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The Cherokee Observer obtained a copy of this  August 1995 letter from Wilma Mankiller with her explanation to the Tribal Council of separation pay given to employees who resigned when Joe Byrd became Chief.

To:  1995-1999 Tribal Council
From:   Wilma Mankiller
Re:  Separation Pay
Date:   August 12, 1995
 
               In my earlier memorandum to you, I indicated that 8 senior level employees had resigned.  Don Vaughn and George Long later rescinded their resignation.  I telephoned Jiggs Phillips to ask him to speak with Don Vaughn and George Long to request they stay with the Cherokee Nation.  I also asked Pat Ragsdale, Greg Pitcher and Troy Poteete to speak with them.
 
In the end, six senior employees resigned, five of whom were regular career employees of the Cherokee Nation and the 6th, Lee Fleming, was a political appointee.
 
(1)  Gwen Grayson (1977-1995), non-Indian married to a full blood; last position, Executive Director, Community Development
 
(2)  Lynn Howard (1983-1995), non-Indian, son Marsh is a Cherokee voter; last position, Director of Communications
 
(3)  Lee Fleming, Registrar (1982-1995), Cherokee
 
(4)  Pam Iron (1989-1995), Cherokee, Executive Director of Health Services
 
(5)  Alan Harder (1988-1995), Cherokee, Executive Director of Human Resources
 
(6)  Rhonda Clemons (1992-1995), Cherokee, Director of Economic Development.
 
               All of the above employees resigned because they felt they would be terminated, an assessment that I agree with.
Right after the run-off election a representative from the Byrd transition team indicated to the senior staff that all executive level personnel would be asked to submit their resignations and Mr. Byrd would decide who would stay and who would go.  They have now backtracked and say their statements were misinterpreted.
 
In addition to the statement above, there is significant documentation of Mr. Byrd's intent to replace some of the above individuals including recorded comments at public meetings and widely distributed newspaper interviews.
See in particular the Tulsa World article dated Sunday, August 6, 1995.
 
Separation [sic] pay for all six of the above employees was justified. They all receive 9 pay periods of separation pay.
 
There is ample precedent for separation payments.  Just to name a few who were given separation pay - Bob Carlile, Scott Gregory, Jewell Morris, Jim Wilson and Bill Murphy and on and on and on.  Of the senior staff receiving separation pay the only "change in administration" resignation involving separation pay is that of Dora Mae Watie's resignation in August, 1987.  1 authorized separation pay for Ms. Watie from early August, 1987 to December, 1977.
That is roughly comparable to the current "change in administration" resignations.
 
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION FROM PERSONNEL FILES AND SHOULD NOT BE SHARED WITH ANYONE.
 

         August 1, 1995
 
         Resignation of Tommy Thompson President and Chief Executive
         Officer - Bingo Outpost
 
         Tommy Thompson, CPA, offered to resign from his position as
         primary oversight person for the Bingo Outpost operation.
         It was the opinion of the two Council representatives to the
         Board that the Byrd people did not want Mr. Thompson to
         remain on the Board.  Earlier, Garland Eagle, Deputy Chief
         elect, approached Chairman Pitcher and asked when Tommy
         Thompson was leaving.  They described Tommy Thompson as a
         "lightening rod" for criticism.  The resignation then was
         more like a mutually agreed upon termination than a straight
         resignation.
 
         Tommy Thompson's contract called for a year's severance pay
         which the Board agreed to honor.
 
         Mr. Thompson conceptualized the Bingo Outpost projects,
         oversaw the actual construction of the facilities, put
         together the financing, staffing and management systems and
         oversaw the administration of the Outpost facilities.  The
         operations are highly competitive and profitable.
 
         In addition to the Bingo Outpost Board of Directors, the
         Outpost is monitored by the Cherokee Nation Gaming
         Commission which is composed of Larry Adair, Martha Vaughn
         and Bill Langley, all members of the cherokee Nation.  They
         are, in turn, monitored by the National Indian Gaming
         Commission.
 
         A copy of the latest financial report is attached.

         Monday, August 7, 1995
 
         Resignations of Rick Smith,  Bingo Outpost General Manager
         Greg  Stice,  Neva White and Cindy  Bunn,  Assistant Managers
 
         After the August 1st resignation of Tommy Thompson, Chairman
         Pitcher spoke with Joe Byrd about Tommy Thompson's
         resignation.  Mr. Byrd indicated that he definitely did not
         want Mr. Smith to remain employed with the Outpost.
 
         About 10% of the employees of the Roland Bingo Outpost
         facility are close relatives of Mr. Byrd.  They made it
         quite clear that Mr. Smith would be replaced.
 
         On the recommendation of the outgoing President of Bingo
         Outpost, Tommy Thompson, it was decided that Mr. Smith would
         receive seven month's separation pay and would remain with
          the Outpost until Monday, August 14, 1995 when Chief
         Mankiller's term expired.
 
