Tribal Council declines to read Principal Chief’s ordinance

by Jan 13, 2023NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Reporter


CHEROKEE, N.C. – During the Orders of the Day at the beginning of Thursday’s (Jan. 12) Tribal Council session, Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed presented a question to the Council.

“I had an ordinance that was submitted on my behalf by the Attorney General. I reached out to the Chairman about this because it was not on the agenda. I was told there was something out of order. I requested information on what was out of order. We received kind of the generic form from TOP. I can’t find anything in its current format that does not comport to the list of requirements when an ordinance is submitted.”

The ordinance in question addresses the reporting of boards, committees, and commissions involved with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). The Principal Chief explained that he has been concerned with the actions of some of these entities, and this ordinance would require that each of them report to Executive and the Tribal Council on a quarterly basis, at the minimum. He brought forward an example, describing a situation with the Tribal Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (TABCC)

“There was abuse in the use of, it wasn’t even a credit card it was a debit card attached directly to the bank account of the TABCC. The TABCC had spent 76,000 dollars going out to eat over the course of 21 months. I brought this to the attention of the chair and let him know that the options were simple. He could tender his resignation or that I would bring a resolution to have him removed for cause. At that time, he tendered his resignation,” said Chief Sneed.

The proposed ordinance would look to get ahead of issues like this with regular reporting to Tribal leadership.

Cherokee Co. – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha made a move to add the item to the Jan. 12 agenda.

Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy was against hearing the ordinance and stated her issues with the ordinance in general.

“We already have a mechanism in place for talking to boards, commissions, and committees. We call them in. It’s just that simple. I don’t understand. I read [the proposed ordinance], in my opinion it’s very confusing. It’s not clear cut. Another thing that concerns me is that we take one ordinance and wipe away a dozen of them maybe? I’m just not going to do that. I think it’s time for us to call the boards, and the commissions, and the committees in and have a discussion with them on reporting. I do agree with that. But I don’t know that putting all these things up under the Executive office is prudent. Some of these committees, commissions, and boards answer to Council. I think, if nothing else, we can put it on the floor and table it. But I would prefer that we not agree to put it on the floor today at all. And out of respect to the Chairman, they’ve made a decision.”

Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle did not agree with Rep. McCoy and pledge his support for adding the item to the agenda.

“I’m going to have to agree with Adam and the Chief. We appoint these boards; I think it’s good to have them come in…I think it’s very important that we have these boards come in on a monthly basis. I can’t tell you that last time we called a board in to ask questions,” said Rep. Owle.

Vice Chairperson and Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose pointed to some of the concerns he had with the proposed legislation.

“I know most of you guys haven’t seen this. We went through it and, I guess, had some concerns with a lot of it. It’s giving the Executive almost complete power over every board right down to he’s the only one that can initiate a remove for cause. He appoints, I guess, he’ll appoint me and the Chairman’s boards for us. Is that what that’s saying?”

Chief Sneed answered that question while also trying to address his initial issue.

“No, sir. That’s not what it’s saying at all. We’re debating this thing, and the issue at hand is if something is turned in, in the proper format…this is two months in a row I’ve turned something in in-time and in the proper format. Twice, two months in a row, items I have turned in have not been added to the agenda,” said Chief Sneed.

“The whole point of something coming to the floor, when it does come to the floor, is for debate. You’re debating it now, saying you disagree with it. Which, you can disagree with it, but that’s the point of bringing legislation to the floor…We debate it, and it stands or falls on its own merit. Or you amend it or it dies on the floor or it gets killed.”

Rep. Rose asked to speak with Attorney General Michael McConnell for clarification. He asked if this ordinance would change one or multiple other ordinances. McConnell said that he would call it an ‘umbrella ordinance’, and that would change several.

“To do that, you have to do it ordinance by ordinance. You can’t just do one ordinance to change four ordinances, right?” asked Rep. Rose.

“No. There are two ways. When you have this many entities, commissions, boards, etc., they’ve all been created organically. There has not been consistency among the ordinances that created them. You can go each one and change all those, and we come to you with a big packet and say ‘change all these things’. To get the issue in front of Tribal Council for deliberation, we chose this umbrella approach,” explained McConnell.

