By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
For decades, leaders of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have discussed ways to streamline the Tribe’s ability to do business faster and free of governmental constraints. Over a two-day span, Tribal Council approved the first board members and a compensation package for the newly-created Kituwah Economic Development (KED) Board.
The KED Board is the first incarnation of a tribal LLC (limited liability corporation) following Tribal Council passage of Ord. No. 93 in March 2018 which clarified regulatory guidelines for tribally-created LLCs. During its regular session on Thursday, June 7, Tribal Council approved three EBCI tribal members and two members of other federally recognized tribes to the Board.
“This is economic diversification,” said Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed. “This is the vehicle with which we will be able to diversify our revenue stream away from just having the single revenue stream of gaming. We are extremely fortunate. We have two properties that perform just phenomenally. We have great employees up there. We have a great management agreement, probably the best in Indian Country. We have been extremely blessed for 20 years, but competition certainly is at the doorstep.”
The following people were put forward by Chief Sneed to serve on the Board, and each was approved, individually, by a unanimous vote of Tribal Council.
Samuel T. Owle Jr., an EBCI tribal member, will serve a term ending on Sept. 30, 2021. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he served as the chief financial officer of the National Congress of American Indians from May 2009 to August 2017. In addition to being a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), he holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and a Master of Accountancy, Accounting and Business Management degree, both from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville.
Chrissy Arch, an EBCI tribal member, will serve a term ending on Sept. 30, 2022. Since April 2012, she has served as the chief operating officer for the Cherokee Indian Hospital. Previously, she ran her own business, Plan Ahead Events, and served as the chief financial officer for the hospital from January 2005 to April 2012 and worked as an accounting manager for the Tribe from May 1996 to June 2002. Arch holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, Accounting from Western Carolina University.
Adam West, an EBCI tribal member, will serve a term ending on Sept. 30, 2023. Having worked at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort since it opened in 1997, he is currently the vice president of operations. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Law and a Master of Business Administration degree from Western Carolina University.
Stacy Leeds, a Cherokee Nation citizen, will serve a term ending on Sept. 30, 2020. She has been with the University of Arkansas since July 2011 where she currently is the dean and professor of law and interim vice chancellor for economic development. Highly educated, Leeds holds the following degrees: Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Washington University, a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from the University of Tulsa College of Law, a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, and a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Lance Morgan, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, will serve a term ending on Sept. 30, 2019. For the past 23 years, he has served as president and chief executive officer of Ho-Chunk, Inc. Also, for the past 12 years, he has served as an adjunct professor of law at Arizona State University. Morgan received a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 1990 and then graduated from Harvard Law School in 1993.
Prior to the five people being approved for the Board, there was discussion as to the process of selecting those to serve on the KED Board as well as other Boards.
“For the first time ever, in the history of this Tribe when it comes to board appointments, I have, as the executive officer of this Tribe, provided resumes to Tribal Council because I want you to be able to make informed decisions,” Chief Sneed noted. “Previously, how appointments have been handled and how the Ordinance reads is that the Chief puts forward an appointment…it comes to the floor, insert name, and you guys vote it up or down.”
He added, “I have suggested, repeatedly, that if Tribal Council would like a confirmation process whereby you actually interview applicants, then it is up to this body, as legislators, to create that process, put it into ordinance form. I will gladly sign it and we can follow that process, but as it stands right now, what is on the books is how we are doing it, and I have at least added to the process by providing resumes so that you can make an informed decision.”
Yellowhill Rep. Tom Wahnetah commented on the need for a new process, but also noted that the Board needed to get up and running. “There’s a six-month probationary period in here. If we don’t like what we’re seeing, we can get rid of all of them. And, I think that’s a good thing. I’m glad you put that in there Chief…we need to get this started. We don’t need to go back-and-forth. We need to get it done. Then, we can work on the process for the next board.”
Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle agreed, “We’ve got to get it rolling. We’re 10 or 20 years behind on this already.”
Two days earlier, Tribal Council approved the compensation package for the Board. During its Budget Council session on Tuesday, June 5, Tribal Council passed Res. No. 189 (2018) which was submitted by Chief Sneed. The legislation, which outlines the compensation structure for the Board, passed 9-3 with Painttown Reps. Tommye Saunooke and Lisa Taylor and Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose voting against.
The compensation structure starts at $25,000 annually and is a results-driven pay-scale as follows:
- Net profit goal of $5 million, compensation $30,000 annually
- Net profit goal of $15 million, compensation $40,000 annually
- Net profit goal of $50 million, compensation $45,000 annually
- Net profit goal of $75 million, compensation $50,000 annually
- Net profit goal of $100 million, compensation aligned with both the TCGE and TGC Boards
“The intent of this resolution is to create a results-based compensation,” said Chief Sneed. “So, rather than starting with a high compensation package, I wouldn’t even say it’s moderate, I would consider it on the low end for what we’re expecting them to do, and then we’re building into this matrix a performance compensation so that as this Board begins to produce revenue, then their compensation can go up. It really is completely different from all the other Boards. None of the other Boards require any kind of output or any kind of production. The compensation is just what the compensation is.”
He said the structure gives incentives for the Board to be productive. “We’re trying to change the standard by which these Boards operate so that we do measure production to make sure that we’re actually getting what we pay for.”
Rep. Saunooke, who stated some people are serving on as many as four or five different Boards, wanted more discussion on the KED Board and other Boards and Commissions of the Tribe. “Since the compensation is involved here, and since we have not had a meeting on these Boards or Commissions to establish what each Board member was to get or to review them, I’m hesitant Chief to do this. You’ve got the compensation listed, but we’ve never sat down as a body and discussed the Boards and Commissions.”
Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell made the motion to pass the legislation and stated, “I like this. If they earn this much money for the Tribe, then this is a small price for the amount of revenue that this is based upon. It’s based upon results. If they’re not doing a good job, they don’t get paid.”
Vice Chairman David Wolfe agreed and commented, “I like the plan. You’re going to be rewarded for what you put into it.”