         The Board agreed to provide separation packages for three
         senior members of the Thompson/Smith Management team - Neva
         White, Greg Stice and Cindy Bunn if they chose termination
         as well.
 
         Tuesday, August 9, 1995
 
         Mr. Cantrell  Bingo Outpost Administrator's Actions
 
         On the morning of August 9th, Mr. Cantrell met with a
         representative of Joe Byrd.  Shortly thereafter, Mr.
         Cantrell called the security offices in all three Outpost
         operations, informed them that Rick Smith, General Manager,
         had resigned and told them he was not to be allowed on the
         property of any Bingo Outpost operation.  When questioned
         about which authority he was citing to make this demand, he
         replied that he "read it in the Muskogee Phoenix."  (In a
         subsequent newspaper interview, Joe Byrd admitted giving Mr.
         Cantrell orders.)
 
         Tommy Thompson submitted necessary paperwork to process
         separation pay for Rick Smith and the other three employees
         to the Bingo Outpost Corporate Human Resources office.
 
         Beginning of Joe Byrd's Direct Interference
 
         Though Joe Byrd was not on the Bingo Outpost Board and was
         not sworn in yet, when he was informed that the paperwork
         was being submitted to process the terminations and
         separation pay Mr. Byrd called Greg Pitcher and asked him to
         stop payment of the separation payments.
 
         Meanwhile, Tommy Thompson called Chairman Greg Pitcher and
         informed him of the Mr. Cantrell's directive to lock out
         Rick Smith if he tried to enter the Outpost Halls.  Greg
         called Mr. Cantrell and asked him to retract the order to
         lock out Rick Smith.
 
         Mr. Cantrell, at the request of Joe Byrd, ordered the locks
         changed on the Corporate offices as well.  Mr. Cantrell did
         not issue keys to staff who previously possessed keys.  Only
         Mr. Cantrell knows who has the keys.
 
         They then locked the Corporate Office and closed it for the
         day.  According to a staff member, Mr. Cantrell told all the
         staff who had the capability of running the computer that if
         they feared for their lives they could leave and not come
         back today.
 
         Thursday, August 10, 1995
 
         Joe Byrd's Increased Interference
 
         I returned a call from Jim Wilcoxen on the morning of
         Thursday, August 10th.   In the course of the conversation
         he mentioned that he had spoken with Greg Pitcher about the
         Bingo Outpost.  Greg Pitcher indicated there was some
         concern about the security of the Bingo halls this week-end.
         Wilcoxen then apparently called up Coopers & Lybrand to ask
         if they could monitor all three halls over the week-end.
         Coopers & Lybrand informed him that it would cost a great
         deal to monitor the halls all week-end.  At no time did Mr.
         Wilcoxen mention any problem or concern with the employees
         receiving separation pay.
 
              I told Mr. Wilcoxen that I thought he should have
         discussed this idea with the Bingo Outpost Board before
         asking the auditors to monitor the Outpost operations over
         the week-end.  I also told him I thought it was a bad idea
         to announce to the employees that they would be monitored
         all week-end by Coopers & Lybrand.
 
              The Wilcoxen concern seemed to be related to having
         Rick Smith and Tommy Thompson working through the week-end.
         I thought the concern could be addressed another way.  I
         proposed that Rick Smith and the other terminated employees
         clear their desks and be out by August 10, 1995 at 5:00 and
         that former Outpost employee and internal auditor Jody Reece
         be appointed to head up the Bingo Outpost operation until
         other management arrangements are made by the Byrd people.
 
              Since Outpost employees have to be licensed by the
         Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission, and Jody Reece was a
         former employee, he appeared to be the most logical choice.
 
         Agreement with Joe Byrd
 
              I then spoke with Greg Pitcher about this plan.  He
         said he needed to speak with Joe Byrd.  Mr. Byrd did not
         take charge until Monday at noon but I agreed to wait for
         Mr. Pitcher to speak with Byrd and call me back.  At first
         Byrd apparently wanted to get Buddy Holt's concurrence then
         finally agreed to Jody Reece's appointment.
 
              Chairman Pitcher called back and said Byrd explained
         that some of his supporters thought Rick Smith and Tommy
         Thompson would jam up the computers, haul off money and
         disrupt the Bingo Outpost operation over the week-end.  Why
         Byrd thought Rick Smith, the General Manager and Tommy
         Thompson, the President, an employee with a relationship to
         the Cherokee Nation dating back to Bill Keeler would jam up
         the computers is a mystery to me.
 
              I drafted a notice for Greg Pitcher to send to all
         three Outpost operations notifying them of the departure of
         the four employees and the assignment of Jody Reece to
         oversee operations.
 
              I then called Tommy Thompson and told him to inform
         Rick Smith and the other three terminated employees that
         they should leave their posts at 5:00 P.M. on August 10,
         1995 and that they would be paid their separation and
         vacation pay immediately.
 
              It was all set for a smooth transition that everybody
         agreed to.
 
