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.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – With family support, Wanda Hatfield took on the challenge of winning the At-Large Tribal Council seat. Joining a field of 9 candidates, she said she used her background of growing up in the Cherry Tree in Adair County to held her understand the needs of Cherokee Nation citizens.
“Basically we all have the same needs wherever we are, but I think just growing up in this part of the country I have a really good understanding of our people and our culture. Just growing in it I think I have, not an advantage, but maybe just more knowledge of the needs of Cherokees,” she said.
She also said her strong desire to serve Cherokee people, like her late father did in Adair County, set her apart from the other candidates.
“I didn’t have any speeches. I spoke from my heart. I’m a good listener,” she said. “The rest of the candidates were well-qualified. I think any one of us could have served well.”
Hatfield traveled the United States during the 2015 campaign visiting with At-Large citizens to learn their thoughts and concerns. She learned that many want “a closer connection to the Cherokee Nation,” and want to experience the culture.
She also learned many At-Large citizens are from eastern Oklahoma, having moved away during the federal government’s relocation program in the 1950s, or are descendants of Cherokees who moved away during the state’s Dust Bowl days or during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Also, some moved to the West Coast to find jobs, she said.
She said At-Large citizens do get tribal higher education scholarships, but she would like to see more funding put in that area and more scholarships go to them. She said those scholarships are needed because college tuition continues to rise and citizens need scholarships to attend vocational schools or receive career trainings.
Another need for At-Large citizens is health care. She said they are not able to get the specialized or contract health care that citizens living in the tribe’s boundary are able to receive.
Hatfield resides in Oklahoma City with her husband Roger. They have one daughter and three grandchildren. Her parents are the late Jack Claphan and Carolyn Doublehead Claphan of Stilwell. Her great-great grandfather was Rabbit Bunch, who served as CN assistant principal chief from 1880-87.
[BLOCKQUOTE]She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma and taught in the Shawnee and Midwest City-Del City school districts for 28 years.
“I have been successful in education, and I spent a lot of time in the classroom in the education field, and I was at the point in my life where I wanted to do something new and challenging,” she said. “This is something that I’ve always wanted to do – some kind of service for the Cherokees.”
So far, she said it has been challenging to absorb the information given to Tribal Councilors regarding the tribe’s budget and other information they are expected to know.
“I want to know it now, but I’m trying to embrace it slowly. I feel like the more knowledgeable I am, the more helpful I can be,” she said.
She said serving on the council and meeting new people have been rewarding and the love and support she has been shown has been “overwhelming.”
“I just want to thank everybody for their support. I’m available for my citizens any time, and I think it’s going to be a definite challenge but a wonderful challenge. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been an incredible journey so far.”
STILWELL, Okla. – Dist. 8 Tribal Councilor Shawn Crittenden is less than two months into his four-year term, but true to form the auctioneer, musician and Greasy Public Schools teacher who is accustomed to giving back is hard at work for the people of his district.
“I’m settling in good,” Crittenden said. “It’s a good council. Everyone has been welcoming. We’ve had a couple meetings and I’m learning how the meetings themselves go, but as far as my district, I’ve been working every day. That’s really why I ran, to help folks. I’ve been just helping anywhere from food to trying to get some of those folk’s houses improved. It’s just what I thought it would be,” he said.
Crittenden was sworn into office Aug. 14 at Sequoyah High School’s The Place Where They Play after defeating Corey Bunch for the Dist. 8 Tribal Council seat in the June 27 general election.
Crittenden won by a vote count of 486-307, according to certified results of the district’s three precincts. Those results showed Crittenden receiving 61.29 percent of the 793 ballots cast to Bunch’s 38.71 percent.
“I’m mainly humbled and thankful for the folks in my district,” Crittenden said on June 28 after Bunch conceded. “I had a lot of support and I thank the good Lord for the good feeling I have right now. I’m ready to get down to business with the people in my district. My plans are to be accessible and to stay on top of issues when folks need something, when they want to be heard. I want to do everything I can to show them I care and I’m going to work hard for them.”
