By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Staff
Tribal Council passed a resolution requesting the Tribe (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) to release information regarding the investigation of the 2017 Tribal election.
Resolution 448 (2021) was submitted by Lori Taylor and Ashley Sessions and involved an hour-long discussion at the May 6 Tribal Council session. The document requested the reports gathered by the Tribe over the last several years be offered to the public for review.
Sessions says that she has continuously called upon the office of Internal Audit for this information since 2018 and has received nothing. Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed presented several pieces of information in this session, while stating that a written report was provided to Internal Audit on Dec. 10, 2019. He said that the Attorney General’s office requested that they have until Monday, May 10 to provide these documents. Chief Sneed said the reasoning for this was to provide a ‘clean copy’, and the one he was referencing had several strikethroughs. There was no discussion on what information was being redacted.
“I find it interesting that [Chief Sneed] has a report in his hand, because I’ve requested one from Sharon Blankenship (Chief Audit Executive) several times and she told me she didn’t know what I was talking about,” said Sessions.
As of Tuesday, May 11, Ashley Sessions said that she has yet to receive this report from Internal Audit or the Attorney General’s office.
“The balance with the fingerprints were turned over to the FBI. They have been submitted to the FBI laboratory for analysis, and the results are expected sometime after the first of the year,” Chief Sneed read from the report.
“Well, after the first of year, COVID happened. And as everyone here, and every Native American, every Indian knows, the Federal Government moves at a snail’s pace. The investigation on Qualla Housing, they had all of our paperwork and computers and everything they took for I think four years before we got an answer,” said Chief Sneed.
Chief Sneed did have several requests of his own to amend the proposed resolution. The original document stated that ‘the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian have paid out monies in the millions to have this investigation done.’ Chief Sneed brought the grand total of the investigation, which amounts to $352,622. That number was still more than triple the initial amount of $105,200, which Chief Sneed said had been amended several times in the process before the final dollar amount.
This finalized financial information was previously unknown by the submitters on this resolution, as well as Tribal Council.
“My issue is that [Attorney General Michael McConnell] said that they have come in multiple and given updates. I’ve never been informed of those updates,” said Sessions.
“I would just really like answers. It’s been a long really long time.”
Another amendment was made to the document that changed the phrasing ‘give a full report’ to an ‘update.’ Chief Sneed said that they do not have a full report and can’t anticipate when one will be available.
After voting through these amendments, Tribal Council passed this resolution unanimously.