By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Terry Taylor, an EBCI tribal member from the Birdtown Community, wants more transparency when it comes to travel by EBCI elected officials. In a resolution she submitted, which was discussed during the regular session of Tribal Council on Thursday, Jan. 7, she called for an efficiency study to be done to evaluate the travel practices of elected officials and the necessity of some travel.
“This is about accountability,” said Taylor who requested in the resolution that the findings of the study be printed in The Cherokee One Feather. “It’s time for Council to start being accountable. On these trips that are being taken, God only knows how much money is being spent and on what.”
Her resolution, which was killed on Thursday, stated in part, “although Council members, the Chief, and Vice Chief may verbally report their travel on Council days, there is not a detailed account of monies spent or what was accomplished on said travel.”
Vice Chairman B. Ensley pointed to the Public Records Ordinance that he authored several years ago that was subsequently passed and enacted. “It’s all public record,” he said adding that anyone can go to the EBCI Finance Office and request detailed reports of all travel by elected officials.
“This Tribe is stronger politically, as a Tribe, than we’ve ever been, and it’s because of the travel,” said Vice Chairman Ensley.
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke related that herself and fellow Painttown Rep. Terri Henry give detailed travel reports to their community during their regular meetings. “I believe others do when they have a community meeting. It’s public report. No one is trying to hide anything.”
Principal Chief Michell Hicks commented, “I feel that I’m accountable to this Tribe. I only travel when I have to.” He said that many of the recent successes of the Tribe are due to the travel and out-of-town meetings by EBCI elected officials. “As a whole, from the federal perspective and the state perspective, I think we’ve done a good job.”
Taylor has praised Principal Chief Michell Hicks for submitting his bi-weekly report to The Cherokee One Feather which often outlines his travel and the reasons therefore.
Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy requested that a full audit be done on travel, “I think some of it is borderline criminal and downright illegal. I have the power now to investigate and I’m going to do it.”
She said the Tribe is in dire need of a Code of Ethics for all of its elected officials. “Let’s put the honor back in Tribal government that used to be there.”
Big Cove Perry Shell, who brought up the idea of a Code of Ethics in a previous term, supported Rep. McCoy’s idea and commented, “We all have an obligation to our people to be good stewards of our finances.”
But, he did not support the legislation as he felt the transparency was already there, and he was concerned over who would determine what travel was necessary and what travel was not. “I don’t travel much. I don’t travel much at all, but I do think that sometimes it is necessary.”
While Taylor’s resolution was killed, she did also submit a Travel Ordinance that was deemed read and tabled for a future session.