Crittenden said he has always availed himself to helping others, and the council position put him in a better position to continue those efforts.
He also said that while his agenda will be concerned with health care, education and housing, he wants to move away from other specific platforms in favor of the immediate needs of those in his district.
“I never felt like that was my platform because I think it’s everybody’s, but one of the things I really believe is the needs of the people become my platform and that changes every day, every phone call, that changes. It could be that person’s immediate need. It’s their priority and it’s my priority,” he said.
[BLOCKQUOTE]Raised in Peavine, Crittenden graduated from Stillwell High School before attending Northeastern State University and obtaining his bachelor’s degree in education in 2007.
Since graduating, he has become a family man with a wife and four children, which he said makes his job easier because he can better relate to many of the families in the district.
During the next four years, Crittenden said any upcoming agenda issues he must vote on, he will vote accordingly with the interests of Dist. 8 and wants his constituents to understand that he works for them.
“I would want people to feel as if for them to realize that they are my boss and that I ran for this office knowing that they would be my boss, and I want them to feel like I’m accessible to them at all times,” he said.
VERDIGRIS, Okla. – Keith Austin is the new Tribal Councilor for Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 14. And as the new representative, he said he’s already achieving the first of his goals: communication with his constituents.
“Every citizen in my district should expect that when they need their Tribal Councilor that they can reach their Tribal Councilor. Their Tribal Councilor will return their phone calls, will return their emails in a timely basis,” he said. “They won’t be wondering if they’re going to get back with them. That’s immediately achievable. That doesn’t require the assistance of anybody. I can make that happen, I’ve already made that happen.”
In Dist. 14, Austin said he plans to work on getting citizens more access to CN health care equal to other tribal citizens in other areas of the CN jurisdiction.
[BLOCKQUOTE]He said he would also like to get more knowledge to his citizens regarding the tribe’s Small Business Assistance Center.
“We have great economic engines in places like Catoosa and (West) Siloam Springs and Tahlequah and Roland. But we need to be finding more and better creative ways to have a positive impact on the communities,” Austin said.
He said throughout his life, before owning his own business, he’s always worked for small businesses and has often found himself in leadership roles within those businesses.
“I really thought bringing the small business sensibility to the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council was something that would benefit the Tribal Council,” he said.
He added that he is excited about the commitment to education the Nation has made.
“The simple fact is the biggest difference over our lifetimes has started because of our investment in the children who are going to college and technical schools right now,” he said.
Austin is a lifetime resident of Dist. 14, a characteristic he felt was a necessary of any candidate or elected official from the area.
“A true lifetime resident of Rogers County to represent Rogers County. I spent my whole life in Rogers County. I raised my own kids in Rogers County. It’s where I lived because I truly want to live there. I truly want to see the best for my county,” he said.
According to official results, Austin won the Dist. 14 Tribal Council race against William “Bill” Pearson on July 25.
Results, which included 26 accepted challenged ballots, showed that Austin garnered 498 votes for 53.9 percent of the ballots, while Pearson got 425 votes for 46.1 percent.
The tribe’s Election Commission rescheduled the Dist. 14 race after the CN Supreme Court on July 8 ruled that a winner from the June 27 general election could not be determined with mathematical certainty.
Pearson was certified the winner of the Dist. 14 race after the June 27 election by one vote. Following a recount on July 2, his lead had been extended to six votes.
Austin appealed the recount results to the Supreme Court alleging that ballots were cast that should not have been accepted, ballots were cast that should have been accepted and two absentee ballot envelopes could not be found.
Constituents can reach Austin via email at <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a> or call 918-508-9116.
SPERRY, Okla. – On Aug. 14, eight Cherokee Nation citizens took their oaths of office for Tribal Council, including Dist. 13 representative Buel Anglen, who makes his return to the legislative branch.
