Justices to decide Lay-Frailey appeal by June 19
TAHLEQUAH – After hearing arguments from legal counsel for Dick Lay, Meredith Frailey, Chuck Hoskin Jr., Bryan Warner and the Cherokee Nation Election Commission on June 17, Supreme Court justices adjourned, announcing they expect to reach a decision by Wednesday.
The justices are considering the combined cases of SC-19-10 and SC-19-11, in which Lay and Frailey have challenged Hoskin and Warner, respectively, and are asking that the June 1 general election results for principal chief and deputy chief be invalidated.
Hoskin won 57 percent of the vote in the principal chief election against Lay, and Warner won 58 percent in the deputy chief race against Frailey.
“The most important fact to keep at the front of your minds is the huge margin of victory, regardless of challenges,” Hoskin-Warner counsel Carly Hotvedt told the justices. “These elections were won by landslide. The court has an opportunity to uphold the will of the Cherokee people.”
Hotvedt and EC attorney Harvey Chaffin argued for dismissal, and Lay-Frailey attorney Deborah Reed asserted the case should be heard. Hotvedt also argued that subpoenas filed by Reed should be quashed because not enough time was allowed for preparation.
Upon return, Chief Justice James G. Wilcoxen asked Reed to present evidence.
Much of Reed’s case focused on the allegation that Hoskin and Warner signed campaign finance reports they knew to be inaccurate and accepting more than $375,000 of contributions from Cherokee Future LLC. She also argued that Cherokee Future was frequently listed as something it could not be – a hotel, a food vendor, a telecommunications provider, among others.
The Hoskin-Warner campaign responded to a complaint with the EC before the June 1 balloting with amended financial reports, further explaining some spending by Cherokee Future LLC.
Chaffin argued there was no evidence of fraud or hiding of funds in the Hoskin-Warner financials, but that campaigns make mistakes in bookkeeping often enough that they are expected.
“Candidates make errors,” Chaffin said. “If you disqualified everyone who made a mistake, there would be no candidates left to vote for.”
Hotvedt and Chaffin also questioned whether the Supreme Court could disqualify a candidate, claiming it could only affirm or overturn a decision by the EC and that the post election appeals period is intended to address complaints of voting irregularities or fraud.
“The Constitution and statute scheme do not allow the Supreme Court to disqualify candidates,” Chaffin said.
In the June 10 appeals, which were followed by a storm of motions, Lay claimed Hoskin and Warner violated election code, did not report $500,000 in advertising and printing expenses, nor another $300,000 “of compensation campaign costs.” It was also alleged that Cherokee Future LLC was under the control of Hoskin and Warner in violation of campaign law and that they falsified their financial disclosure report certifications.
Frailey’s filing claimed Warner filed $21,902.84 as “miscellaneous” expenditures paid to Cherokee Future, but Hoskin itemized $107,500 previously reported as miscellaneous, and claimed the revised financial disclosure report supported the violations of Warner accepting in-kind contributions to his campaign, approving illegal expenditures and falsifying his report.
“We ask that (Hoskin and Warner) be disqualified and a new election held,” Reed said.