UPDATED: Election complaint filed against Coates, Baker Shaw
TAHLEQUAH – An election complaint filed June 10 alleges that a current At-Large tribal councilor and an At-Large tribal council candidate misrepresented checks to community groups.
Linda Leaf Bolin, of the at-large group Greater Tulsa Cherokees, and former Cherokee Nation Registrar Linda O’Leary filed the complaint. In it, they allege that At-Large Tribal Councilor Mary Baker Shaw let current At-Large candidate Julia Coates, a former tribal councilor, take credit for community checks sent from the tribe to at-large community groups approximately a year ago.
“(Shaw) specifically requested the funds to be made payable to each of the At-Large Cherokee Communities for Scholarships,” the complaint states. “Instead of sending the checks for $500 to the At-Large Cherokee Communities, she gave the checks to Julia Coates, President of the PINS Foundation...Shaw misused Cherokee tribal funds to influence votes for Ms. Coates and abused her power as a Tribal Councilor by misappropriating funds by giving checks away that were not her checks to give away.”
Election Commission Administrator Marcus Fears said the complaint was handed over to the attorney general’s office.
“I sent it on a couple of weeks ago,” Fears said. “I just have not received any resolution on it.”
Shaw, via email, stated she had not been contacted by the attorney general’s office in relation to the complaint.
“I feel certain they would have been in touch if there was any merit to it,” she wrote.
In a follow-up statement, Shaw said she “never gave checks to Julia Coates or to the PINS Foundation for distribution to the At Large communities.”
“Each check had an attachment designating it for scholarships,” Shaw wrote. “I also sent these groups information to assist them on forming a scholarship committee from the PINS website should they desire to use it. At the time this was sent out, Julia Coates was not a candidate for Tribal Council.”
Coates had not responded to the allegations as of publication.
In the June 1 general election, Coates and Johnny Jack Kidwell received the most votes in their four-candidate race for one of the two At-Large council seats. They will face off July 27 in a runoff election.
A fifth candidate, At-Large Tribal Councilor Wanda Hatfield, was disqualified by the EC on April 18. She was accused of mailing in CN envelopes community assistance checks, each worth $500, to the Mount Hood Cherokees of Salem, Oregon, and the San Diego Cherokee Community, while also including campaign literature, business cards and handwritten notes asking for their support in the election.
Following a hearing, the commission’s findings and conclusions stated that Hatfield had violated Cherokee statute by “providing anything of value to voter(s) for the direct purpose of influencing voter behavior in an election.”
In their complaint, Bolin and O’Leary liken allegations against Shaw and Coates to those made against Hatfield.
“By misuse of Cherokee Nation funds, misappropriating a $500 Cherokee Nation check and attempting to deceive the At-Large Cherokee Nation Communities into believing they were from an organization/foundation other than the Cherokee Nation was done with ‘the direct purpose of influencing voter behavior in an upcoming election,’” the complaint states. “Mary Baker Shaw’s intent in giving the check to Julia Coates was meant to influence voters by giving name recognition, in-kind support and a donation using Cherokee Nation Funds.”
Hatfield offered a letter in the complaint.
“The charges that were brought against me which resulted in my disqualification was no different than what was done by Tribal Councilor Mary Baker Shaw and At-Large Tribal Council Candidate Julia Coates,” Hatfield wrote. “Mary Baker Shaw advised me to mail Cherokee Nation Scholarship checks, through the United States Postal Department, just as she had done, to the At-Large Cherokee Communities. The mailing contained materials not sanctioned by the Cherokee Nation.”
Of the complaint, Shaw said she was “surprised and disappointed” it was in part from Bolin.
“She and I talked on the phone the day before the check was mailed around a year ago and I am stunned that the Greater Tulsa Cherokees would have her do this,” Shaw said in her statement. “I have supported GTC with Tribal assistance money for their language program and other things they have needed. I feel certain I mailed these checks to their respective At Large groups more than 1-2 years ago. Julia Coates was not a candidate at that time and I was I unaware she had any interest in running.”Click here
to view the complaint documents.