“I feel privileged and humbled that the citizens of my district, Dist. 13, and I’m glad that they felt the need to send me back down here to Tahlequah to represent them and I feel like I can work with everybody,” Anglen said in the Aug. 27 Rules Committee meeting. “I’m glad to be back.”
[BLOCKQUOTE]Anglen was appointed to the Tribal Council in 2002 after Tribal Councilor Dorothy Jean McIntosh died, leaving a vacancy. He was elected to that seat in 2003 and served until 2013 when he lost his seat due to redistricting.
Anglen was also a member of all standing committees, co-chairman of the Employment Committee, a member of the Five Civilized Tribes Council and served as a Cherokee Nation Business advisory board member.
“I decided to run again because I just wanted to serve the Cherokee people in my district,” he said. “I felt like I still had a lot to offer them. I wanted to get back and do what I had always done, which was serve the Cherokee people.”
Anglen said a main focus while serving as Tribal Councilor would be increasing health care for Cherokee Nation citizens in Dist. 13, which covers parts of Tulsa and Rogers counties.
“I hear it everyday of people not being able to access clinics. The same-day appointment deal is not working properly like it should,” he said.
Anglen said he also plans to focus on quickening the housing program process so more citizens in Dist. 13 will have new homes faster.
“We’ve been in the housing business for years and years and years. We should know how to get a house started,” he said.
Anglen said there are several Tribal Employments Rights Office construction companies that are capable of building homes to make the process go faster.
Anglen owns Sperry Boat Storage, Anglen Construction Company LLC and Anglen Custom Homes LLC. He is also a co-owner of A&S Investments LLC and was a general contractor on the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation addition and constructed the Cherokee Nation Bingo Outposts at Catoosa and West Siloam Springs.
One of seven children, Anglen has lived in the Sperry and Skiatook areas for 65 years. He and wife Clara have been married for 44 years and presently reside in Sperry. They have two daughters and six grandchildren.
Outside of the CN, Anglen is a member of the Tulsa Cherokee Community Organization and Victory Cherokee Organization. He also served as a commissioner on the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission and was instrumental in helping form the Victory Cherokee Organization in Collinsville, Oklahoma and the Washington County Cherokee Association in the Bartlesville and Dewey areas.
SALLISAW, Okla. – Citizens of the Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 6, which covers the eastern part of Sequoyah County, has a new Tribal Councilor in Bryan Warner, who not only wants to represent his constituents but also encourage them to lead.
Warner, who was sworn into office Aug. 14, said he looks forward to meeting more CN citizens and encouraging them to be leaders in the CN.
“I’ve been out and about since the election. I want to continue to get out, especially here after the Cherokee (National) Holiday is over. When that kind of dies down I want to come out and be seen in the community,” he said. “My key hope for this district it to let this district know, ‘hey, we can be a leader amongst all the other districts.’”
Warner said he wants Dist. 6 citizens to help take charge of their district.
“I really want to promote a sense of ownership that all the citizens that live within this district need to have more of a on-hands approach to some of the things that happen in this district,” he said. “I definitely want to try to help the Nation grow. I want to help promote more job creation and just really get some overall creative thinking in this district that can eventually help the entire Cherokee Nation.”
Warner said the tribe has served his family in the past so he thought it was time to give back.
“I’ve been active in my community and in my county and I just had a feeling that I could do more, and I wanted to do more and get out and help individuals and just be more a part of the Cherokee Nation and be a part of the community in a different way,” he said.
Warner, who has three sons with his wife Maco, said family is an important part of the way he leads his life.
“Growing up my main goal in life, if I was blessed enough to have a family, was to be a good father. To try to be there for my children, try to leave a positive life,” he said.
Warner is a professor at Carl Albert State College in Sallisaw where he teaches courses such as chemistry, biology and botany. He said because he has an educational background he believes in educating those within the tribe.
