Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

April 17, 2012

Phones seized at UKB meeting

TAHLEQUAH — Attendees of Saturday’s tribal council meeting of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, including tribal officials, had cell phones confiscated by Lighthorse Security before being allowed to enter council chambers.

The Daily Press received several calls from tribal members attending the meeting, who said their phones were seize by order of Chief George Wickliffe. Wickliffe also demanded there be no note-taking by anyone other than the council secretary.

Phones were returned when the meeting adjourned.

The administrator of the UKB Public Forum Facebook page said on Sunday that unofficial minutes from Saturday’s meeting should be posted on the forum within the next few days.

“We apologize for the delay, but at the start of the tribal council meeting, Secretary [Joyce] Hawk collected all elected official cell phones, and Lighthorse stopped all members of the public at the door and confiscated their cell phones,” states the site. “They also enforced no note-taking, all at the chief’s direction. Lighthorse stood over those trying to take personal notes.”

Last November, members of the media – including the Daily Press – were ousted from a tribal council meeting at the insistence of the chief, who also asked that security confiscate media members’ cameras. After reassessment of the situation, media members were allowed to keep their cameras.

According to Ken Bellmard, attorney general for the UKB, the tribe is not bound by the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.

The tribal administration has come under fire by its members for bonuses paid to tribal officials. Bellmard said any bonuses paid had been provided for in the tribe’s budget. Last July, bonuses totaling $34,000 were handed out to officials in celebration of the tribe’s earning land-into-trust status from the federal government.

During Saturday’s meeting,  UKB Tribal Councilor Barry Dotson made a motion to prevent any further bonuses being paid, but the measure failed. Those voting in favor of the measure included Dotson, Councilor Betty Holcomb, and UKB Treasurer Ella Mae Worley. When bonuses were paid last year, Dotson, Holcomb and Worley returned them to the tribe.

Members of the UKB administration would not comment on Saturday’s developments.

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