“So, the question today is can we present something that will be deemed read and tabled? Tribal Council would not make any substantive vote today regarding the content of it. Our request was to have it hit the floor so that then we can have further discussions about it,” continued the Attorney General.

Rep. McCoy reentered the discussion, arguing for it not to be heard.

“It’s not ready for the floor. And again, procedurally, the Chairmans of Tribal Council have made a decision. We are a separate entity from the Executives. Don’t let the dog wag the tail. Don’t let that happen.”

Rep. Wachacha offered rebuttal to this comment, affirming his support for the process.

“I can assure you there’s no wagging of the tail here. I’m going to put everything into context after reading this proposed ordinance change. As a former Chairman, I think that any enrolled member deserves the right to know why their legislation hasn’t been submitted,” said Rep. Wachacha.

“There’s some stuff I don’t agree with. I think it does need discussion on the removal portion of it…but without this getting put on the agenda, it’s never going to have the opportunity to through the 25-day reading period for public comment and so the public can come in. Then it’ll be read and tabled this month, and then in February we can have discussion on it.”

Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe was the last to offer information before the vote to add the ordinance to the agenda.

“Oct. 29, 2020. There was an ordinance passed, and it’s the exact thing that the Chief is wanting to do right now. Since 2020, it is for the TCG, TCGE, ALE to start coming in and giving reports to the Chief and Tribal Council quarterly. So, it’s already in law. Once the law’s passed, it should’ve already been carried out. Ordinance No. 299,” said Rep. Crowe.

The Tribal Council voted on the issue, and it failed to pass. The proposed ordinance did not make it to the agenda.

Votes for adding it to the agenda: Rep. Wachacha, Rep. Owle, and Yellowhill Reps. David Wolfe and T.W. Saunooke.

Votes against: Chairperson Richard French, Vice Chairperson Albert Rose, Rep. McCoy, Rep. Crowe, Wolftown Rep. Andrew Oocumma, and Painttown Reps. Dike Sneed and Michael Stamper.

The debate continued after the vote.

“Moving forward, how do we change an ordinance then? If we can’t submit another to have those changes. How are we going to move forward? I don’t know who didn’t put it on the agenda,” said Rep. Wolfe.

Rep. Rose said that it was both he and Chairperson French.

“There were some concerns we found. If it had been me, I would’ve had a work session before I submitted it. Then it could hit the floor, be read and tabled, and hit the floor the next month and be passed,” said Rep. Rose.

Rep. Wolfe challenged that by saying that is not what is described in Cherokee Code 117-38, ‘Legislative reading ordinance; form of ordinances’. Rep. Rose followed that by offering another reason.

“He called it an umbrella ordinance. It’s an umbrella, but you can’t change that many with one.”

Rep. Wolfe once again offered rebuttal to Rep. Rose.

“We done it with public health. You were sitting right here. We done it with public health. That changed nearly every chapter in the codebook,” argued Rep. Wolfe.

That was the end the initial discussion, but Rep. McCoy questioned the Principal Chief again later in the Council session when he had requested an amendment to Resolution No. 427 (2023). He had raised his hand to speak before the Tribal Council placed a vote on the resolution and was recognized by Chairperson French.  However, Tribal Council moved to a vote before his turn to speak. McCoy said that the vote stood.

“You’re going to have to amend this next month by following the process we have in place for amending ordinances. By bringing that back in, well it’d be a resolution in this case because we passed it,” said Rep. McCoy.

“This is a resolution, and by point of order I was recognized by the Chair to speak. Then Adam [Wachacha] spoke, Carolyn [West] spoke out of order, and then a vote was requested when I was already recognized by the Chair,” responded Chief Sneed.

This was resolved when Rep. Wachacha requested that the resolution be brought back to the floor for reconsideration. This was passed unanimously. Tribal Council proceeded to implement the amendments suggested by Principal Chief Sneed, and the resolution was passed as amended.