“I feel like that education leads to better health for the individual and the entire community,” he said. “Really, if I promote a lot of education, a lot of health care, I think that leads into trying to get people better housing, better equipped to be self-sufficient.”
Warner said it’s an “honor and privilege” to serve Dist. 6 and has an open-door policy for CN citizens.
“I want them to always know that my door is always open. My phone line is always open to those in need. Whether they’re in this district or throughout the Cherokee Nation, I want them to know that I want to pull in everybody and unite together in our ideas and our culture and to spread the word of the Cherokee Nation,” he said. “I just want to make sure that I’m always available to them and let them know that that’s important to me.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council confirmed the reappointments of the Cherokee Nation’s registrar and treasurer during its Sept. 14. Meeting.
Linda O’Leary, a former Tribal Councilor, has served as registrar since July 2012, while Treasurer Lacey Horn has served as treasurer since December 2011. CN Supreme Court Justice Angela Jones swore in Horn during the meeting, while O’Leary, who could not attend the meeting, will take her oath later.
Jones also swore in former Principal Chief and current Dist. 2 Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd as the new speaker of the Tribal Council. Dist. 11 Councilor Victoria Vazquez was sworn as deputy speaker, and Dist. 7 Councilor Frankie Hargis was confirmed to serve as secretary.
Also, former Dist. 6 Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright was confirmed to serve on the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors.
As for legislation, legislators passed a bill to receive another herd of bison from the Intertribal Buffalo Council based in Rapid City, South Dakota. In October 2014, the tribe received 38 cows from Badlands National Park in South Dakota, and later received 12 bulls from the Teddy Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. The 51 head of bison are fenced in on tribal land in rural Delaware County near Bull Hollow, and since the cows’ arrival 23 calves have been born.
Dist. 9 Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell said the tribe would request 50 more head of bison from the ITBC, which would be placed with the rest of the herd.
The council also passed an act governing the investment of tribal funds. The act states investments of CN funds “shall be made in accordance with written policies established by the Treasurer.”
Any funds invested by the CN “shall be under the control of the Treasurer who may, at his or her discretion, delegate fiduciary responsibilities to the Controller of the CN.” The revised act removed the Tribal Council’s ability to “establish laws and regulations” invested funds and gives that control to the Treasurer or Controller for the tribe.
Also, no funds under the control of the CN “shall be deposited invested with in any financial institution unless the financial institution is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Association or the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation and/or the financial institution’s activities are controlled or regulated by federal law and/or federal regulations or regulators, including but not limited to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.”
The council also passed acts authorizing the fiscal year 2016 capital budget ($119.4 million) and operating budget ($647.6 million). The entire budget for the fiscal year approved by the Executive and Finance Committee on Aug. 31 is $767.1 million.
CNB CEO Shawn Slaton told legislators that CNB provided an additional $300,000 in tax collections to the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission in August.
He added that construction activities are “winding down” at Cherokee Casino Roland in Sequoyah County. A new $80 million casino opened there in July, and the old casino and small motel were recently demolished to make room for more parking at the casino that sits near U.S. Highway 64 and I-40.
Slaton said the new six-story, 120-room hotel next to the casino would open in December.
In Jay, the new 42,000-square-foot health clinic there is nearly complete. Slaton said there has been an issue with the “water table” for the clinic, but the problem has been identified and a solution is being worked.
Slaton said Cherokee Springs – the retail development project in Tahlequah that will include restaurants, shopping, a convention center, hotel and casino – is moving along. Stuteville Ford of Tahlequah and the restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings are the first two tenants for the retail area, he said. The development project is expected to cost $170 million.
“We are currently negotiating with other companies to fill the remaining pad sites, and that’s going very well. We’ve had a lot of interest and can afford to be a little selective with what we’re doing there,” he said. “We are appreciative of the support that we’ve received from the chief’s office, also from council as well as the city of Tahlequah and Cherokee County. Everybody’s working together to make that happen.”