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
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.”
Click on a candidate's name below to read their complete Council Questionnaire answers:
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_RexJordan_Dist1.pdf" target="_blank">Rex Jordan</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_RyanSierra_Dist1.pdf" target="_blank">Ryan Sierra</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BrianBerry_Dist3.pdf" target="_blank">Brian Berry</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BrandonGirty_Dist3.pdf" target="_blank">Brandon Girty</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_KathyKilpatrick_Dist3.pdf" target="_blank">Kathy Kilpatrick</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_DavidWalkingstick_Dist3.pdf" target="_blank">David Walkingstick</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_NatalieFullbright_Dist6.pdf" target="_blank">Natalie Fullbright</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_RonGoff_Dist6.pdf" target="_blank">Ron Goff</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BryanWarner_Dist6.pdf" target="_blank">Bryan Warner</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_CoreyBunch_Dist8.pdf" target="_blank">Corey Bunch</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_ShawnCrittenden_Dist8.pdf" target="_blank">Shawn Crittenden</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_DickLay_Dist12.pdf" target="_blank">Dick Lay</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_DoraPatzkowski_Dist12.pdf" target="_blank">Dora Patzkowski</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BuelAnglen_Dist13.pdf" target="_blank">Buel Anglen</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_KeithAustin_Dist14.pdf" target="_blank">Keith Austin</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_WilliamPearson_Dist14.pdf" target="_blank">William Pearson</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_LindaBolin_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Linda Bolin</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_TreyBrown_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Trey Brown</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_PamelaFox_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Pamela Fox</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_ShaneJett_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Shane Jett</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_TommyJones_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Tommy Jones</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_DarellMatlock_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Darell Matlock</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BenjaminMcKee_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Benjamin McKee</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_DeborahReed_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Deborah Reed</a>
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9233_BetsySwimmer_AtLarge.pdf" target="_blank">Betsy Swimmer</a>
<strong>During the 6 p.m. March 16, 2015 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed:</strong>
• A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE SUBMISSION OF A GRANT APPLICATION BY THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDRENS, YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES TO THE U.S. DHHS, FAMILY VIOLENCE PREVENTION AND SERVICES PROGRAM, FOR VICTIMS OF FAMILY VIOLENCE
Councilor Walkingstick moved to approve. Councilor Hargis seconded the motion. The motion carried.
• A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING CAREER SERVICES TO DEVELOP AND SUBMIT A GRANT APPLICATION TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION FOR FUNDING THE VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION PROGRAM
Councilor Hargis moved to approve. Councilor Baker seconded the motion. Councilors Thornton, Keener, Walkingstick, Taylor, Baker, Lay, Fullbright, Fishinghawk, Snell, Byrd, Vazquez, Garvin and Buzzard requested to be added as sponsors. The motion to approve carried.
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9229_March16TribalCouncilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the March 16, 2015 Tribal Council meeting minutes.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At their April 13 meeting, Tribal Councilors questioned Cherokee Nation Businesses interim CEO Shawn Slaton about home construction projects that Cherokee Nation Construction Resources, a division of CNB, is overseeing in West Siloam Springs and Roland.
Slaton said construction in West Siloam Springs “is making progress.”
“Our housing up at (West) Siloam (Springs) is making progress. They’ve got the gravel down for the roads. They got the utilities in. The house pads are there. We would have been making more progress on that had the pads not been so wet the last couple of weeks,” he said. “As soon as they dry out we’ll begin to put the foundation in and get going there.”
He said the construction of homes in Roland would be on the same track as soon as the water from the recent rainfall clears.
Tribal Councilor Dick Lay then asked how many houses are to be built in each location.
Slaton deferred the question to CNB Executive Vice President Charles Garrett, who said 29 houses are expected in West Siloam Springs and 23 are expected in Roland.
Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard then asked if occupants have been chosen for the houses yet.
Slaton said CNB is building the homes and the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is picking applicants for them.
Buzzard said he doesn’t anticipate there will be a problem filling the houses.
“I don’t think we’ll have any problems at West Siloam Springs because I heard housing is really, really short,” he said. “I’ve also heard that there is some excitement about us building houses.”
Lay asked Slaton if CNB is using the list of people from the HACN for the homes.
Slaton said he wasn’t sure of the process of choosing the applicants.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker told the Tribal Council that there are two lists from which the HACN chooses its applicants.
“One is if you own your property and another list that has come up is if you don’t own your property,” he said. “So as I understand it, they’ll start though time and date of people that said that they wanted a house, but they did not own land. All of them are not going to want to live in West Siloam Springs, but the ones that do, it’s first-come first-served, time and date on the list.”
Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan said the way she understands the process is the applicants “designate the area that they would like to get a house in if they don’t have land.”
HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper confirmed Glory Jordan’s understanding of the process.
“They designate a county and then we narrow it down by that way. For instance, in West Siloam (Springs) what we would do is because it’s right there on the county line we would merge Adair and Delaware County and we would work on finding families to take those,” he said. “Every application we collect is by date and then time of the application, so everyone is assigned a number. That’s how it’s placed on the waiting list. So either they have land or they don’t have land. We will take those who are on the waiting lists for the folks who don’t have land for Adair and Delaware County and ask them if they would be interested in one of those (houses).”
Cooper said HACN officials have sent out approximately 144 letters to tribal citizens in those counties to see if there was an interest for these homes.
According to a December 2014 Cherokee Phoenix article, CNB will sell the homes to the HACN once they are built. Then the HACN will find occupants to fill those homes.
