Monday, July 15, 2019

Tribal council advances measure to reject pay raises for elected officials


(TAHLEQUAH, OK) - By a landslide 9-6 vote in Monday's meeting, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council rules committee passed "The No Pay Raise for Elected Officials Act of 2019" that was proposed by Councilors David Walkingstick, Shawn Crittenden, and Dick Lay to block the massive pay increases for elected officials that was proposed by the Cherokee Nation Compensation Committee.

A packed house of Cherokee citizens looked on as Walkingstick, Crittenden, and Lay were joined by fellow Councilors Mary Baker Shaw, Joe Byrd, Buel Anglen, Keith Austin, Harley Buzzard, and Mike Dobbins to defeat the proposed pay hikes. Voting in support of the pay raises were Councilors E.O. Smith, Victoria Vasquez, Canaan Duncan, Rex Jordan, Mike Shambaugh, and Deputy Chief-elect Bryan Warner, whose salary as Deputy Chief stood to be increased by 104% should the raises have gone through. Councilor Wanda Hatfield abstained from the vote and Councilor Janees Taylor was not present.

Councilor Crittenden began the discussion on the legislation by referring to constituents in his districts who have desperate needs but have been turned down for help by the Cherokee Nation due to a lack of funding. The audience roared in laughter when Councilor Mike Shambaugh defended the proposed pay raises, stating that he spoke with the head of finance for the tribe, who told him that the proposed raises would not any impact on funding for tribal services.

In a scathing argument in support of blocking the pay raises, Councilor Walkingstick pointed out a number of conflicts of interest held by members of the Cherokee Nation Compensation Committee who unanimously voted to propose the raises. Walkingstick said, "three out of the five committee members maxed out to (Principal Chief-elect) Chuck Hoskin and Bryan Warner, and one of them was the attorney for one of our sitting council members right now. I see conflicts of interest."

Following the passage of "The No Pay Raise for Elected Officials Act of 2019", Walkingstick released the following statement:

"I am thankful and relieved that the rules committee voted today to strike down the massive pay raises for the incoming administration and tribal council. Because of the advocacy of thousands of Cherokee citizens who came together to take a stand on this issue, our legislation to block the raises has gone on to the next step in the process. Tonight at 6:00 pm, the Tribal Council will meet again to discuss and vote on this legislation in the full chamber. I invite all concerned Cherokees to come to this public meeting on such an important issue and make your voices heard.

The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council will meet publicly at 6:00 pm on Monday, July 15th at the W. W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah to discuss and vote on the "No Pay Raise for Elected Officials Act of 2019" before the full council. Following passage by the Tribal Council, Principal Chief Bill John Baker will have the opportunity to sign or veto this legislation.


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