By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Tribal Council voted 8-3 to place the Tribal Governmental Affairs budget under their budget – monies that were previously located in the Executive Office’s budget. The vote occurred during Budget Council on Tuesday, March 1 with Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy, Big Cove Rep. Richard French and Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke being the three dissenting votes. Yellowhill Rep. B. Ensley was absent.
“I believe that we need to move this back underneath us,” said Birdtown Rep. Travis Smith who submitted the legislation. “It’s time for us not to lose these contacts that we have across the U.S. with all of the people who support us.”
Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose moved to pass the legislation and took issue with comments made by Principal Chief Patrick Lambert in a previous One Feather article in which he made accusations of officials taking trips to Martha’s Vineyard to play golf.
“Are you saying that we went there?” Rep. Rose asked Chief Lambert. “I know the two years that I’ve been here, nobody’s been there, and I don’t like being accused of stuff like that. And, if they did go to Martha’s Vineyard, then it would have come out of your budget because we don’t even have that.”
Chief Lambert responded, “There’s been trips there, yes.”
He added, “There’s an undertone and an undercurrent being developed here by a couple of people against my office. I’m not going to stand idly by and watch that happen.”
Chief Lambert said communication needs to come from both sides on contributions made by the Tribe. “I got one list (proposed contributions). It was three-to-one on one party. Our Tribe is non-partisan. We go straight down the middle. We donate to our friends.”
He went on to say, “I think this money has been used in the past, Albert, as political folly – a way to go and drink, party and go on big, fat trips.”
“As Principal Chief, I’m going to stand here and protect that money on behalf of the people period.”
He took it a step further and suggested that the Governmental Affairs budget be eliminated all-together. “I’m going to make a proposal that we end this budget today and that there not be a budget for these monies to be handed out to anyone. Let this Tribe stand on its own feet. If these people are our friends, let them stand up and be our friends. We won’t pay out another dime.”
Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor commented, “I’ve not taken part in any of these things that have been accused today. I’ve not been to Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve not played in any golf tournament that’s been a fundraiser.”
Chairman Taylor did say that Council has taken several unanimous votes on this same issue in the past several years, but that the money was never moved into their budget. He said trips to Washington are necessary for tribal officials, and he lauded the work of Tribal Council on their recent trips. “We’ve been successful up there because we knock on those doors.”
Rep. Smith addressed part of Chief Lambert’s comments, “Chief, you keep commenting on what’s happened in the past. We’re not living in the past. If you’re doing something to check on what’s happened in the past, that’s fine, handle that part…we’re not doing those things. You haven’t seen us doing those things.”
He added, “There’s no need to accuse us of what we’re going to do. You don’t know what we’re going to do. I’m doing the best I can for my community and our Tribe.”
Rep. Smith then queried, “Do the people know it cost $50,000 to sit down with him (President Obama)?”
Chief Lambert answered, “Yes, that was a contribution made that this Tribal Council was pursuing to be made in that amount. So, yes, I did sit down with the President, and yes, there was one contribution made. If it was left up to this body, and after discussions from the lobbyists, there’d be hundreds of thousands paid out right now.”
Rep. McCoy made a motion to kill the legislation before expressing her opposition. “Council does not spend money. Council appropriates money. We need to go back and look at our job descriptions again.”
She said that herself and Chief Lambert do not always see eye-to-eye, but added, “What he did in an hour with the President of the United States could not be done by this entire Council in ten years going to the Senate building or going to see a Congressman.”
Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha agreed with Chairman Taylor that the issue has been voted on before. “Two terms ago, we moved this money out of the Chief’s budget.”
He then advocated that Tribal Council and the Executive Office sit down and figure out how to designate the monies together rather than separately. “The reason we never had it moved is because there was a constant conflict between the legislative body and the executive on who to give what to and how much…”
Rep. Wachacha further stated, “In order for our government to work, we need to start working together a little more.”
Rep. Saunooke praised Rep. Wachacha’s comments and said, “This bickering, this working against each other is wrong people. Either start getting along or get out. You’re here for the 15,000 of us, not just the two or three.”
The legislation now awaits the signature of Chief Lambert before going into effect.