- Lani Hansen
Tribal Council requires Corporate Board to produce quarterly financials
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH – The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council voted July 11 to require the UKB Corporate Board to produce quarterly financial statements to the tribe and agreed to move into Phase II of its forensic audit during its regular monthly meeting.
Tahlequah District Representative Jeff Wacoche proposed a resolution to “invoke the UKB Corporate Board to provide quarterly dividends to the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians General Fund” as written in the UKB Corporate Board Act. The resolution also stipulated that the tribe’s first payment is “due 7/13/20 by close of business.”
The UKB Corporate Board Act, Section B. Business Development Powers 5. (a)(b) states that “70 percent of annual Net Profits or dividends shall be retained by the UKB Federal Corporation for the continued development and growth of operations and maintenance of existing and new UKB Federal Corporation business undertakings…” The remaining 30 percent of net profits or dividends “shall be distributed by quarterly or annual dividend from the UKB Federal Corporation to the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma General Fund for essential governmental functions and services pursuant to the General Fund Budget approved by the Tribal Council.”
“They’re supposed to be giving 30 percent of its profits to the tribe. They have not given any funds to the tribe since May of 2017,” said Wacoche. “They’re making money and they’re not relaying it to the tribe and to the people. We saw the bank account on May 16. On June 5 it increased. It went up by a couple hundred thousand dollars. We’re going to hold them accountable to this Corporate Board Act and they have to answer to us, the Tribal Council.”
The Corporate Board currently operates five businesses including Echota RV Park and Floats, Echota Behavioral Health, Keetoowah Cherokee Treatment Services, Superior Funding and KCI Construction LLC.
Wacoche cited Section 506 Enforcement in his request for accountability and indicated he also wished to invoke quarterly reports because of “the current situation of our General Fund.”
Canadian District Representative and Corporate Board Member Eddie Sacks responded to the resolution as “mixing up a couple of accounting terms.”
“I understand what Jeff’s doing and I admire what he’s doing,” said Sacks. “It’s just that when he’s talking about profits, you refer to what is essentially just cash flow. A certain amount is coming in, a certain amount is going out. The development of future projects lies in that cash flow. It can’t be considered a profit because it has to be recycled back into the business to grow it.”
Assistant Chief and Corporate Board Chairman Jamie Thompson indicated the lack of annual reports was due to the Corporate Board’s financial status when he took position on the board five years ago and that “at the end of July we will have three years of books that have been audited finally.”
UKB Attorney General Klint Cowan was asked his opinion and indicated while he does not represent the Corporate Board, he “encouraged” them to provide financials regularly.
“I would encourage the Corporate Board to provide financials regularly that break down all the businesses and have a net profit at the bottom for all the businesses,” he said. “That may be zero sometimes, but that would assure Council that you’re getting the proper funds from the Corporate Board. If they’re getting a good accounting report every quarter, then there’s transparency and everybody knows what Council should be receiving.”
Cowan also suggested changing the date of the first payment to the tribe due to the end of a recent business quarter for the Corporate Board, which works off of a calendar year and not a fiscal year.
Councilors agreed to change the resolution language to make the first payment to the tribe due “within 30 days” of the July 11 meeting.
Cooweescoowee District Representative Jeannie Tidwell gave Wacoche’s motion a second and the resolution passed 7-5. In addition to Wacoche and Tidwell, Councilors Eddie Sacks, Frankie Still, Peggy Girty, Charles Smoke and Secretary Joyce Hawk voted in favor. Councilors Adalene Smith, Sharon Benoit, Barry Dotson, Thompson and Treasurer Ella Mae Worley voted against.
It was indicated outside of the meeting by some Tribal Council members that possible criminal charges may have also been filed against the Corporate Board, but as of press time additional information was not available.
When asked for comment, Cowan responded that he “can’t comment on open criminal matters.”
During the meeting the tribe was also given a briefing from accounting firm Eide Bailly on Phase I of its audit of the tribe’s General Fund, Casino Fund and the Corporate Authority Board.
The General and Casino Funds were audited for the time period between January 2012 and September 2014, while the Corporate Authority Board was audited from February 2016 to July 2017.
“A lot of this is former casino money,” said Thompson. “There had never been an audit, a close out of the casino. We decided that we need to get an audit and we wanted to get a forensic audit."
An Eide Bailly representative shared financials from each account as follows: General Fund accounted for $43 million in deposits and $43 million in disbursements; Gaming Operations accounted for $31 million in deposits and $32 million in disbursements; and Corporate Authority Board accounted for $1.8 million in deposits and $1.8 million in disbursements.
“Forensic accounting means we’re looking at past financial transactions for a specific purpose. In this case it’s to account for monies,” said the representative. “We documented over $153 million in deposits and disbursements during the examination period. Right now, all we know is that we know that “x” dollars went into these accounts. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all dollars that should have been deposited, were deposited. The next phase would include looking at supporting documentation to make sure that whatever should have been deposited also was deposited into the accounts. The same thing on the disbursement side where we’ve documented all the funds leaving the accounts. The question then becomes, were they leaving for appropriate purposes? That part would be Phase II.”
The representative shared the firm, while it did not have access to all accounts in Phase I such as payroll, is ready to begin Phase II. He indicated it could be completed in approximately “two to three months,” at which time councilors agreed to let the firm proceed.
In other news,
· Chief Joe Bunch announced his impeachment appeal will be held August 21;
· Councilors approved AG Cowan to write a letter on behalf of the tribe to the Honorable Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter;
· Treasurer Worley gave the tribe’s a financial report for the month of June, with $114,007.99 in debts and $28,000 in revenue;
· Wacoche indicated that accounting firm Finley and Cook confirmed tribal members would not be taxed on the tribe’s issuance of COVID-19 checks because it fell under the General Welfare Act;
· Councilors questioned a proposed stipend increase for UKB Corporate Board members without approval from Tribal Council;
· and Corporate Board Director Randall Hendricks gave a report that noted The River Brewhouse is near completion, Echota Behavioral Health is open and the Keetoowah Cherokee Treatment Services is now billing clients through the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority. To see a full list of Corporate Board businesses, visit www.ukbcorporateboard.com.
To view the meeting in its entirety, the public can visit the UKB Facebook Page and see the “Videos” tab. The next regularly scheduled Tribal Council meeting was set for August 15.