http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgTribal 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 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
Former 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.”

Council

BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
06/13/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Tribal Councilors on June 11 unanimously passed a gaming compact supplement with Oklahoma to allow Cherokee Nation’s casinos to begin offering Las Vegas-style table games such as craps and roulette. The resolution follows Gov. Mary Fallin signing House Bill 3375 into law on April 1o, making the state’s tribal casinos eligible to begin offering “ball-and-dice” games as soon as Aug. 2. Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh said during a May 31 Rules Committee meeting that passing the resolution was important. “I think we have been progressive as a council in many different ways in how we support gaming. This could be a good way for more revenue, obviously. If other casinos are going to be doing it, we need to stay progressive. We need to do what it takes to be the best casino and give our casinos the best opportunity to succeed. I think this is a good step forward for doing this especially if the state is going to allow it. We need to take advantage of it,” he said. Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird also said during the Rules Committee meeting that the CNGC has been working on regulations for the new gaming since April. He said the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa would be the first Cherokee Casino property to offer “ball-and-dice” games and that the CNGC is working with casino operations on “where and when” the other casino properties would begin featuring the games. Legislators on June 11 also authorized placing 39.2 acres of land in southern Delaware County into trust. The acreage, known as Beck’s Mill “has a rich history as a trading post with a grain mill being operated in the 1800s,” the resolution states. The property is located along Flint Creek just north of Highway 412. Legislators also approved a resolution “agreeing to choice of law and venue and authorizing a waiver of sovereign immunity” so that the Cherokee Immersion Charter School can enter into a software agreement with Municipal Accounting Systems Inc. The agreement will allow the school to submit certain financial information to state officials in the required Oklahoma Cost Accounting System. Tribal Councilors also increased the tribe’s fiscal year 2018 comprehensive operating budget by $1.8 million for a total budget authority of $694.9 million. The changes consisted of a decrease in the Indian Health Service Self-Governance Health budget by $93,962 and increases in the General Fund, Enterprise, Department of Interior – Self-Governance and Federal “other” budgets. In other business, legislators: • Authorized a donation of a modular office building to Project A Association in Muskogee County, and • Authorized a grant application to the Department of Health and Humans Services, Administration for Children and Families, the Office of Child Care for Tribal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/20/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation honored U.S. Army and Navy veterans with the tribe’s Medal of Patriotism during the March 12 Tribal Council meeting. Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden acknowledged Fields Smith, 84, of Vian, and Kenneth Golden, 68, of Stilwell, for their service to the country. Sgt. Smith was born in 1933 and drafted into the Army in 1955. He completed basic training at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas and trained to become an infantryman. Later, he completed Fire Directing Control School and was sent to Fort Polk in Louisiana where he spent the remainder of his two-year service term. During his service, Smith completed non-commission school and received a sharpshooter medal for his rifle skills. Smith received an honorable discharge in 1957. “I want to thank the Chief, the Deputy Chief and the Tribal Council for all of the good work that they do for our people,” Smith said. Sgt. Golden was born in 1949 and enlisted in the Navy in 1968. Golden completed basic training in Chicago. After basic training, he was transferred to the Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, where he served as an aviation boatman mate. During his service, Golden was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and received an honorable discharge in 1972. Each month the CN recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which the tribe holds all veterans. To nominate a veteran who is a CN citizen, call 918-772-4166.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
02/19/2018 02:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – During its Feb. 12 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously authorized a lease with Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Sciences to put a medical school in the current W.W. Hastings Hospital after the new Outpatient Health Center opens. “Cherokee Nation is joining with Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, an entity within the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, to bring health care education to W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah,” the resolution states. The lease will encompass part of Hastings’ floor space and parking space. Earlier in the day during the Resources Committee meeting, Dr. Charles Grim, Health Services interim executive director, said the leased portion would be located where the current physical therapy, diabetes, orthopedics and optometry locations are. Those departments will move to the new primary health care facility, which is expected to be finished in 2019. Grim said because OSU is a state university the medical school would not have a Native American preference. However, he said the architecture within the remodeled facility for the school would highlight Cherokee culture. He also said officials would ask Indian Health Service to set aside scholarships and/or loan repayment for Native students wishing to attend the school. “Its not really an Indian medical school per se, but it will be the first college of medicine campus on Indian land in the country,” Grim said. Grim said the lease would be for seven years with the option to renew. In other business, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton told Tribal Councilors that CNB is preparing to break ground on April 1 on additional “projects” in the Cherokee Springs Plaza in Tahlequah. In 2014, CN and CNB officials announced plans to build the plaza with venues for dining, shopping and gaming. In a previous Cherokee Phoenix article, officials said the plaza is anticipated to be 1.3 million square feet of mixed-use space, developed at an estimated cost of $170 million. Officials also said it was to be completed in three phases. The tribe completed Phase 1 of the project in 2016,which included road construction and pad sites where businesses would be developed. Since then Taco Bueno, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic and Stuteville Ford have opened businesses at the site. The next phase is the construction and relocation of Cherokee Casino Tahlequah, officials said. The new casino is expected to feature a resort hotel, convention center and golf clubhouse. The final phase includes the creation of a retail strip. CNB has not confirmed a completion date as of publication. Legislators also: • amended the Concurrent Enrollment Scholarship Act of 2011 to revise the eligibility requirements, • reappointed T. Luke Barteaux as a District Court judge, • confirmed Dr. Charles Grim as a Cherokee Nation Health Partners board member, • authorized the Vocational Rehabilitation Program to donate surplus equipment to the United Wrestling Entertainment Foundation in Cherokee County.
