By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The office of Vice Chief will remain vacant for a little while longer. In a contentious debate during its regular session on Thursday, Sept. 14, Tribal Council fell short of the two-thirds vote required to override Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed’s veto of Res. No. 692 (2017) dealing with a Special Election for the vacant office of Vice Chief.
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke made the move to override the veto which was seconded by Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy. The vote count was 39 in favor of overriding, 49 not in favor, and 12 absent. Those voting to override included: Rep. Saunooke, Rep. McCoy, Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe, Big Cove Rep. Richard French, and Yellowhill Rep. B. Ensley. Those voting against overriding the veto were: Painttown Rep. Marie Junaluska, Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha, Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor, Vice Chairman Brandon Jones, Yellowhill Rep. Anita Lossiah, and Birdtown Rep. Travis Smith. Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose was absent.
Chief Sneed vetoed the legislation in an undated letter that was read during Thursday’s debate. “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 letter continued, “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.”
During the brief discussion, Rep. McCoy commented, “When Richie (Chief Sneed) says there’s no provision to have the election. There’s no provision not to have the election.”
She disagreed with Chairman Taylor over the process to hear the veto in which Council representatives and the public were not given time to speak. “It’s not the way we’ve always done it. When Hicks was the Chief, we discussed vetoes at length, but since you’ve been the Chairman, no.”
Rep. McCoy added, “I know what the problem is and it’s me because I said I wanted to run. I don’t have to run or do anything. I was planning on retiring when it was brought down on us, when this impeachment was brought down.”
Following the vote, there was confusion over whether or not the veto stood.
Chairman Taylor asked Carolyn West, Council’s counsel, to come to the podium to explain the proceedings. “The Principal Chief vetoed the resolution to hold a Special Election. The Charter says that the veto stands unless Tribal Council overrides the veto with two-thirds votes. There was a motion by Rep. Saunooke to override the veto; second by Rep. McCoy. Council voted. The vote did not obtain the two-thirds that is required by the Charter. So, the veto stands.”
Rep. Smith then made a motion to take nominations from Council for the Vice Chief seat. That motion died with no second.
Previously, Council voted 57-43 on a move by Rep. Crowe on July 27 to hold the Special Election. That move was formalized into Res. No. 692 which was passed on Aug. 3 by a slim margin of 51 for, 43 against, 6 abstain.
No time frame has been set, as of press time, for Council’s selection of the new Vice Chief.