Cherokee Tribal Council overrides chief's vetos

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council exercised its veto power for the first time since Chief Chad Smith took office in August 1999, overriding three of his vetoes.

The first was in connection with legislation that allows the tribal council to investigate matters within departments of the Cherokee Nation. It gives the council power to shut down any department that had employees who failed to answer subpoenas received from the tribal council during an investigation.

Under the previous administration, the council had to file lawsuits to get information from the various departments under investigation.

Smith vetoed the measure at a May 24 council meeting because he said he feared the council could shut down services of tribal agencies if an employee did not comply with requests for information or subpoenas from the tribal council.

Under Smith's administration, the Nation has begun to release information to anyone who comes to the tribal headquarters. Mike Miller, communications director, said "We have it all open for anyone to see. Anyone can come in and see how much I make."

The second June 12 override was to allow the tribe to buy 45 acres adjacent to the Hastings Indian Hospital. Smith vetoed the legislation because the tribe didn't have the $540,000 to purchase the land. "The money just isn't there," he told the council. Despite his objections, the council voted 10-4 to override the veto and purchase the land.

In the last override, the council was to be designated to receive the Cherokee Nation Housing Authority funds directly. Although the council voted to override Smith's veto of the measure, it was amended. Saying necessary changes were needed before this could happen, the council voted to have funding go to the Cherokee Nation rather than to the tribal council. The Housing Authority will be the sub-recipient and the legislation will not take effect until later this year.