Cherokee Nation motions to dismiss term-limit challenge

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
03/08/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Attorney General Todd Hembree filed a motion March 1 to dismiss Cherokee Nation citizen David Cornsilk’s petition challenging Hembree’s 2016 opinion regarding four-year term limits.

Hembree states the petition should be dismissed for reasons including lack of jurisdiction and it “fails to state a claim for which the Court can grant relief.”

Cornsilk’s petition asks the District Court to overturn Hembree’s opinion and declare Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden ineligible for candidacy in the 2019 general election because they have served “two consecutive” terms after winning elections in 2011 and 2015.

Hembree’s opinion states “any candidate for elected office having served less than two consecutive, four-year terms of office is eligible to stand for re-election in the next general election.” It asserts neither Baker nor Crittenden served a full four-year term after being elected in 2011 and could run again in 2019.

Crittenden won the deputy chief’s race and was sworn in on Aug. 14, 2011, but had to assume principal chief duties until Baker was sworn in on Oct. 19, 2011, because of an appeal in his race.

Cornsilk argues that regardless of who is in the principal chief position, the term Baker won was from Aug. 14, 2011, to Aug. 14, 2015, and “the fact that he didn’t step into the office until nine weeks after it began is not pertinent to the term.” The petition also states that regardless of Crittenden stepping in while the principal chief race was decided “is not pertinent to the term” as deputy chief. As such, it argues his first term was completed from Aug. 14, 2011 to Aug. 15, 2015.

The motion to dismiss states Cornsilk’s petition “lacks jurisdiction” because the Attorney General Code does not allow the attorney general to be sued if an individual “disagrees with an opinion.” According to CN law, an attorney general’s opinion has the rule of law until overturned by a court or another attorney general’s opinion.

Cornsilk said this gives Hembree “the power to basically interpret law the same as the court.”

“What that tells me is that the Attorney General’s Office is becoming a fourth branch of government,” he said. “The only people that I get he presumes that could challenge him are maybe the Election Commission or maybe the people that ask for the opinion, but people like me, your average everyday citizen who are actually impacted by his decision, have no power to challenge him.”

According to the motion, the attorney general is shielded by sovereign immunity and Cornsilk must bear the burden of proof that the CN waived its right to be sued.

“Todd has raised the issue of sovereign immunity and that he is immune from lawsuits. I agree with that,” Cornsilk said. “Cherokee Nation officers are immune to lawsuits, but officers are only immune to lawsuits if they stay in the boundaries of their job duties. In my opinion, Todd’s opinion is overreach.”

In the motion, Cornsilk is instructed to consult Title 26, Section 37(A) or Section 37(B) of the CN Constitution to overturn Hembree’s opinion.

Title 26, Section 37(A) grants any CN citizen who is registered to vote “the right to contest the eligibility of any candidate to run for office” at a hearing with the EC, while Section 37(B) gives the right to appeal any decision concerning a candidate’s eligibility directly to the Supreme Court.

Cornsilk said the law does not allow a citizen to contest a candidate until after they have filed.

“I wanted to do it ahead of the election before any controversy so it doesn’t change our election,” he said. “If (Hembree) is successful at this, he will have set himself up as not only a maker of law, a one man council, but also will be the judge because his opinions won’t be overturned until they appear in court, and you can’t get him into court.”

According to the motion, the merits of “an actual controversy” are also missing from Cornsilk’s petition, which is a constitutional requirement to be granted a declaratory judgment. It asserts Cornsilk “fails to allege he has suffered or will suffer a particularized injury because of AG Hembree’s Opinion” and that the alleged harm “is speculative at best.”

Cornsilk said he would file a response to the motion.

“In the event that this case is dismissed on a technicality, I probably won’t have to file it again in February (2019). If the deputy and principal chief do choose to try and run for a third term, somebody will challenge it. I think that Todd, in his opinion, by raising the issue of the candidacy of chief and deputy chief, made this an issue,” he said.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment regarding this story.
About the Author
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band.  She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors.
 
While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college.  
 
She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department.
 
Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.
brittney-bennett@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band. She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors. While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college. She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department. Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.

