Resolution 04-12 leaves no room for interpretation or examination of legislative intent.” The opinion states that pursuant to the language in Doyle’s resolution, it expired in October 2014. “It is highly recommended in the future that the Tribal Council clearly delineate what office an appointee is filling in the resolution itself,” Hembree states. Barteaux, who will serve a six-year term as the principal chief’s appointment, passed by a 14-1-1 vote. Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts voted against the nomination, while Tribal Councilor Julia Coates abstained. During the meeting, Cowan Watts said she could not support Barteaux because she did not think he met the journalism qualifications the Independent Press Act requires. Hoskin said the administration vetted the nominee. “I have to respectfully disagree with the council lady from Rogers County. In fact, Mr. Barteaux by any objective standards, meets the letter of the law that this council passed,” Hoskin Jr. said. “Very confident that he meets the qualifications.” The Phoenix requested vetting documents from Hoskin but was told no vetting documentation existed. Barteaux has a juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa and a bachelor’s degree in public affairs and administration from the University of Oklahoma. His work history includes being an editorial board member for the Family Law Section Practice Manual for the Oklahoma Bar Association. He also works as an attorney, as well as having worked for Cherokee Nation Enterprises from 2004-07 and in 2009. McGeady, the Tribal Council’s appointment who will serve a six-year term, also had her nomination questioned during the meeting. Cowan Watts said she did not think McGeady was qualified because McGeady has no management-level experience in journalism as required by the law. However, Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan said she thinks McGeady meets requirements. “I feel that you’re very qualified. I feel that both the nominees were very qualified,” Glory Jordan said. McGeady is a graduate of NEO A&M College in Miami. She is presently the director of planning and development/marketing director for Home of Hope Inc. Her past employment includes working two stints at the Vinita Daily Journal as a reporter, as well as working as a secretary for Craig County Commissioners and a contract survey specialist for Grand Gateway. Her nomination passed with a vote of 13-2-1. Cowan Watts and Tribal Councilor Lee Keener voted no, while Coates abstained. Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez was absent. Coates said she was saddened that board member and At-Large CN citizen Jason Terrell, who McGeady replaces, wasn’t reappointed. Editorial Board Chairman John Shurr said the Phoenix has made great strides since 2000 and that he has high hopes for the two new board members. “My history with the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board predates its existence and, in fact, was a mechanism I developed as a way to protect the newspaper and its staff from political interference. I was asked in 1999 to contribute ideas to what became the Independent Press Act of 2000 and I figured an editorial board, initially made up of three people, would be a good wedge between tribal politics and our newspaper,” he said. “It won the prestigious Elias Boudinot Award from the Native American Journalists Association in 2001 and has held up well, so far. That same year we also won the General Excellence Award for newspapers publishing one to six times a year, and today we publish monthly, with more frequent updates on the Phoenix web site. We now have five editorial board members including two new ones, neither of whom I’ve met or had a conversation, but I have high hopes that they’ll help carry on the standards that the law mandates.”