Ethics Committee nears Policy Presentation to Council
By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
The Ethics Committee, formed by the Tribal Council, has been working diligently to formulate the first documented tribal ethics policy specifically addressing the conduct of elected officials. The group consisting of Kevin Jackson (Chairman), AJ Bird, Doris Johnson, Trista Welch, Sabrina Arch, TJ Holland. Jody Taylor, Bernice Bottchenbaugh, Donald Long, Jonnie Sue Myers and Jennifer Jackson has been working toward a finished document since July 2015.
They consulted with an attorney, Sheena Meader, and a legal advisor, Matthew Witbrodt. Much of their work has been centered on amending three areas of Chapter 117 of the Cherokee Code. The changes will include the original proposal by Wolfetown Rep. Bo Crowe including enforcement language, adaptation of the personnel policy and drug testing. One highlight of the document is the proposed establishment of an Office of Government Ethics.
The group has made presentations at least two times at Community Club Council and has spoken to Snowbird and Cherokee County Community Clubs, soliciting feedback on what should be included.
The Ethics Committee has taken their charge seriously. Jackson stated that the group established ground rules early in the process and agreed that they would work as a team – to be unified in the spirit of the task. They also agreed to strict confidentiality in the deliberations. Several on the committee complimented Jackson on strong leadership and fairness.
During the Feb. 5 meeting, the Committee shared that they feel that it is about much more than creating a guideline to follow. Jackson commented, “It’s about who we are as a people and how we conduct ourselves as a people. We’ve added in pieces concerning the protection of our natural resources and our sacred sites.”
Jackson spoke of the traditional values of the Cherokee people and how the Tribe is a family who so intimately knew the needs of its people that most people knew the needs of their neighbor and met them without being told and expected nothing in return.
Jackson continued, “The decisions we make affect our community. I took a long look at my children and what they would be left to fix, while we created this document”.
The committee said that their goal is not to reinvent the wheel but to provide meaningful direction where the Cherokee Code may be lacking.
Jackson added, “We wanted to make this document our own. We could have easily adopted someone else’s code of ethics and made changes to it, but it wouldn’t have been ours”.
One committee member commented that the ethics policy addresses things that “people should just do naturally…some need to be reminded what’s ethical”.
The Ethics Committee hopes to have a final draft ready to distribute to Tribal Council and Executive Office by the end of February. It could be on the Tribal Council meeting agenda in March.