News

BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
06/19/2018 08:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH – After waiving his Cherokee Nation rights to employee privacy, John Ross Baker publicly admitted on June 18 that he was the nurse responsible for a lapse in protocol by incorrectly administering medications and potentially exposing patients to blood borne pathogens. “I, John Baker, RN, am deeply sorry that my actions have caused such anxiety to these families. When I understood that I may not have been following proper procedures, I immediately began working with health care professionals to identify any mistakes that may have been made and cooperated in every possible way and then I resigned,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s 34-year-old son said in a written statement. “I love caring for patients and would never knowingly put anyone at risk. My late mother was a nurse and I feel as though I inherited her passion for caring for others. I believe I was called to the nursing profession and I hope to serve patients with the same concern and compassionate care as she did, and I’ve always hoped she would be proud of the man I am. She and my father always taught me to take responsibility for my actions.” According to a CN press release, Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail was informed on April 29 of a protocol lapse involving the administration of medication for surgical patients. Health Services officials said the lapse occured from January to April and involved using the same vial of medication and syringe to inject more than one IV bag, potentially exposing patients to blood borne pathogens. However, Health Services officials said patients were never directly in contact with any needle. “In all instances, medication was administered into an IV bag, or tubing. The likelihood of blood borne pathogens traveling up the lines into an IV bag or IV tubing to cause cross contamination from using the same syringe is extremely remote,” officials said. Health Services officials said all 186 patients had been contacted and that 118 had returned for testing. They also said no patients had shown any signs of exposure. In a June 11 Health Committee meeting, Hail said the CN’s medication diversion prevention program discovered the protocol lapse and reported it to Health Services in late April. Hail also told Tribal Councilors he couldn’t reveal the nurse’s name at that time because of employee privacy rights but did say the nurse was no longer employed with the tribe. Hail said the incident was also not limited to the dental department, confirming there was a “cross” into other departments and areas, including the operating room. When asked by Tribal Councilors if any disciplinary action had been taken against the nurse, Hail declined to comment, citing “employment matters.” He also told legislators that it wasn’t the Health Services’ responsibility to report any potential incidents to revoke a medical license. According to a press releasse, John Baker resigned from Hastings Hospital on May 1 and isn’t employed at the CN or its entities in any capacity. According to a June 8 screenshot of his Facebook account, he was a RN at Hastings Hospital from Sept. 25, 2017, to May 2018 and was hired on May 14 by Traditions Home Care as a registered nurse case manager. However, Traditions Home Care’s human resources department on June 19 told the Cherokee Phoenix that John Baker is not employed with the company and declined to comment further. A CN press release also states the protocol lapse incident was reported to the Oklahoma Board of Nursing. According to a readfrontier.org report, the OBN issued John Baker his registered nurse’s license on June 26, 2017, and that the licence is still active. An OBN official told the Cherokee Phoenix that she could neither confirm nor deny whether the board is conducting an investigation of the protocol lapse and that there were no public records available concerning the issue. Chief Baker also issued a written statement on June 18 regarding the situation. “I am deeply saddened by these events and my hear aches for everyone involved. As a father, it is difficult to witness my son experiencing the pain caused by his actions. His decision to pursue a career in service to others continue to fill me with pride to this day,” Chief Baker said. “John’s honesty, cooperation and acceptance of responsibility is representative of his values and the quality of man that he is. As Chief of this great nation I know that no one is exempt from the rules. Rules and procedures throughout our nation apply to everyone equally. That is most certainly the case here. I want to strongly encourage anyone who sees wrongdoing of any kind throughout our nation to know their voice will be heard and their concerns will be properly addressed. I’m grateful for the health care workers who helped identify this lapse and their continued service to the Cherokee Nation Health Services and the patients they care for.” According to a press release, Chief Baker requested that Health Services Executive Director Dr. Charles Grim lead a four-person panel to “review the events, evaluate best practices and improve medication administration procedures.” It also states the panel is to report its findings in August to Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden because Chief Baker has recused himself to ensure the review’s independence. The protocol lapse came to light after CN citizen John Wagnon, of Grove, spoke publicly about being identified as a potentially exposed patient following a dental procedure in January. Wagnon said Health Services called him on June 4 asking him to come in for blood tests, nearly five months after his procedure. Wagnon said his tests came back negative but that he would need to return in three months for more testing. <strong>Timeline</strong> <strong>Sept. 25, 2017:</strong> John Ross Baker begins a residency at W.W. Hastings Hospital as a registered nurse, according to his Facebook account on June 8. <strong>January:</strong> Health Services officials say Baker begins the lapse in protocol regarding how medication is administered to surgical patients. Officials say 186 patients are potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis C stemming from Baker’s practice of using the same vial of medication and syringe to inject more than one IV bag from January to April. <strong>April:</strong> The Cherokee Nation’s medication diversion prevention program discovers the protocol lapse and reports it to Health Services. <strong>April 29:</strong> Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail is informed of the protocol lapse. <strong>May 1:</strong> Baker resigns from Hastings Hospital. <strong>May 14:</strong> Baker is hired by Traditions Home Care as a registered nurse case manager, according to his Facebook account on June 8. <strong>June 7:</strong> The protocol lapse becomes public after a Tulsa-area television news show airs a story with Cherokee Nation citizen John Wagnon saying Hastings Hospital officials asked him to return for HIV and hepatitis C testing months after his dental surgery. <strong>June 11:</strong> Tribal Councilors of the Health Committee ask Hail questions regarding the protocol lapse. Hail cites employee privacy rules when declining to reveal the name of the nurse. <strong>June 18:</strong> Baker issues a written statement acknowleding he was the registered nurse involved in the protocol lapse and apologizes. His father, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, calls for a panel to to investigate the incident and recuses himself from the matter to ensure the review’s independence. <strong>June 19:</strong>Oklahoma Board of Nursing officials decline to confirm or deny that they are investigating the protocol lapse. Traditions Home Care officials say Baker is not employed with them and decline further comment.