BY STACIE BOSTON
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
12/14/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilors on Dec. 11 passed an act that establishes the Cherokee Nation Sovereign Wealth Fund, a fund that is expected to “ensure the continuation of tribal operations and the general welfare of tribal citizens for future generations.” Tribal Councilor Dick Lay spoke about the act’s importance during the Nov. 14 Rules Committee. “So the idea was to take a small amount of funding from the businesses, set it aside for just extreme financial emergencies, and I think (Treasurer) Lacey (Horn) and her group have been working along the same lines, so we’re going to try and get those together,” Lay said. Horn said creating a “permanent fund” was something she had wanted to do, and after working on Lay’s model with Controller Jamie Cole and Assistant Attorney General Chad Harsha they created an act to bring before Council. “This act establishes a wealth fund, which shall be held by the treasurer in accordance with the act, and assets shall be maintained in an interest-bearing account or otherwise invested to promote growth of the fund's assets,” she said. Within the fund, Horn said, there would be an Emergency Reserve Fund that would “receive a direct and continuing appropriation.” “The Emergency Reserve Fund that receives the direct and continuing appropriation of 2 percent of the net income of our dividend-paying corporations as well as not less than 50 percent of funds received by the Cherokee Nation through judgment or settlement of legal claims,” she said. “That’s not to say that we couldn’t put 90 percent. That’s not to say that we couldn’t put some percent higher, but it’s just sort of setting that floor as to what’s going to go into this fund.” The Motor Fuel Education Trust would also be moved to the new fund, which Horn confirmed would be an added “safety” measure. “It had previously been collateralized in an interest-bearing CD that was used to borrow funds to build the Vinita (Health) Clinic, and that collateralization was removed whenever we entered into the loan with Bank of Oklahoma for the Tahlequah Joint Venture Project, and so these funds are…free and clear,” she said. “So this will take that fund, put that within the construct of the Cherokee Nation Sovereign Wealth Fund and allow us to invest that fund and continue to grow it.” Horn said the fund could also have endowments, trusts or other funds incorporated within it periodically. “There’s often endowments, trusts that we receive from individuals that need to be invested for income-generating purposes, and this would be the perfect place to put (those) up underneath as well.” Horn said all assets for the fund would be “reported and accounted” for separately and would support itself by not relying on any General Fund dollars. “Expenses incurred and maintenance invested in the fund shall be paid for by the fund. So we won’t be utilizing any General Fund dollars to operate this fund it will be self-sustaining,” she said. When it comes to distributing the fund’s money, there must be approval from two-thirds of the Tribal Council as well as the principal chief. According to the act, “a distribution from the Reserve Fund may only be made in the event that a financial emergency exists, the severity of which threatens the life, property or financial stability of the Nation.” Also, according to the act, “a distribution from the Education Trust may only be made to satisfy a substantial need in higher education scholarships resulting from an unexpected funding loss or shortfall and distributions from all endowments, trusts or other funds held in the fund shall be made in accordance with any originating document or restriction applicable thereto, and subject to the appropriation laws of the Cherokee Nation.” The act also notes that the fund “may not be used to finance or influence political activities.” “I hope that you can see that we feel very strongly, very happy about this legislation that we put forward, and we hope the Tribal Council feels the same,” Horn said. Councilors also passed an act relating to the adjustment of dividends known as the Corporation Emergency Dividend Reserve Fund Act, which is included within the Sovereign Wealth Fund. Lay presented the act during the Oct. 26 Rules Committee meeting where he said it’s not an “original” idea but one that should be implemented as an “emergency fund.” “It would cause the chief and the super majority of council to bring funding out of it to be used only for abject financial emergencies,” he said. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker was pleased to sign the Sovereign Wealth Fund into law. “The idea of permanent fund was something we discussed within the administration several years ago. Having reached a number of major policy and legislative goals during the past six years, the time was right to focus our attention on this important safety net. I was pleased to sign this important act into law before year’s end, and appreciate the collaborative effort of my team and members of the Council in achieving this goal.” According to the act, for-profit corporations that the tribe is the “sole or majority shareholder” and are under CN law “shall issue a monthly cash dividend in the amount of 30 percent” from a “special quarterly dividend” they “deem” appropriate. An additional 5 percent is set aside for Contract Health services for citizens. According to the act, another 2 percent would “be set aside exclusively for an unanticipated and extraordinary revenue or funding loss that creates a budget shortfall where appropriation from any other source would be unavailable.” To view the Sovereign Wealth Fund Act, <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2017/12/11828__WealthFund.pdf" target="_blank">click here</a>. To view the Corporation Emergency Dividend Reserve Fund Act, <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2017/12/11828__Dividends.pdf" target="_blank">click here</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
