BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
KENWOOD - The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council voted on three forensic audit resolutions and tabled two resolutions concerning the tribe’s executive director of tribal operations position during its October 13 meeting.
Saline District Representative Charles Smoke introduced two separate agenda items asking to approve or disapprove a forensic audit of the tribe’s Corporate Authority Board on two different dates.
The first asked to examine approximately $17,000 in withdrawn cell tower funds by the CAB on Sept. 24, 2017, per the attorney general and supervised by UKB Chief Joe Bunch.
“What that means is that we would have the attorney general look at the reasoning and the purposes of the money that was removed after the council set a directive to the Corporate Board for the monies to stay in that account,” said Bunch.
Assistant Chief and CAB Chairman Jamie Thompson responded by stating that the item was “redundant” and the date was “already involved in the current forensic audit.”
Councilors had previously approved a forensic audit to be conducted by accounting firm Eide Bailly with a vote of 7-3 at its September 8 meeting.
The audit was approved 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 CAB.
Smoke’s item failed with a vote of 5-4. Clifford Wofford, Willie Christie and Eddie Sacks joined Smoke to vote in favor, while Thompson, Secretary Joyce Hawk, Tribal Councilors Adalene Smith, Frankie Still and Teresa Webber voted against. Treasurer Ella Mae Worley and Tribal Councilors Peggy Girty and Mary Duvall were absent.
Smoke’s second item asked to examine CAB bonuses paid out on Dec. 22, 2016, but it did not pass with a 5-4 vote in the same manner.
“Again, the audit is being done on this already,” said Smith.
Smoke also asked for approval or disapproval of the funds set aside for the forensic audit to instead be used for education, elderly assistance and Christmas cards for children.
Smith argued that money from the Motor Fuels fund had already been “set aside” for those purposes and motioned to strike the item off the agenda. It was removed by a 5-4 vote.
During the meeting Bunch also proposed an amendment to Resolution 18-UKB-30, which concerns the executive director of tribal operations. It currently states that the “supervisor for interim EDTO will be Chief Bunch with stipulation of No Authority to fire and to come back to council.”
Bunch’s resolution asked to replace the language to read, “restore Chief Bunch supervisory authority as stated in United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Constitution, to perform all duties appertaining to the office of the chairman, complete authority to hire and fire employees as needed.”
Multiple councilors posed questions about the item’s legality under the UKB Constitution and By-Laws, but UKB Attorney General Klint Cowan stated it was up to the council.
“If council wants to give chief the authority to hire and fire the EDTO, then council can do that. It’s delegating council’s authority to one person to hire and fire the EDTO,” he said.
Webber asked Bunch to reword the resolution and present it again later, to which he agreed before councilors voted unanimously to table it.
Bunch also 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 due to the tribe’s uncertain financial situation after councilors did not approve the financial report given earlier in the meeting.
“My position is that without a clear, thought out budget that’s been passed by this council, which has not been done yet, that we address this at a later time,” said Sacks.
Hawk delivered the financial report in Worley’s absence, informing councilors that September’s General Fund revenue was $39,901.05 against $182,394.36 in expenses, leaving a net loss of $142,493.31. The loss was covered with the tribe’s “rainy day” fund, leaving a cumulative amount of $262,733.15.
Webber said the “numbers don’t match” what was presented in previous meetings and Smith said the numbers are “not balancing out.”
The tribe is currently under a spending and hiring “freeze” until a closeout of last year’s fiscal books can be completed.
In other business:
• The CAB brought artist renderings of the proposed Enid casino and announced its application for the casino has been sent to the National Indian Gaming Commission for development review,
• Councilors approved a motion to allow Cowan to sign a new contract with Michael Rossetti to work with the tribe on an “as needed” basis for potential land in trust projects,
• Councilors voted on a resolution by Smith to reinstate the original tribal seal and recognize it as the official seal to be used in all tribal business,
• and Human Services Director Jennifer Cole-Robinson announced the tribe had been awarded a $46,000 grant from Family Violence Prevention Services, as well as a $90,000 opioid grant. The tribe has also been invited to the second phase of a $720,000 grant with Tribal Victim Services through the Office of Victims of Crimes.