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/18/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH –The applications for the Cherokee Nation’s Miss Cherokee, Junior Miss Cherokee and Little Cherokee Ambassadors are now available for download. To download an application, visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/Cherokee-Ambassadors" target="_blank">http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/Cherokee-Ambassadors</a>. The deadline for all competition applications is July 16. For more information, call Lisa Trice-Turtle at 918-453-5000, ext. 4991.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/16/2018 02:00 PM
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm have deeded a plot of their land over to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe. The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic route that Ponca tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/16/2018 10:00 AM
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota's Supreme Court this week dismissed an appeal from opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying a lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear their cases. But an attorney battling the project says the "fight is not over." Groups fighting TransCanada Corp.'s pipeline appealed a judge's decision last year upholding regulators' approval for the pipeline to cross the state. But the high court said in a Wednesday ruling that justices didn't "reach the merits of the case" because the lower court didn't have jurisdiction to weigh the appeal of the Public Utilities Commission's decision. Robin Martinez, an attorney for conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action, on Thursday called the high court's decision "disappointing," but said "this fight is not over." Martinez said the organization, one of the appellants, is regrouping and evaluating its options. "That's really disappointing that the court didn't reach the merits, because the risk to South Dakota's land and water resources is clearly there," Martinez said. "It's a shame that that did not get a closer look by the court." TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an email that the pipeline developer is pleased with the court's decision. Keystone XL would cost an estimated $8 billion. The 1,179-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries. TransCanada announced in April it was meeting with landowners and starting aerial surveillance of the proposed route. The company hopes to begin construction in early 2019. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe and conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action appealed to the South Dakota high court after a judge had affirmed state regulators' approval for the pipeline. The Public Utilities Commission initially authorized TransCanada's project in 2010, but the permit had to be revisited because construction didn't start within the required four years. The panel voted in 2016 to accept TransCanada's guarantee that it would meet all conditions laid out by the commission when it first approved that state's portion of the project. Cunha said the company is working to get needed land easements for the pipeline in Nebraska. But Nebraska landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission's decision to approve a route through the state. Separately in Nebraska, a husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm this week deeded a plot of their land to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe. The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic Ponca route that tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877. "What the impact will be, I don't know," Tanderup said. "But now, they'll have a voice in this issue. They will be a player at the table." It's not clear whether deeding the land to the tribe would hinder the company or create a new legal argument for the Ponca, given their status as a federally recognized Indian tribe. Brad Jolly, an attorney for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, said he was focusing more on overturning state regulators' approval of the pipeline in a case pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court. "I haven't gotten to all the what-ifs yet," Jolly said. The Keystone pipeline also faces a potential obstacle in a federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump's decision to grant a presidential permit for the project.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/15/2018 04:00 PM
CALHOUN, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association is set for 10:30 a.m. on July 14 at the Gordon County Historical Society at 345 S. Wall St. This is part three of the chapter’s remembrance of the 180th anniversary of the Cherokee removal. “The Journey To Indian Country” will be presented by past chapter president W. Jeff Bishop. The meeting is free and open to the public. The Trail of Tears Association was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The Georgia TOTA chapter is one of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). People need not have Native American ancestry to attend GATOTA meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in this country’s history. For more information about the May GCTOTA meeting, email Walter Knapp at <a href="mailto: walt@wjkwrites.com">walt@wjkwrites.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/15/2018 08:15 AM
OOLOGAH – The Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In starts at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 11 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch. Planes will begin landing at 7:30 a.m. on a 2,000-foot grass airstrip next to the ranch located at 9501 E. 380 Road. Admission is free, and there is ample parking. The annual event celebrates aviation and marks the anniversary of Will and Wiley’s Aug. 15, 1935, deaths in Alaska due to a plane crash. A moment of remembrance will be observed at 10 a.m. honoring those who have died in small plane crashes and lapel pins will be presented especially designed in tribute to crash victims Vintage aircraft, World War I fighters, experimental planes, bi-planes, helicopters and fly-overs are all part of the event as well as food and concessions, antique and classic cars, a Cherokee storyteller and kids’ activities. Special tribute will be paid to Dr. Bill Kinsinger, who departed Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City in January on an animal rescue mission for Pilots N Paws to Georgetown, Texas, but never reached his destination. After being spotted on radar headed into the Gulf of Mexico, it was reported by searchers, “the pilot was slouched over and appeared unconscious.” Members of Dr. Kinsinger’s family will be on hand to receive a lapel pin. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.willrogers.com" target="_blank">www.willrogers.com</a> or call 918-341-0719.