Council overrides veto on golf course hotel funding

by Sep 1, 2022NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Staff


The construction project for a hotel at the Sequoyah National Golf Club will continue.  With Res. No. 373 (2022), an additional $15.5 million was approved by Tribal Council during its Aug. 4 session, but Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed vetoed that measure on Aug. 30.

Council overrode his veto during the regular session on Thursday, Sept. 1.  Council Vice Chairman Albert Rose made the motion to override the veto, and the measure passed 51 to 25 with the voting going as follows: For – Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy, Cherokee Co./Snowbird Rep. Bucky Brown, Vice Chairman Rose, Tribal Council Chairman Richard French, Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe, Yellowhill Rep. T.W. Saunooke; Against – Cherokee Co./Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha, Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle, Yellowhill Rep. David Wolfe; Absent – Wolftown Rep. Bill Taylor, Painttown Rep. Dike Sneed, and Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke.

In his veto letter, Chief Sneed wrote, “I have issued this veto not because I disagree with the project or the value that it could create for this entity, but for reasons of fiscal accountability and process.  In the last two years, the Tribal Council has authorized over $600 million of funding commitments for various projects that are revenue-generating, economic development projects or community service infrastructure projects.  Revenue-generating projects have been required to meet a high bar, as they should, for revenue-generating potential.  The project pro forma for this project has an over-reliance on the Tribe’s casino gaming enterprise for customer flow, and currently there is no formal agreement in place between the two entities that establishes rates or customer commitments.  Without a formal agreement, the pro forma for the project is overstated and risk of not meeting stated performance indicators is high.  This should be of significant concern to tribal leadership as 100 percent owners of the property the tribal government would necessarily be forced to subsidize any underperformance.”

He went on to reference Res. No. 151 (2022) authorizing a project workgroup and workflow.  “While the golf course hotel project was part of the 5-year capital plan, the project was effectively stopped when approval was not granted for additional funding for sitework.  Because of the significant changes in scope and cost as presented recently for this project, this project should be treated as a new project and directed through project workgroup as approved by Tribal Council.  Further, this project should be considered in coordination with the current Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) process that is in its final stages.”

Rep. Wachacha made a motion to uphold the veto, but his move didn’t garner a second and died on the floor.

Following the vote, there was some confusion as to what constituted the required two-thirds vote to override the veto.

Michael McConnell, EBCI attorney general, quoted the Cherokee Code, “Section 117-18 Veto Override says, ‘In the event, the Principal Chief shall veto any act or resolution of the Council, such veto may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the Tribal Council.”

Three Council representatives were absent for this vote.

Rep. T.W. Saunooke said, “Two-thirds of the vote of the current, present Council right now is 50.6 percent.  51 percent just voted yes.”

Res. No. 373 was submitted by Curtis Wildcatt, Sequoyah National Golf Club board chairman, and added the $15.5 million to the project bringing the total to $39 million including the $23.5 million approved in 2019.

During discussion of that legislation in August, Wildcatt told Council, “We had a little bit of reconsideration.  We added the amenities necessary to represent us in a positive light – restaurant amenities, bar, suite rooms, upgrades on materials used.  That’s where these increases come from.  Then, of course, all the inflation due to COVID and then the current economic situation.”

Res. No. 373 passed as follows: For – Rep. Crowe, Rep. Taylor, Rep. McCoy, Chairman French, Vice Chairman Rose, Rep. T.W. Saunooke, Rep. Brown, Rep. Owle; Against – Rep. Wolfe, Rep. Wachacha, and Rep. Tommye Saunooke; Absent – Rep. Sneed.