• Brittney Bennett

Impeachment Hearing: What are the charges?

Editor’s Note:

Siyo, readers!

I wanted to write a quick address before you read this article in an earnest attempt to avoid showing any bias in my work.

Many of you have had questions about tomorrow’s impeachment hearing, stating that you aren’t aware of what grounds the Articles of Impeachment are filed under or how they came about. When the charges first went public, the Giduwa Cherokee News did not receive these documents. In fact, I only obtained them on Saturday, January 4 after the Tribal Council meeting directly from our Attorney General Klint Cowan.

While I am not allowed to release any documents stamped “confidential,” I feel it is appropriate to make sure our members understand the full scope of the impeachment allegations. One of my most important goals when I became the Giduwa Cherokee News editor was to better inform our members about their government and the actions it takes. I do not want to formulate an opinion for you.

These allegations are in no way yet proven and will be examined by the Tribal Council during tomorrow’s special meeting, where Chief Bunch will also have a chance to address the allegations. This story only outlines the allegations, but does not pass judgment on the validity or non-validity of the statements within. Anything you see in these markings (“ “) means that the information is a direct quote from the filing itself.


Brittney Bennett Giduwa Cherokee News Editor

UKB Chief Joe Bunch

TAHLEQUAH - United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Chief Joe Bunch will face an impeachment hearing and possible banishment from the tribe on Tuesday, January 7 after Sequoyah District Representative Barry Dotson filed Articles of Impeachment charges against Bunch on November 21, 2019.

Dotson alleges several constitutional and tribal law violations within the filing, dating as far back as 2016.

Count 1 alleges that Bunch attempted to “conspire” to hire an individual of his choosing for the tribe’s grant writer position in May 2017 by seeking a nomination through Council rather than “going through Human Resources.”

The filing states Bunch “acted outside the scope of his authority by declaring himself as the grant writer’s supervisor” and then “granted approval for the grant writer to have unlimited access to the Accounting Department and to the Accounting Software, Abila…” As such, it alleges Bunch “violated his oath of confidentiality” by granting such access and circumvented the authority of the tribe’s treasurer and executive director of tribal operations (EDTO).

Count 2 states that in May 2017, Bunch took actions to rehire two accounting staff that were terminated by the treasurer and the EDTO.

The alleged actions include Bunch instructing then Attorney General Christina Vaughn to make recommendations for rehiring and placing supervisory authority of the positions under the Human Resources Specialist, meaning the treasurer would not be allowed any supervisory privileges that would allow her to complete her duties as “custodian of funds for the tribe.”

Afterwards when the HR Specialist position became vacant, the filing states Accounting supervisory responsibilities “were taken over by the Chief and Secretary, in direct violation of the UKB Constitution, without the approval of Council, the Supreme Governing Authority of the tribe.”

Count 3 alleges that Bunch is at fault for the tribe’s failure to complete a mandated Single Audit for 2017 because he “failed to properly ensure qualified persons were performing critical duties of a department into which he had inserted himself.” It also alleges that though the Tribal Council approved a resolution to engage an audit firm to help complete the Single Audit in November 2017, Bunch did not send the letter of engagement to the audit firm “until June 2018,” constituting an “act of negligence.”

In February 2018 it also states the accounting director resigned, but was rehired by Bunch without Council approval, violating a resolution “that requires all key personnel to be approved by the Council.” These actions allege that Bunch “has failed to uphold his constitutional oath, ‘to improve the general welfare of the Band, and its members’.”

Count 4 accuses Bunch of placi