Tribe’s attorney general takes leave of absence
In this March 31, 2011, photo, Todd Hembree, who at the time was the Tribal Council's attorney, answers a question for Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr., during a Rules Committee Meeting in Tahlequah, Okla. On May 6, the tribe's administration released a statement announcing Hembree's leave of absence as attorney general for alcohol treatment. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree argues a point during a debate about the Cherokee Freedmen issue on March 1, 2012, at the University of Oklahoma College of Law in Norman. On May 6, the tribe's administration released a statement announcing Hembree's leave of absence for alcohol treatment. ARCHIVE PHOTO
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree thanks his family after being sworn into office on Jan. 26, 2012, in the Tribal Council Chambers in Tahlequah, Okla. On May 6, the tribe's administration released a statement announcing Hembree's leave of absence for alcohol treatment. ARCHIVE PHOTO
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree is taking a leave of absence to seek treatment for alcoholism, according to a letter dated May 6.
In the letter addressed to Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Hembree stated that alcoholism “has been the scourge of Indian Country for generations” and that no one “ regardless of education, position or faith is immune,” including himself.
“The support of my wife, children, extended family and staff, makes it possible for me to tell the Cherokee people that I struggle with this difficult disease,” Hembree stated. “While I remain committed to serving the Nation that I love, I realize my focus should be on my sobriety, health and family.”
According to the letter, Deputy Attorney General Nason Morton will lead the Attorney General’s Office in Hembree’s absence. The letter does not state how long Hembree’s leave of absence would be and that he asks that his family’s privacy be respected and for prayers for his recovery.
In a release, Baker said he would give Hembree the “time and space to come closer to his family and his faith as he finds sobriety.”
Baker also said the “use of alcohol not only affects that person, but it impacts the lives of their family, friends and loved ones. In the case of a public official, it affects the people he or she may serve and, sometimes, colleagues.”
According to Baker’s statement, he learned of Hembree’s alcohol dependency last week and its effect on unnamed CN employees.
However, Baker’s statement said he met with those employees and expressed his “sadness and displeasure for the pain he (Hembree) caused them and let them know I don’t condone his actions.”
“My duty as Principal Chief is to uphold the Cherokee Nation Constitution and the integrity of our government and serve the people to the best of my ability. Paramount to me is ensuring our employees have a safe and professional workplace,” Baker stated.
Accompanying Baker’s statements was a release from CN Marshal Shannon Buhl, who said the marshal service is investigating text messages sent by Hembree.
“Principal Chief Bill John Baker notified me last week of certain text messages sent by Attorney General Todd Hembree. We immediately conducted an investigation and, while the messages are troubling, I have found no violation of tribal code,” Buhl stated. “To protect the confidentiality of the parties involved, the details of my investigation will not be released.”
Buhl said in a phone interview that the report would not be available until the investigation is closed.
– SENIOR REPORTER WILL CHAVEZ CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT