The secretary-treasurer of the Seneca-Cayuga Indian Tribe announced this week that a special July 28 meeting of the general council has been called and an agenda posted that could tie the hands of the current administration.
Kay Crow Ellison informed Chief Paul Spicer of the intentions in a letter dated July 16, in which she indicates that when Spicer “refused” to call a special council meeting - as requested through a petition of more than 30 tribal members - he “made (himself) absent and second-chief Birdsong has instructed me to post the (meeting) notices.”
Spicer said Tuesday that he did receive a petition and plans to call a special meeting, but not until he can “guarantee the safety of the tribal members.”
“I want things to settle down,” Spicer said. “I will call a meeting, but it won't be anytime soon … There have been injuries at previous general council meetings.”
Spicer said injuries occurred in 2006 when tempers flared at a general council meeting.
The posting of the July 28 meeting includes 13 agenda items. Among them is a series of resolutions that will revise the tribe's election ordinance, re-seat the grievance committee, allow the Court of Indian Offenses Authority to hear election disputes, rescind Roberts Rules of Order and revise the grievance ordinance.
Additionally, the council will consider the removal of the existing grievance committee for alleged “misconduct and gross negligence of duties” and take nominations from the floor to fill vacancies.
According to the agenda, if a new grievance committee is seated, the panel will be excused to convene and discuss a grievance currently filed against Spicer.
Further items to be considered include a resolution to remove Spicer from all signature cards, all bank accounts and sever his financial signing authority on all documents of the tribe.
The agenda also calls for a vote to suspend Spicer's salary and remove him from supervisory roles.
Spicer said Monday that the planned general council meeting “will not happen.”
“A general council meeting can only be called by me or the grievance committee,” Spicer said. “They can post as many meetings as they want to, but it will be a false meeting.”
Spicer said that the second chief can call a meeting in his absence, but that “absence” is defined by death, resignation, ousting or incapacitation of the chief.
The planned meeting follows a July 5 lawsuit filed by two tribal corporations against Ellison for “interfering with the banking, employee and business relationships” of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribal Gaming Corporation and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribal Tobacco Corporation and accusing her of “acting to harm the corporations while a corporate director.”
Spicer, who serves as president of both corporations, wrote in a July 5 press release that “the corporations were incorporated by the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe to operate as for-profit businesses, rather than to be manipulated as pawns in tribal politics.”
“But, that is precisely what Kay Ellison is doing by telling the bank that she has day-to-day control over the corporation's bank accounts, cash flow and accounts payable,” Spicer said.
“As one of the corporate directors, she has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the corporations,” Spicer said. “She has instead disrupted their operations, hurt employee morale, interfered with vital business relationships, lowered revenues and put the companies in jeopardy of violating federal laws.”
The businesses were incorporated under tribal corporation laws. The tribe holds the only shares issued by the corporations. An independent accounting firm recently completed audits of both corporations, Spicer said.
Ellison, although holding a tribal office, is not a treasurer or executive with either tribal corporation, according to Spicer.
The lawsuit alleges that Ellison told the corporations' bank that she holds “ultimate authority to approve all corporate expenditures, which includes checks issued to employees and vendors, daily transfers by the tobacco corporation to pay federal cigarette taxes and employee payrolls.”
Her actions, according to the suit filed in Tulsa County, caused a short-term layoff at the tobacco company due to uncertainty as to whether Ellison had frozen the company operating funds; the inability of the gaming corporation to draw funds from its operating account with a corporate debit card; interruption of the tobacco company's tax transfers to the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and violation of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act when she, without authority from federal regulators, assumed control of gaming money.
According to documents filed Monday in Tulsa County Court in answer to allegations against Ellison and the Bank of Oklahoma, Ellison originally issued a blanket instruction to the bank to stop payment on all checks drawn on the corporation accounts without her prior review.
However, at the suggestion of the bank, Ellison agreed that all payroll checks could be paid without her approval - as could any checks that did not exceed $5,000.
The court documents also indicate that Ellison agreed to visit the bank daily to “review all checks in excess of $5,000, other than payroll checks, in time so that the bank could either pay the checks daily or she would issue a stop payment order in accordance with the account agreements.”
Additionally, the bank's legal counsel has noted that Ellison did not stop payment on any check and no corporation account checks have been returned, despite the fact that she had full authority to interrupt payment - regardless of whether or not she is a signatory of a tribal check.
The attorneys also noted that “the Gaming Corporation and the Tobacco Corporation could have changed, but did not change, the account agreements to eliminate the provisions that granted Ellison the right to stop payment on any checks drawn on the corporation accounts.”
The tribe itself has filed suit in the Federal Court of Indian Offenses to enjoin Ellison from interfering with all tribal accounts.
The request for the injunction is scheduled to be heard Friday by an administrative judge in Miami.