• Brittney Bennett

Tribal Council approves audit, discusses EDTO

Updated: Sep 16, 2018


BY BRITTNEY BENNETT

EDITOR


VIAN - The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council discussed several topics at its September 8 meeting at the Blackgum Community Building, including a forensic audit and whether or not employees should answer exclusively to the executive director of tribal operations.


Councilors voted to approve a forensic audit of the UKB General Fund from January 2013-2016, the Keetoowah Cherokee Casino from January 2013-February 2016 and the Corporate Board from February 2016-December 2018.


The resolution was brought forth by UKB Assistant Chief Jamie Thompson and passed with a vote of 7-3, with Eddie Sacks of the Canadian district and Mary Duvall of the Sequoyah district absent.


Thompson, UKB Treasurer Ella Mae Worley, UKB Secretary Joyce Fourkiller and Tribal Councilors Adalene Smith, Frankie Still, Peggy Girty and Teresa Webber voted in favor of the audit. Charles Smoke, Willie Christie and Clifford Wofford voted against.


Accounting firm Eide Bailly will handle the audit by conducting interviews and searching through suspected “fraudulent” transactions to verify receipts, according to Thompson.


He said he brought forth the resolution after the tribe’s annual audit was not completed by June 30 and numerous department directors complained of budget concerns.


“You’ll be able to find out where all the funding is and where it’s gone and we can straighten this mess out,” said Thompson. “It’s our accounting department is the hold up.”


There was also controversy about the accounting department reporting to the tribal secretary.


Thompson presented a resolution that all regular, part-time, contract or temporary tribal employees for all departments report to the Executive Director of Tribal Operations Sean Nordwall without exceptions.


“Right now it’s the secretary and I don’t think (accounting) should be,” said Thompson. “This is not only for the tribe’s sake, but those employees’ sakes. All employees should come under the director and who the director is doesn’t matter. We talk to one person, they’re sitting on the hot seat and whoever that person is would have to be accountable.”


The resolution failed 6-4. Worley, Smith, Girty and Thompson voted for the resolution. Wofford, Still, Christie, Smoke, Fourkiller and Webber voted against it.


The vote comes amid a long process to name a permanent EDTO.


During the public forum, Human Services Director Jennifer Cole-Robinson claimed that Chief Bunch interfered with the search for a permanent EDTO candidate by “pushing for” the hiring committee to interview an applicant that “has a history of violence against women.”


Bunch did not respond to the allegations, but did stand and clap with several councilors after the address was given.


Councilors also took a consensus vote allowing the UKB Indian Child Welfare Director Raven Owl to deliver a form to an incarcerated tribal member so they could request a temporary UKB Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood card for their child.


The card is separate from an enrollment card but would allow UKB to have a legal claim to the child, who was taken into Cherokee Nation custody at birth against the wishes of both parents that wanted the child enrolled as a UKB member, according to Assistant Chief Jamie Thompson.


Owl said the decision to do so without consent from both parents is a violation of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.


“The parents have no idea that they have an option as to where they want to enroll their children because CNO has custody of those babies from birth (at the hospital),” she said. “We need to be more proactive instead of reactive and figure out a way to keep our children from being taken.”


The Council discussed drafting a resolution that would amend the current UKB enrollment ordinance, which does not allow dual enrollment, to allow for “temporary memberships” for children.


The temporary memberships would be issued in such cases where children are enrolled into CNO without consent, giving them a claim to UKB membership until the child can go through the relinquishment process at CNO. Once that process is complete, the temporary membership becomes official.


In other business:

· Council Treasurer Ella Mae Worley reported total General Fund revenue for the month of August as $60,682.72 against $50,186.82 in expenses, leaving a net income of $10,495.96. The extra funds were rolled into the General Fund account, which now totals $494,937.19 for the year,

· Councilors voted in favor of an agreement with the Rogers County Commissioners to set up payment in lieu of taxes by paying $124 per tribal housing unit for the UKB Housing Department to be treated as a housing authority,

· The Tribal Council voted to hold its 2019 physical year budget meeting on September 20 at 4 p.m.,

· The UKB Corporate Board announced they have purchased an additional 20 acres near the Illinois River for $20,000 to add to the Echota Village RV Park, making the total area of the site approximately 35 acres,

· The UKB Corporate Board also announced they have appointed Victoria Green and Brenda Smith to help run the Echota Village RV Park storefront and Barry Clark as the new KCTS director,

· Councilors passed a resolution that the UKB Corporate Board chairman, the vice-chair, the treasurer and the chief and tribal treasurer can be listed on the bank accounts to sign for checks,

· and Councilors agreed to make efforts to form a UKB Veteran Committee.


The next regular tribal council meeting is set for October 13 at 10 a.m. at Kenwood Public School’s cafeteria in Kenwood.

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