Council announces phase one audit results, terminates EDTO Nordwall
Updated: Dec 14, 2018
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH - The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council disclosed preliminary results from phase one of its forensics audit and voted to terminate its Executive Director of Tribal Operations Sean Nordwall during its Nov. 3 meeting.
UKB Assistant Chief Jamie Thompson announced that phase one of its forensic audit had been completed by accounting firm Eide Bailly, nearly two months after its initial approval.
Councilors approved the audit with a vote of 7-3 at its September 8 meeting to search through suspected “fraudulent” transactions for purchases made from January 2013-2016 for the UKB General Fund, January 2013-February 2016 for the Keetoowah Cherokee Casino and February 2016-December 2018 for the Corporate Authority Board.
After a lengthy executive session for councilors to discuss the results, Thompson announced the report was more than 700-pages and that a cumulative total of $153 million had passed through the accounts in question.
“They did a chronological examination of all the checks. The audit revealed that $153 million dollars went through the accounts and there are definitely questionable transactions and several questionable disbursements,” said Thompson after the meeting. “There’s a substantial amount of money they can’t account for. Unfortunately, I can’t disclose that amount yet.”
Thompson said that the next step will be to get a quote and call for a vote to determine if the tribe will move on to phase two of the audit, which he said would determine “which disbursements we would need to investigate further.”
Councilors also voted to terminate the month-to-month contract with EDTO Sean Nordwall after exiting executive session.
Councilor Teresa Webber made the motion and it was given a second by Councilor Charles Smoke. Tribal Secretary Joyce Fourkiller and Councilor Willie Christie voted in favor, while Thompson, Tribal Treasurer Ella Mae Worley and Councilors Frankie Still and Peggy Girty voted against. Councilors Eddie Sacks, Clifford Wofford, Adalene Smith and Mary Duvall were absent.
The vote resulted in a 4-4 tie, with Tribal Council law dictating that in such an event, the chief votes as the tie breaker.
Bunch voted in favor of Nordwall’s termination.
His vote comes after last month’s meeting in which he introduced a resolution that would have suspended the EDTO position “for at least one year in order to fund a more vital position to perform crucial accounting/comptroller services and determine the tribe’s financial position.” That motion was tabled at that time due to the tribe’s uncertain financial situation after councilors did not approve the September financial report.
Nordwall said after the meeting that it was a “great honor” to work for UKB.
“It has been a great honor to work for my people, and I will always be ready and willing to assist in any way that I can,” he said. “I do know my position has politics involved, unfortunately half the Council who were in attendance and chief could not see past that. Under my direction we have brought in $1.3 million in grants and funding the tribe did not previously have. I’m proud I was able to provide our staff and council with health insurance. Several projects are still in development. We’re getting ready to break ground on our new warehouse and office building for housing, as well as construction on a new daycare in Stilwell and an expansion in Tahlequah. I hope these projects won’t be abandoned.”
Also during the meeting, councilors voted to table a motion that would have donated the UKB fire truck to the Welling Tri-community Volunteer Fire Department because of a recent development in the Tribal Historic Preservation Office.
“There’s an opportunity for the tribe through the (U.S. Forestry Department) firefighting program with the use of our own truck to bring in even more revenue than we do with the cell towers,” said THPO Sheila Bird. “You can project $2-3 million dollars a year on two seasons of firefighting on two different coasts with the tribal program."
Councilor Still also introduced legislation during the meeting that would add language to the Health and Human Services assistance application that the tribe would not be responsible for any discontinued utilities for applicants that do not give at least three days advanced notice.
“I’ve just kind of thought about this and if we can put something on the application where they can understand that it’s not our fault if they submit their application after their cutoff and their utilities get cutoff,” said Still.
Health and Human Services Director Jennifer Cole-Robinson said many applicants apply for assistance on the day of or before services are set to be shut off.
“...Human Services is running try to get this paperwork completed, but then we’re also having to get an emergency check from accounting for that day, as well as trying to get the actual payment to the utility company that day to prevent the cutoff from happening,” she said.
Councilors unanimously approved the language to be added.
Thompson also announced that the tribe has met with City of Enid officials to work out agreements and terms for its potential casino in Enid. The proposal is on the city’s Dec. 4 agenda at 5:30 p.m. Thompson encouraged all tribal members to attend and show support for the item.
In other business:
Council Treasurer Ella Mae Worley reported total General Fund revenue for the month of October as $34,195.07 against $34,562.01 in expenses, leaving a deficit of $366.94. The tribe has yet to pass a new fiscal year budget, but set a budget meeting for Nov. 13,
Councilors voted to approve the October budget, while again tabling the approval of the September budget,
Councilors voted to advertise the position of a part-time comptroller for the tribe,
Councilors gave permission for Grant Writer Marquana Fourkiller to pursue details on a Community Block Grant,
The Corporate Authority Board’s Keetoowah Cherokee Treatment Services completed a case review for its substance abuse program and,
The Corporate Authority Board signed an engagement letter with the Gensler Group to draft a design for the potential Enid casino, should a contract be made with a casino developer.
The next council meeting is set for Dec. 1 in Pryor.