Council to discuss political appointments, administrative leave, and cultural programs in work sessions

by Oct 16, 2018NEWS ka-no-he-da





Tribal Council approved three resolutions during Annual Council on Monday, Oct. 15 that call for work sessions on three separate issues including political appointments of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, administrative leave for tribal employees, and the organization of tribal cultural programs.  The resolutions, all submitted by Mary Wachacha, an EBCI tribal member from the Yellowhill Community, were all approved 10-0 (Painttown Rep. Lisa Taylor and Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell absent).

Res. No. 376 (2018), the first discussed on Monday, establishes a work session to discuss political appointments and seeks to establish guidelines for those.  Wachacha said she questions budget issues and noted, “I’m sure that your program planners have to justify why they have to hire 10 Water & Sewer employees, and I think the Executive Office should have to do the same when it comes to political appointments.”

She added, “We have to have some policies and procedures put in place so that we know the parameters for which people can be hired.”

Although not established as policies yet, Wachacha’s resolution includes five points she’d like to see considered in such guidelines including, “(2) Tribal Council representatives who chose not to run for office and defeated Tribal Council Representatives are prohibited from applying for tribal positions for two years after they leave office as they possess knowledge that amounts to ‘insider trading’, and may exhibit ‘undue influence’ in their tribal jobs…”

Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose thanked Wachacha for bringing in the legislation and voted to pass, but he did say he disagreed with some of the points including point (2).  “That’s discriminating against our people.  I don’t think everyone here would want to work for the Tribe when they leave the horseshoe.  I don’t.  I have other plans.  I just don’t think it is right to tell an enrolled member that they can’t work here for two years just because you’re not sitting around the horseshoe.”

Wolftown Rep. Jeremy Wilson, who related he looks forward to more detailed discussion on the matter in a work session, said some of the points might discourage people from seeking office in the first place.  “There are some things in here that I think we need to hash out because I feel there are some assumptions in here…”

Next up was Res. No. 377 (2018) dealing with the granting of administrative leave to tribal employees.  Wachacha said again the issue is budgeting and expense of tribal funds which she said is in the thousands, maybe millions, for such leave.  “That’s an exorbitant amount of annual leave that they’re being given as well as the fact that they’re not on the workforce.  We’re either going to function as a government that serves at the will and the needs of the people or we’re a semi-government that provides services as dictated by holidays, sporting events, deaths, and funerals.”

Wachacha gave several examples of tribal members needing services after hours and stated in her resolution “the EBCI tribal government should function as a government, if needed, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week”.

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed noted that programs such as Cherokee Water & Sewer, Cherokee Wastewater Treatment, Cherokee Indian Police Department, Cherokee Fire Department, and Tribal EMS have employees on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  “If your well quits working, if your sewage is backing up, we have people on call for that.”

He stated his issue with the legislation is he feels it impedes on the duties of the Executive Office.  “As far as it goes since my time in office, I have not been extremely liberal with administrative leave.  I’m mindful of the fact that it does cost.  Really what we’re losing out on is services.  The money’s been budgeted, but if the offices are closed due to administrative leave, then those services are not being provided to our people…even though the intent of this is a work session, the overall intent is to regulate, from a legislative side, the day-to-day operations of the Tribe which I disagree with.”

Res. No. 378 (2018) calls for the programs of the Tribe dealing with “culture, language, historical preservation, museums, library” to be put under one umbrella.  In the resolution, Wachacha listed a number of programs and services including Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Junaluska Museum, Cherokee Speakers Gathering, and more and stated, “…all of these programs are supported financially, in some manner, by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and there is individual supervision but no overarching mission, goals, and collaboration or coordination concerning culture, history, and historical education and all programs need better interaction between the programs.”

Russell Townsend, Tribal Historic Preservation Office manager, said he’s worked for the Tribe for almost 20 years, “I think there’s been a lot of significant work in cultural resources, and I think there’s a lot of cooperation between the programs.”

He added, “I don’t feel there is a lack of communication between the programs as it is.”

Bo Lossiah, Kituwah Preservation & Education Program administrative director, said, “I think the spirit of Ms. Wachacha’s resolution is very positive.  It’s nice to know what people in the community are actually paying attention to what’s going on.  We do try to integrate our services together.”

The schedule for the three work sessions has not been released as of press time, but the One Feather will post a notice when they are set.