In other news, Baker introduced the tribe’s 2015 “Remember the Removal” riders at the meeting.
There are 12 riders participating this year from the CN. Citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will also participate in the ride. The CN participants are Billy Flint, Shawna Harter, Hailey Seago, Caleb Cox, Tanner Crow, Maggie McKinnis, Kayla Davis, Tennessee Loy, Haylee Caviness, Wrighter Weavel, Alexis Watt and Tristan Trumbla.
The participants will bike the nearly 1,000-mile trip that retraces the Trail of Tears through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas and will end in Tahlequah.
Legislators also approved Eddie Morrison as an advisory committee member for the Cherokee National Treasures Program for a term of one year.
They also modified the tribe’s comprehensive budget for fiscal year 2015 for a total budget authority of $639 million. Approximately $653,310 came from grants, while $8.45 million resulted from modification requests. Approximately $6.89 million is going to the General Fund and $1.57 million is going to the Motor Fuel Tax Fund.
The next Tribal Council meeting is slated for 6 p.m. on May 11.
<strong>During the 6 p.m. Jan. 12, 2015 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed:</strong>
• A RESOLUTION CONFIRMING THE NOMINATION OF NATHAN E. BARNARD AS A BOARD MEMBER OF THE CHEROKEE NATION ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS BOARD
Councilor Fishinghawk moved to approve. Councilor Taylor seconded the motion. After a few questions from Councilor Cowan Watts the motion to approve carried with no opposition. Supreme Court Justice Garrett performed the swearing in ceremony for Mr. Barnard.
• A RESOLUTION OPPOSING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN ENERGY LINE ROUTE BYT HE PLAINS AND EASTERN CLEAN LINE IN SEQUOYAH COUNTY, OKLAHOMA LOCATED WITHIN THE CHEROKEE NATION JURISDICTIONAL AREA
Councilor Fullbright moved to approve. Councilor Baker seconded the motion. After discussion was held the motion to approve carried with no opposition.
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9111_Jan12TribalCouncilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> the Jan. 12, 2015 meeting minutes.
<strong>During the 6 p.m. Feb. 26, 2015 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed:</strong>
• A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING BUSINESS LEASE ON TRUST LAND IN ROGERS COUNTY, OKLAHOMA
Councilor Taylor moved to approve. Councilor Keener seconded the motion. Councilors Keener, Fullbright and Fishinghawk requested to be added as sponsors. The motion to approve carried with no opposition.
• AN ACT RELATING TO SALARIES FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND TECHNICAL AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2012 RELATING TO THE
STIPEND FOR THE CITIZEN COMMITTEE
Speaker Glory Jordan requested the amended handout be approved. Councilor Fullbright moved to approve the revised handout. Councilor Garvin seconded the motion. The motion carried by acclimation.
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9111_Feb26TribalCouncilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> the Feb. 26, 2015 meeting minutes.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During the March 16 Tribal Council meeting, Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced that the Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry law firm and attorney Lloyd Miller have jointly donated $200,000 for the construction of Cherokee Nation health care facilities.
“We’ve fought the fight on self-governance issues, your battles with the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, your battles to ensure the integrity of the Cherokee Nation sometimes against other tribes, and it’s all been successful,” said Miller, who is employed with the law firm that has worked with the tribe for more than 20 years. “You’ve been wonderful to us in terms of your confidence in us, your trust in us, and it’s our pleasure to be able to give back to you.”
Baker said the tribe has been successful with Miller as its attorney on contract support costs.
“He originally won a lawsuit of about $12 million. Then we just won another one for $20 million with part of the settlement being they (federal government) will fully find contract support costs from now on.”
The donation will go to CN construction projects such as health care clinics in Ochelata and Jay as well as a new W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah.
In other business, Tribal Councilors unanimously authorized CN Human Services – specifically children, youth and family services – to submit a grant application for fiscal year 2016 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts absent.
Tribal Councilor Frankie Hargis said earlier in the day at the Community Services Committee meeting that the grant is a formula-based grant with a minimum funding of $350,000 for victims of family violence.
Tribal Councilors also authorized CN Career Services to submit a grant application to the U.S. Department of Education for vocational rehabilitation program funding.
Since 1992, the tribe has operated the vocational rehabilitation program, which assists in ensuring self-sufficiency for tribal citizens. It is Oklahoma’s longest running tribal vocational rehabilitation program.
According to the resolution, individuals with disabilities are in need of employment and training activities so they can enter jobs and become self-sufficient, and the Department of Education has funding available for vocational training programs for such individuals.
The grant requires that a 10 percent cash match be made available to the program each year of funding.
Hargis said the grant is new and would be approximately $600,000 per year for a five-year period.
Legislators also approved Bobby L. Vaughn as a governing board member of the CN Comprehensive Care Agency for a term of three years from March 2015 to March 2018.
“I’m the patient safety officer at Hastings Hospital right now, and I’d just like to say what an honor it is for me to be nominated for this position by the chief so it’s really near my heart,” Vaughn said during the Feb. 26 Rules Committee meeting. “I hope to do an excellent job for you.”
J. Blake Fletcher was reappointed as a commissioner of the CN Environmental Protection Commission for a three-year term.
“I just want to thank the council for allowing me to serve in this capacity and I really look forward to continuing that service,” Fletcher said on Feb. 26.
Marty D. Matlock was also reappointed as a commissioner of the CN Environmental Protection Commission for a four-year term.
The next Tribal Council meeting is scheduled for April 13.
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.