Council shares details on finances, postpones approving district judge
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH - During its Feb. 2 meeting, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council gave an update on the tribe’s financial situation and tabled a decision to appoint a UKB district judge to replace retiring Judge Dewayne Littlejohn.
Early in the meeting Treasurer Ella Mae Worley declined to give the tribe’s monthly financial report, asking councilors to grant the Accounting staff an additional “two weeks” to generate a report.
“As you know, we’ve been diligently working to get our finances done, so at this time, give us about two more weeks,” said Worley. “Maybe in about two weeks we can have a budget meeting and things will be all straightened up by then. When we went in, we didn’t find things. Even the audit wasn’t done. It wasn’t sent off. We found that things were not done right, so we have Lora King-Harjo that’s working in there, who’s doing really well.”
The financial report delay comes in the wake of a Jan. 5 decision in which Councilors voted 9-3 to terminate Payroll and Accounting Clerk Jayme Johnson and Grants Program Manager Vanessa Hansen.
Internal staff with accounting experience are currently assisting King-Harjo with day-to-day financial operations and with the tribe’s current efforts to complete its 2017 single audit, which was originally approved after firm Eide Bailly won a bidding process in March 2018.
The single audit was due June 30, 2018.
“We’ve found things that’s (been) misconstrued and kind of not right,” said Worley. “Lora brought up some things and found something things, because the way the other employees did it, they didn’t send it. They put it all in one, and they (Eide Bailley) needed it separately.”
Executive Director of Tribal Operations Sean Nordwall gave further clarification as to the single audit’s status.
“Where we’re at with the audit is, they have got everything they needed to, to Eide Bailley," he said. "We uploaded it on the portal, their website, and they’re coming Wednesday (Feb. 6) afternoon to work with accounting and make sure that we have everything and making sure everything is in the order they need it and everything like that. They’ll be here for a couple days. As of now, we’ve gotten them everything they’ve needed.”
Councilor Adalene Smith also asked Nordwall directly if the department had “caught up” on the tribe's accounting coding.
“Not yet,” said Nordwall. “We’ve been basically just trying to make sure we made up for the payrolls and what we were able to work out with the bank… We were able to pull down enough money to cover anything we owed to the bank. We supplemented some of the holes we had with some of the money from Childcare. There was enough there so we’re all straight, we’re even with the bank and everything is good. Everybody’s pulled together and got this done, so I’m very proud of the staff at this point. We’ll be okay.”
Nordwall said that correct accounting coding would take approximately “two weeks or so, or three” to correct and bring back into compliance.
He also updated councilors with information that the U.S. Forestry Service had reimbursed the tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office for $32,000, which would help “replenish” the General Fund.
Councilors also discussed delaying a vote to approve a new UKB district judge to replace retired UKB District Judge Dewayne Littlejohn until attorneys Douglas G. Dry and Charles Tripp could both be interviewed by councilors.
Councilors were set to vote to approve or disapprove Dry before Tripp submitted an application.
“As I understand, (Tripp) expressed interest after the decision was (almost) over,” said Jamie Thompson, UKB assistant chief. “What I’m asking is, did anybody care to contact him to see if he could come to be interviewed? Mr. Dry came last month spur of the moment too, but he did show up here and we got to talk to him a little bit. But this gentleman (Tripp) here, in all fairness, I feel like he’s made an effort to submit a resume and an application that maybe we need to visit with him before moving forward with this action.”
Councilor Jeannie Tidwell agreed with Thompson. “I want to say I agree with Jamie and let’s not be hasty and let’s take both into consideration and sit down and give the other gentleman the opportunity also.”
Councilors voted 9-0 to table the decision until a Feb. 16 Special Meeting. Councilors Eddie Sacks, Peggy Girty and Charles Smoke were absent for the vote.
Councilors also voted to make the tribe’s EDTO position a coordinator for the tribe’s Housing E LOCS system and make the EDTO the “formal representative for the tribe on federal programs and systems” after a motion by Worley.
“That’s for the Housing system that he can go into there and be a formal representative of the tribe on federal programs and systems. Since he’s been working all that, he needs to be doing that anyway,” said Worley.
The motion will allow the EDTO to receive notifications of any possible federal funding cuts should they arise, including during a possible U.S. Government shutdown.
“I’m on some of them already, but this just formalizes it,” said Nordwall.
The motion was approved by councilors 9-0, with Sacks, Girty and Smoke absent.
During the meeting, the UKB Corporate Authority Board also announced it was pursuing a brewery business as possible revenue for the tribe.
“Everybody knows we’re trying to put in a pub and a restaurant here,” said Thompson. “It appears that there’s (a brewery) in Broken Arrow called the Broken Arrow Brewery that had the best proposal to get to do business with us. We met with those gentlemen there for our meeting and they’ve agreed to come in and work with the Keetoowahs.”
While further development details and a specific location have yet to be released, Thompson said that the brewery is interested in producing trademarked Keetoowah recipes and blends to serve customers.
Thompson said the CAB is also looking into the possibility of starting up a Keetoowah Home Healthcare business for tribal members.
“(Councilor) Wacoche works for Cherokee Nation Home Healthcare and there’s no reason why we can’t have a Keetoowah Home Healthcare and service our own people. No reason whatsoever. That’s a good business and a very lucrative business,” said Thompson.
He elaborated that he has put CAB Executive Director Randall Hendricks in charge of looking into the matter further.
“I’ve asked Randall to reach out to a gentleman that I know from another tribe. I want to start a Keetoowah Home Healthcare business and we’re going to do that. We’re going to try that and we need it for our people,” said Thompson.
In other business:
· Councilors approved the Dec. 1, 2018 and Jan. 5, Jan. 19 and Jan. 26 meeting minutes with a revision to include the 19-UKB-04 resolution into the Jan. 5 meeting minutes that terminated accounting personnel;
· The Corporate Board announced it would not support a bill to attempting to get gambling on the ballot in Arkansas and
· The Corporate Board announced it had approved two new members for its Keetoowah Construction Inc. Board in Sam Allan and Clint Blue.
The next UKB Tribal Council meeting will take place Feb. 16 as a Special Meeting at the Jim Proctor Elder and Nutrition Center in Tahlequah.