By JOSEPH MARTIN
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Currently, contracts with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians that are $50,000 or higher in value require approval of the Business Committee before the Principal Chief can execute the agreement. Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke is trying to change that with an ordinance that would lower the threshold to $10,000. While Saunooke argues that it’s a method to keep her constituents informed, opponents say the proposal will hinder tribal operations and could lead to micromanagement.
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed firmly disputed what he said was innuendo that he was doing something wrong. The ordinance was introduced in the September session, and it remains tabled after the Annual Council session on Monday, Oct. 15.
Saunooke said she’s gotten several calls asking about contracts that were less than $50,000. Sneed asked, “I’m just curious what the impetus is.” Saunooke answered, “Just so we’ll know. Anything over $10,000 we should know about.”
Sneed said that requiring committee approval for work that amounts to less than $50,000 will create a backlog. EBCI Secretary of Housing Travis Smith agreed. “This would hinder our program. The majority of work out there costs more than $10,000.”
Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle, along with other council representatives, cautioned against micromanagement. He said he’s received no calls on the contract issue. “Hopefully, the trust is in the Chief and Vice Chief and his committee. I don’t want to hinder the process, especially if something is needed immediately.”
Sneed said that anyone with questions, about contracts or other day-to-day operations, can call his office. It’s public record. He offered to provide reports about upcoming contracts for consideration.
The idea got some support. “I like the idea of the chief’s on getting a report,” said Yellowhill Rep. Tom Wahnetah. “I would feel better with a report. Then again, we’re micromanaging, which we shouldn’t be doing.”
Wolftown Rep. Jeremy Wilson urged to keep thing uncomplicated. “The main issue is communication. I think it’d be wise to give (reports) a trial run.”
Sneed said, “No one has called me. I’m the one who signs the contracts. I have gotten zero questions about any contracts at all.” He said he’s happy to create a report of contracts that come before him, and it is public information. “I don’t have a problem doing that.”
Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe asked Sneed about contracts that will come in at $40,000 and may come in later with an additional $30,000. “Is it changing the dollar amount,” is what Sneed asks. He said he then sends it to committee for discussion. “There have been many I’ve sent back.”
When tribal member Becky Walker questioned Council’s need to know what happens with tribal money, she said, “You need to get your hands on that fiscal management policy, and you need to put it into law.” Then, Walker asked if someone was brought in to work on the election law with a contract of $40,000. “Every time we have a work session, we don’t see that person in here, and they contributed a huge portion to that election law.”
Sneed said of Walker’s statement that it was “off in the weeds,” and called it conjecture. “What I don’t appreciate is when people come to the podium and imply that there’s all this nefarious behavior going on, and there’s not. The issue is it’s personal is what it is, because it’s (former tribal Supreme Court Chief Justice) Bill Boyum. He did not write any of the election law. The previous Chief spent $419,000 on an attorney, without a contract, with lots of invoices over $50,000, and I can produce those. And no one seemed to care about that.”
Saunooke did ask if the Council would consider raising her proposed threshold to $25,000. – “I don’t want you to kill it.” The move was seconded by Cherokee County/Snowbird Rep. Bucky Brown, but Council didn’t adopt the amendment. The ordinance remains tabled.