Joe Bunch

Joe Bunch

After a 6-1/2 hour hearing, United Keetoowah Band Chief Joe Bunch was not removed from office, but he will receive a censure, or “reprimand.”

The United Keetoowah Band Tribal Council held the special meeting at the Jim Proctor Elder and Nutrition Center Tuesday night to decide what should be the outcome of the Articles of Impeachment filed against Bunch.

Sequoyah District Representative Barry Dotson filed the charges on Nov. 21, 2019.

The two Articles of Impeachment, with a total of 13 counts, accused Bunch of: “misconduct, for failure to abide by the UKB Constitution and Bylaws, and violating certain sections of the Crimes & Punishment Act of 1990; and violations of the UKB Federal Corporate Charter, Corporate Act of 2015, and sections of the Crimes & Punishment Act of 1990.”

Assistant Chief Jamie Thompson led the meeting as acting chief. Also present were Bunch, his attorney, the tribe’s treasurer, secretary, and nine councilors.

The hearing began with UKB Attorney General Klint Cowan reading the rules of impeachment, and then the Articles of Impeachment.

Each side was then given the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses, and ask questions of the council. Dotson did not have evidence to present, saying he was “satisfied with the written evidence as presented,” meaning the Articles.

It was learned later, when Bunch’s attorney asked about Dotson’s lack of evidence, that Dotson said he had been handed the papers, he read them, and signed them.

“There was no way I could know if they were true,” said Dotson.

The tribal council went into “executive session” for over three hours, and returned to vote on each count.

They OKed combining counts 6 and 7 of Article 2, but Bunch’s attorney said that was a violation of due process.

The attorney had another objection after the vote on the first count. With 12 people voting, the first count had an outcome of eight for impeachment, and four for no. Thompson said it passed with a majority, but the lawyer said a two-thirds vote was needed.

“We are going by precedent set at the last impeachment,” said Thompson. “You’ll be able to argue later.”

The same was said when the attorney objected to Thompson voting.

While a few councilors varied their votes depending on the charge, some said yes – such as Treasurer Ella Mae Worley and Sharon Benoit, Goingsnake District – or no – such as Secretary Joyce Fourkiller and Jeff Wacoche, Tahlequah District – consistently to each one.

Of the 13 counts, five received enough votes for impeachment: Counts 1, 3, and 6 under Article 1; and Counts 3 and 7 under Article 2.

The remedy to the impeachment was to issue a letter of censure, but not remove Bunch from office.

Bunch has seven calendar days to appeal the counts of impeachment with the UKB Court. If overturned, the impeachment charges stricken from the record.

Check it out

To watch the United Keetoowah Band special hearing, visit the UKB Media YouTube channel.

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