"The Only Independent Cherokee Newspaper"
"The Original On-line Independent Cherokee Newspaper"
Copyright 1992-2002 All Worldwide Rights Reserved
 The Cherokee Observer, Inc.
 http://www.cherokeeobserver.org
 

The Cherokee Observer obtained copies of these interview reports

INTERVIEWS - Investigative Reports

Byrd Administration investigating Mankiller Administration?



             Report of Interview, 11/9/95 at Muskogee
 
             Dennis Springwater
             Indian Services Officer
             BIA - Muskogee, OK
 
                  Mr. Springwater advised that the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
             operates under a compact of self - Governance between the Cherokee
             Nation of Oklahoma and the United States of America.  Due to this
             compact of Self - Governance, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has no
             authority to approve severance pay for employees of the Cherokee
             Nation of Oklahoma.  Such approval must be obtained through the
             Department of Interior of the United States Of America.
 
                  Copies of the  following documents were provided by Mr.
             Springwater:
 
                     1.    Compact of Self - Governance Between The Cherokee
                           Nation of Oklahoma and The United States of America
                     2.    F. Y. 1991 Annual Funding Agreement Attachment 1 to
                           Compact of self-Governance between the Cherokee
                           Nation of Oklahoma and the United States
                     3.    F. V. 1992 Annual Funding Agreement Attachment 2 To
                           compact of self - Governance between The Cherokee
                           Nation of Oklahoma And the United States F. Y. 1993
                           Annual  Funding  Agreement  Attachment  3 - To  The
                           compact of Self - Governance Between The Cherokee
                           Nation And The United States
                     4.    F. Y. 1994 Annual Funding Agreement Attachment To
                           The  Compact Of  Self  -  Governance  Between The
                           Cherokee Nation And The United States
                     5.    F. Y. Annual Funding Agreement Atbachnant To The
                           compact Of Self-Governance Between The Cherokee
                           Nation And The United States
                     6.    F. Y. Annual Funding Agreement Attachment To The
                           Compact Of Self-Governance Between The Cherokee
                           Nation And The United States



 
             Report of interview, 11/9/95 in Tahlequah
 
             George Long
             Deputy Executive Director, Tribal operations
             Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, OK
 
                  Mr. Long stated that he as well as Mark Downing and Don Vaughn
             were  designated  as  points  of  contact  for  the  Mankiller
             administration during the transition period of Tribal Chiefs.  The
             incoming adininistration designated Joe Jones, Gena Blackfox and
             Bill Collins as points of contact.
 
                  Joe Jones indicated to him and others that Chief Byrd was not
             demanding a resignation from anyone but felt that it was proper for
             executive level employees to offer resignation and mentioned a date
             of October 1, 1995.  By that date Chief Byrd would have made a
             choice for the positions.  Mr. Jones did not indicate that anyone
             had been selected to fill any positions or to be relieved from any
             positions.  Mr. Jones also said that perhaps, if another person was
             brought in to a position tje present employee might he reassigned.
 
                  To his knowledge,  there was no meeting held by outgoing
             administration employees regarding severance pay but there was a
             lot of individual talk about severance pay.  Mr. Long is under the
             impression that two employees,  Gweyn Grayson and Lynn Howard
             initially approached Chief Mankiller asking for severance pay.
             Later other individuals got word of a severance offer and also
             approached Chief Mankiller.  In his opinion there was no intent; by
             Chief Mankiller or others to disrupt the tribal government or the
             transition.   Chief Mankiller didn't assist in the transition
             herself but she did speak to Mr. Long and wanted him to stay for
             the sake of continuity.
 
                  A letter from Jim Wilcoxen was received at the Cherokee Nation
             advising that until the legality of severance pay issue was
             reviewed, no checks should be issued.  By the time the letter was
             received the checks had been cut but some had not been picked up by
             the recipients.   He and Don Vaughn took the letter to Chief
             Mankiller who stated that she chose not to follow'the legal advice.
             She told them to release any checks which had not been picked up.
 
                  He and DeWayne Couch agreed that a copy of the Wilcoxen
             letter should he forwarded to the severance pay recipients so they
             did so with a cover letter.
 
                  Mr. Long was requested to provide a  breakdown of severance
             pay checks to establish what components made up the total.  He was
             also requested to provide the basis for the severance arnount in
             each instance.
 
          

             Report of Interview 11/21/95 at Tahlequah
 
             James Colbert Starr
             Finance Director
             Bingo Outpost
 
                  Mr. Starr has worked for the Bingo outpost in corporate
             headquarters since March 1993.  He started as a senior accountant
             and has been in the finance department ever since.  He will soon be
             transferring to the West Siloam  Bingo Hall as a Director of
             Personnel
 
                  At the present tine the outpost is being audited by Deloitte
             and Touche of  Tulsa, Oklahoma. They have been auditing the outpost
             since September 1995.  Mr. Starr hasn't seen any of the results as
             of yet.  It is his understanding that the auditors have done a
             price analysis on purchases.
 