         Deputy Chief Ketcher's efforts
 
              Tommy Thompson called Chairman Pitcher and informed him
         that Deputy Chief John Ketcher would be bringing check
         requests for the terminated employees.  He asked Chairman
         Pitcher to ask Mr. Cantrell to respect Deputy Chief John
         Ketcher and process the checks.
 
              Deputy Chief John Ketcher then took the employee action
         notices and the Board resolution to Stilwell to the Bingo
         Outpost Corporate offices with the intent of picking up the
         checks for the terminated employees.  He was told there was
         no one there to process the checks.  They had suddenly
         become unavailable.
 
              Mr. Ketcher waited for an hour and a half for someone
         to become available so the checks could be processed.  No
         effort was made by Mr. Cantrell or other staff to locate
         someone to process the checks.  Even after Mr. Ketcher left
         the corporate office at 2:00 P.M. no effort was made by
         staff to follow the directive of the Outpost Board.
 
              By now I was exhausted with trying to deal with Byrd's
         interference and get the employees paid and on their way.
         Chairman Pitcher at my request then negotiated an agreement
         with Mr. Byrd that stipulated the terminated staff would
         leave at 5:00 P.M. Thursday, August 10, 1995 in exchange for
         being paid their severance pay.  This agreement was made at
         3:00 P.M.  We gave the employees very little notice by
         asking them to leave by 5:00 P.M.
 
           Reneging of the Joe Byrd Agreement
 
              Shortly after 5:00 P.M. Jody Reece received a call from
         Joe Byrd who apparently had a stunning reversal of opinion.
         He instructed Jody Reece not to pay the employees their
         severance and described their departure as a "walk out"
         rather than an agreed upon time of departure.  He said this
         was based on advice from Jim Wilcoxen but did not elaborate.
 
              Right after his call from Mr. Byrd, I spoke with Jody
         Reece by telephone.  He asked for advice.  He was in a tough
          spot.  The soon to be Chief, Joe Byrd, had asked him to
         disobey a directive from the current Chief.  I told him that
         we had a Bingo Outpost Board Resolution approving the
         termination and separation pay for of Rick Smith and the
         other three employees and until that changed he should
         proceed.
 
              Jody Reece then asked if John Ketcher and I could meet
         him at the Bingo Outpost to sign the severance checks at
         7:30 P.M.  Jody then called Mr. Cantrell at 4:50 P.M. and
         asked him to wait at the Corporate office.  He told him he
         would be there at 5:30 P.M.   Mr. Reece's request was
         ignored.  All employees were gone at 5:10 P.M.  When Jody
         arrived at the Corporate office, it was locked.   Jody Reece
         made repeated calls to Mr. Cantrell's house and was told
         that Mr. Cantrell was not available.
 
              For the second time in one day, the Deputy Chief had
         been to Stilwell trying to complete the termination
         paperwork and separation payments to four employees.  In
         essence he and our internal auditor, Jody Reece, were locked
         out of the Bingo Outpost corporate offices under Joe Byrd's
         orders.
 
              Joe Byrd has travelled with body guards for the past
         few weeks.  One of his "guards" was posted at the Bingo
         Outpost Corporate offices at about 7:30 P.M.  As Brenda
         Thompson, Tommy Thompson's wife, left their CPA office,
         which is just down the street from the Bingo Outpost
         Corporate office, the goon in the truck sped around the
         corner and blocked the alley, momentarily blocking her way
         out of their parking lot.  He then pulled past the drive and
         sat there in the alley for a while.  He later resumed his
         position in front of Thompson's office watching both the
         front and side door.  Tommy Thompson called the police.  The
         man identified himself as Raymond Mayes and said he was
         instructed by "Chief Joe Byrd" to guard the Bingo Outpost
         Corporate offices.  As it turned out he was "guarding" Tommy
         Thompson's CPA office instead of the Corporate office.  He
         later moved up by the Corporate offices and about 1:30 A.M.
         he was joined by Deputy Chief elect Garland Eagle and a
         local man named Tiny Fourkiller.
 
              Tommy Thompson remained in his office working on tax
         extensions for various clients.  At about 1:30 A.M. as he
         prepared to leave his office he noted that Mr. Hayes had
         been joined by Deputy Chief elect Garland Eagle and a local
         man named Tiny Fourkiller.
 
              When Tommy informed me of the above events, I then
         called Greg Pitcher and asked him to get Joe Byrd to stop
         all this.
 
              August 11, 1995

                       Deputy Chief John Ketcher and I went to BancFirst in
         Tahlequah and made the appropriate arrangements so the
         employees could be paid.
 
              August 11, 1995
 
              The Cherokee Nation employees who received severance
         pay received messages from Jim Wilcoxen indicating that they
         should return their separation pay checks.  By the time they
         received notice, all six former Cherokee Nation employees
         had cashed their separation checks and the Bingo Outpost
         employees had been paid by Cashier's check.
 


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