By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Tribal Council has passed Res. No. 330 (2020) that calls to remove Jim Owle from his position as Chairperson of the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
It was a tight vote, during the regular Council session on Thursday, Dec. 3, that ended in a weighted decision of 48 for and 40 against, with 12 abstaining. Votes for included: Painttown Reps. Tommye Saunooke and Dike Sneed, Wolftown Reps. Bo Crowe and Chelsea Saunooke, and Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose.
The strongest advocate against this resolution was Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle, the lone abstaining vote. Rep. Owle abstained from the vote because the individual in question is his brother. “I still think its personal feelings in some way between what we’re discussing right now. If you pick one person out of five, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if Jim hadn’t been the Chairman. He probably would have been still targeted. That’s not fair. That’s not fair at all.”
The contingent that voted for the move stated that Jim Owle had violated multiple aspects of the Cherokee Code. The resolution states these circumstances, with multiple violations coming with the sharing of TCGE minutes. There was an instance where ‘a Tribal Council member made an email request for minutes and no minutes were produced’.
In April, the TCGE Board offered ‘redacted’ minutes that removed the inclusion of budget times and other important pieces of business.
Another listed reason for removal included that in 2016, the Tribal Council ‘authorized TCGE to secure and execute a loan agreement in an amount not to exceed two hundred and fifty million dollars’. This year, the TCGE submitted a resolution ‘without any explanation or back up’ for a increase of that budget to 330 million dollars.
“It’s not personal to me. I’ve been through an impeachment, I’ve been through three or four of these removals, none of them were personal,” said Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose.
Rep. Rose also read from the Ethics Conduct and stated that it would be ethical of Rep. Owle to abstain from this vote.
Those that voted against primarily cited the ongoing investigation of the TCGE.
“All this was contested. That’s our legal council’s opinion on this, but by another duly authorized by the state of North Carolina, a member of the bar, gave different opinion to some of these things,” said Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell. “I don’t think that we can say definitively and without question that we’re breaking the code when we vote today. I don’t think we can say that. Because I think that this could end up in court. Also, I think the point was made a while ago about an investigation. There’s an investigation that I understand is still ongoing that we paid 200,000 for. I think we’re jumping the gun by even having this.”
Between the work sessions leading up to the vote and Thursday’s discussion, the subject was consistently shifted to the entire TCGE board. Big Cove Rep. Richard French asked Tribal Council Attorney Carolyn West who all should be responsible for upholding the code.
“Code being broken, is that mainly just the Chairman’s responsibility, or would you say that is a Board responsibility? With all this that we’re talking about codes being broke, shouldn’t the Board also been aware of all these codes and that they were being broken, and it shouldn’t just lie in the Chairman’s plate? It’s just like this Tribal Council sitting right here,” said Rep. French.
Rep. Rose suggested going into a closed session to discuss potentially adding more names to the list. However, Chairperson Wachacha pointed to the fact that Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe had already made a motion to pass this resolution, and discussion continued in open.
The final vote was 5 for, 6 against, and 1 abstaining. However, the weighted vote passed the resolution 48-40.
The resolution now goes to Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed for ratification.