UPDATE: Fourkiller refuses to appear before House investigators

BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
01/18/2017 01:15 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Rep. Will Fourkiller
OKLAHOMA CITY – On Jan. 17, Cherokee Nation citizen and Dist. 86 Rep. Will Fourkiller refused to appear before the House of Representative’s committee that is investigating him and another state representative for sexual harassment claims.

The Stilwell native said he would only speak to the Special Investigation Committee if the proceeding was open to the public. According to reports, the committee has been hearing from witnesses in only closed sessions.

“Though uncertain of the precise allegation, I am certain I have nothing to hide,” Fourkiller told Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, in a letter. Cockroft chairs the committee. “A confidential, closed-door proceeding does not provide the equitable forum to repair my character and reputation.”

Fourkiller is under investigation for a sexual complaint lodged against him in April 2015 by a female high school page.

“That was the extent of what I was told,” Fourkiller said on Jan. 17 of his 2015 meeting with a House attorney and an employee of the House chief clerk. “The page was not identified and I did not inquire. I denied anything improper but immediately shied away from my normal interaction and role with the page program for that week out of an abundance of caution.”

According to the program, high schools students from the state server as pages for a week during regular legislative sessions and do interact with legislators.

Fourkiller on Jan. 11 said he was made aware in 2015 that a page had indicated he had said something that made her uncomfortable and he had apologized.

“I do not know what I did or said, but whatever it was I certainly didn’t mean to do it, and I apologized,” he said.

He added that the 2015 incident is the only one that he was made aware of by House staff.

The House has declined to release the complaint, citing personnel reasons.

Cockroft on Jan. 17 defended the investigation and said making the committee meetings public would discourage wronged employees from coming forward.

“The sole reason for holding these meetings in private is to protect the confidential information of victims and unelected witnesses — not to protect lawmakers,” he said. “In order to have a workplace where employees feel protected and valued, it is vital that we guard the privacy of those who make claims of harassment and discrimination.”

Cockroft said the committee would make its findings public and that it could recommend the House take disciplinary action against a member, including up to expulsion.

According to reports six Republicans and three Democrats comprise the committee. However, Democrats – Rep. David Perryman, Rep. Steve Kouplen and Rep. Meloyde Blancett – have refused to be involved because of the committee’s secrecy rules.

The committee was formed in response to public outrage over a settlement paid to a fired legislative assistant who had accused Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, of sexual harassment.

The former assistant, Hollie Anne Bishop, complained the House fired her in November 2015 in retaliation for reporting Kirby had sexually harassed her. Former House Speaker Jeff Hickman approved the $44,500 settlement of her wrongful termination claim shortly before he left office.

Officials said there was no financial settlement in the complaint against Fourkiller.

Fourkiller said he and his family were leaning on God through the ordeal. “We have not lost faith. In fact, it is growing stronger. We know that God is good and at the end of all this there is something great waiting for us.”

Fourkiller was first elected to the Dist. 86 seat in 2011. He was re-elected in 2013 and 2015. He also ran for principal chief of the CN in 2015, finishing third at 10.58 percent with 2,040 votes.
About the Author
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, ...
TRAVIS-SNELL@cherokee.org • 918-453-5358
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, ...

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