Tribal Council votes to remove BIA agency superintendent

by Sep 4, 2020Front Page, NEWS ka-no-he-da





Tribal Council passed a resolution unanimously during its regular session on Thursday, Sept. 3 that requests the Superintendent of the Cherokee Agency of the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) be reassigned from his position and away from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  Any official action on this matter will be handled by the BIA. 

 William McKee, Jr. has been in this position since 2016. Res. No. 297 (2020) was submitted by Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed.

“It’s a long chain of grievances that we’ve had.  The federal government does a trust responsibility to the Tribe, which is carried out, first and foremost, with the Bureau of Indian Affairs through their agency superintendent. We’ve been experiencing these issues at least as long as I’ve been in the Executive Branch. With that, I would ask Tribal Council to pass this resolution,” said Chief Sneed. 

The only Council representative to ask a question was Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke.  

“This is the first time I’ve discussed a resolution without the other person being here. You vehemently tell us that,” Rep. Saunooke stated to Council Chair Adam Wachacha. 

It was explained that McKee, Jr. was out of town and chose not to be present for the presentation of the resolution. He did offer his rebuttal via email, according to Chairperson Wachacha. That email was not read aloud. 

The resolution states the following, “During his tenure, Superintendent McKee has been inconsistent on issues mutually important to the Tribe and the Cherokee Agency, has neglected certain matter in a way that suggest disdain for the Tribe’s initiatives and Tribal employees, and has frustrated and delayed the Tribe’s movement toward self-determination.”

The document goes on to state examples for this request to re-assign. Among those was an area of severe concern where a letter was addressed to McKee in July 2018 that ‘identified 39 physical deficiencies indicating unsafe or unhealthful working conditions’ in the building he was responsible for. That letter was drafted by BIA Occupational Health & Safety Manager Starla Speaks, and it said that each of these violations must be resolved in some capacity within 30 days.  The resolution states that, to date, McKee has not addressed any of those issues. 

Another example states that ‘McKee has exhibited unprofessional conduct toward tribal employees on multiple occasions, resulting in an uncomfortable work environment.’

There was no further discussion of this resolution, and it was voted to pass by all that were present.  Wolftown Rep. Chelsea Saunooke and Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell were not present for this vote.