08/22/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With 18 years of experience serving the Cherokee people, Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd looks forward to serving another four years as the representative for Dist. 2, which consists of most of northern Cherokee County. “I love serving the Cherokee people. They’ve got somebody that’s going to work for them again for the next four years, and I’m really looking forward to that,” said Byrd. Originally from Belfonte/Nicut, Byrd was the youngest Cherokee Nation legislator to be elected. He served on the Tribal Council from 1987-95, followed by term as principal chief from 1995-99. In January 2012, he won a special election to replace Bill John Baker on the Tribal Council. Baker had taken office as the principal chief on Oct. 19, 2011, after a contentious and lengthy principal chief’s race against incumbent Chad Smith. In 2013, Byrd was re-elected to serve his first full term under the tribe’s 1999 Constitution, which limits elected officials to two consecutive four-year terms before having to sit out a term. He was also named speaker of the Tribal Council in 2015 after then-Speaker Tina Glory Jordan termed out. When he first ran for office in 1987, Byrd said he felt the need to help the Cherokee people with the issues they were facing. “Our government didn’t begin serving our people until the 1970s. When I first moved to Northeastern (State University) in 1972 to get an education, it really opened my eyes to a lot of the issues our people were facing,” he said. “In the rural areas there were a lot of people who weren’t self-efficient, and I saw right then we still had many people out in the rural areas that needed help and needed an awareness that there is a tribe out there that should have a responsibility to take care of our people.” As for his current term, deciding to run again for the Dist. 2 seat was an easy decision, he said, because of his love for serving the Cherokee people and because of his constituents who asked him to continue. He spoke of elderly women who continues to set an example of how his constituents have not forgotten their Cherokee culture or who they are as a people. “When people like that come up to me and ask me to run, it’s a real honor to have people with that kind of stature to say, ‘you need to run another time,’” he said. “The people will let you know when it’s time to run. You don’t have to consult them, they’ll let you know.” During his time as Dist. 2 representative, Byrd has helped with projects to improve services for CN citizens, including the passing of a $900 million budget, a $100 million investment in Cherokee health care as well as a $200 million dollar expansion of the W.W. Hastings Hospital. For this term, Byrd said he would continue working with the tribe to ensure rural area schools have shelter for inclement weather and that elders and veterans are taken care of. “Our veterans seem to not be taken care of like they should,” he said. “When we give speeches and talks we all say, ‘we respect our elder’s and we respect our veterans,’ but we have many that are still homeless and not being served. I want to do anything I can to assist in making sure our elders and veterans are taken care of.”
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
08/22/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Harley Buzzard is beginning his third Tribal Council term. It’s his second for Dist. 10, which consists of northern Delaware County and parts of Ottawa and Mayes counties. Prior to that he served from 2007-11 for the former Dist. 2, which consisted of Delaware County and part of Ottawa County. Buzzard worked for the Cherokee Nation for 24 years before running for Tribal Council in 2007. After a term serving Dist. 2, he was elected for Dist. 10 in 2013. He ran again this year because he said there was more he could help improve such as agriculture, sanitation and education. “There was just some things I felt I wanted to be involved with, see if I could help get it done.” He said he’s stressed agriculture’s importance with the hope that Cherokee children would learn how to grow their food. “Now we’re just eating fast foods and pre-cooked meals and things like that, and our children don’t know about gardening. I’d like to get it to the point where we could raise enough to supply all our families that want those fresh vegetables, but also on a commercial basis too (by) putting it into our casinos and stuff like that.” Buzzard said he would also like to see improvements with roads and water lines in his district. He said he has much experience with water and sanitation engineering and that he sees a lot of Cherokee families that do not have inside plumbing and water. A water line extension for rural water is something he would like to work on, he said. He said road conditions in his district’s rural areas are also a problem, as school buses contend with rough gravel roads or washed out roads during floods. “Kids have to ride the school bus to school, and a lot of them have to travel over these gravel roads and roads that don’t have bridges (and) washed out roads when they have floods. Those things are important to me also,” Buzzard said. As for education, he said school funding in Oklahoma is decreasing and he, along with the rest of the CN legislators, would like to help fund school programs for students in the CN jurisdiction. Buzzard said his district covers a larger area, and he does what he can in terms of allocating monies he receives via the Tribal Council to help fund needs and programs such as law enforcement and roads. “Money is spread pretty thin in my district as far as trying to help (law) enforcement and road issues,” he said. “I don’t know what I could do other than put the money where it’s most needed. That’s how I base where the funding goes, is where the need is…you can’t go wrong by doing that, using that philosophy.” Buzzard said he’s “happy” about the support he received this past election and surmises he “must be doing something right.” “A lot of people come up and tell that they’re happy that I got re-elected. It’s always good to have people tell you that. Sometimes you wonder, ‘am I doing a good job for my citizens that live here?’ When they tell me that and vote for me by that majority, it means that I’m doing something right,” he said.