(Note: This letter is being published as it was received from the EBCI Executive Office. There wasn’t a date attached to the letter.)
I write this letter to explain my decision to veto Resolution No. 692, August 3, 2017. As you are aware, the purpose of this resolution is to authorize a Special Election for the purpose of electing a Vice-Chief to fill the vacancy created as a result of the impeachment of the former Principal Chief. There are many issues with the action taken by council in the passage of this resolution which I will outline in this letter.
As was stated in both closed session and open session of the council hearings related to the issue of selecting a Vice-Chief, by both the Legislative Counsel and the Attorney General, there is no provision in the Charter or the Cherokee Code of ordinances for a Special Election at this time. As stated in the Charter and Governing Document, sec. 14, Cherokee Code 117-7 and 161-8 the criteria for a Special Election requires a simultaneous vacancy in both the Chief and Vice-Chief offices, and the added burden of the Chairman of Tribal Council not meeting the qualifications for the Office of Principal Chief. Neither of these criteria have been met at this time.
The purpose of the language contained in both Section 14 of the Charter and sections 117-7 and 161-8 is to ensure the continuity of government in the event of a vacancy in one or both of the Executive Offices. The fact that 51% of the Tribal Council has failed to act in accordance with the established laws in regard to the current situation that we find ourselves in, a hardship has been created in the form of an inability to carry out personnel actions that require Executive Committee approval, specifically the authority to hire new employees. Among other things, this has placed a tremendous burden upon the patients and staff at the Tsali Care Center because of inadequate staffing. The lack of adequate staffing also places our facility in jeopardy of being deemed out of compliance with Medicaid standards which will directly impact our ability to bill Medicaid for services rendered. Most troubling, however is that the inadequate staffing directly impacts the care of our most vulnerable community members.
Perhaps the most telling evidence that this resolution seeks to set aside the established law, is that the plan to carry out the proposed Special Election would require amending the current set of ordinances to grant permission for a Special Election in our current set of circumstances. However, since the Election Ordinance cannot be amended in an election year, the plan is to wait until after the current election cycle is over and then amend the law to allow for a Special Election. Should Tribal Council choose to override this veto and follow this course of action, it would be December before a Vice-Chief was elected.
Finally, I appeal to the very language contained in the resolution itself. The very first Whereas spells out the authority of the law and of this Tribal Council to act; WHEREAS, the Charter and Governing Document and the Cherokee Code authorize and empower the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council to elect a successor when a Vice-Chief vacancy occurs. Charter and Governing Document Sec. 14, Cherokee Code 117-7 and 161-8(b) and;
WHEREAS, there is a Vice-Chief vacancy, I implore this Tribal Council to fulfill its duty and obligation to our oath to preserve, protect and defend the charter and governing document and laws confirmed and ratified by the enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, by selecting a successor for the office of Vice-Chief, in order that the business of the tribe may once again proceed unhindered.