                  Mr. Starr said that he heard from Arvil Wolfe, the purchasing
             agent at the Roland Bingo Hall, that Rick Smith told him not to buy
             from anyone except Cysco of Oklahoma.  David Cottner, a manager
             with Cysco,  told Mr.  Starr that  the outpost didn't receive
             discounts from Cycso since they didn't request then.   If the
             Outpost had requested the discounts the Cysco prices wou1d have
             been better.  Cottner is a friend of Rick Smith's and was promoted
             from salesman to a managment position after his arrangement with
             Bingo outpost.  The Outpost used to purchase from Cysco of Arkansas
             but that changed about the same time that Catoosa Bingo Hall
             opened.
 
                  The Outpost received discount checks from Cysco of Arkansas
             but not from Cysco of Oklahoma until after Mr. Starr called Arvil
             Wolfe and Roland asking about discount checks.   Steve Drake at
             Roland and someone at Vstoosa possobly, Cliff Wofford, were also
             called by Starr concerning discount checks.  After those telephone
             calls some discount checks showed up on cash activity reports from
             the two Bingo Halls that were then Open.  The discounts continued
             but Mr. Starr has no way of knowing if they were enough.
 
                  The possibility of rebates came to Starr's attention because
             he and another accountant, Karen Brooks, noticed that they weren't
             making money on the concessions. Her husband worked in a grocery
             store  and knew that the  food  suppliers should be providing
             discounts.
 
                  Mr. Starr explained that there was no way for the headquarters
             accountants to audit the figures subinitted by the individual Bingo
             Halls.  It would have been easy tor personnel at the Halls to alter
             their financial reports which were submitted.  Tommy Thompson and
             Rick Smith didn't appear to want the headquarters accountants in
             the Halls.   There was no cross-training or intercourse between
             financial people in the Bingo Halls and the corporate headquarters.
             The  reports  submitted  by  the  Bingo  Hallsls  included  figures
             pertaining to concession sales, bingo sales, and smoke shop sales.
 
                  Although Tommy Thompson had told Mr. Starr that the cash
             registers at the Bingo Halls could not be manipulated, Starr heard
             from someone that they could.  The Individual who told them this
             may have been Brenda Fields.  She managed the west Siloam Hall and
             it never made a profit until after she was terminated.   She
             received six months severance pay at the time.  She had supposably
             been sleeping with Rick Smith.

 
                  George Hummingbird the current manager at the Catoosa Hall has
             said that he was told by some employee that this employee had seen
             a Cysco check payable to Rick Smith.
 
                  In Mr. Starr's opinion the Bingo Halls purchased way to many
             supplies.   Arvil Wolfe was the purchasing agent at Roland but
             wasn't allowed to make purchases; he was just an order processor.
             Neva White did the purchasing at Roland and she or Rick Smith
             approved all the Roland purchases.
 
                  Wolfe told Mr. Starr that all the freezers were full but they
             continued to order.  Wolfe could have gotten a better deal on paper
             products and maintenance supplies but was not allowed to do this.
 
                  At Catoosa, Rick Smith signed most purchase orders but Gregg
             Stice was allowed to sign some.
 
                  Joyce Choate at Siloam has said that they were paying to much
             for supplies.
 
                  Regarding travel expenses, Mr. Starr stated that Rick Smith
             received travel pay for mileage at 28 cents per mile and at the
             same time he was making purchases at convenience stores for about
             $30.00 in merchandise which he was claiming as meal expenses.  He
             would stay in Catoosa, Siloam or Roland for several days at a time
             and would receive payment for his motel expenses based on receipts
             which he submitted.  On occasions he was actually at the motels
             because when someone needed him he could be reached.  At other
             times he could not be located.
 
                  Reqarding out of pocket expenses,  Mr. Starr stated that these
             were paid to Tommy Thompson with out any documentation.  They also
             paid him for two cellular phone services at the same time.
 
                  Tommy Thompson  gave Rick  Smith quarterly bonuses  which
             amounted to thousands of dollars over a years period of time.  Mr.
             Starr does not believe those bonuses were authorized.
 
                  Between October 1, 1994 and October 1, 1995 the bingo outpost
             spent over $60,000 on t-shirts which were printed at Sequoya Screen
             Printer in Sallisaw Oklahoma where Rick Smith's wife was the
             manager.  Joe Cox was the owner   The outpost couldn't sell the
             shirts and gave many of them away.  They still have about $10,000
             worth of the shirts in stock at tha Siloam Hall.
 
 
                  The figures at the Siloam Hall didn't make since because they
             were not reporting enough revenue for the attendance.  This was
             occurring while Fields was the manager.   Sometime after being
             terminated she telephone Buddy Holt and wanted to meet with him to
             talk about it but he did not meet her.   Holt worked at the Roland
             Halll.
 
                   Mr. Starr stated that there was never an internal auditor
             hired by Tommy Thompson although he was authorized such a position
             since before 1994.   Thompson would not offer enough salary for
             anyone to take the job.
 
          



 
             Report of Interview 11/6/95 at Stilwell, Oklahoma
 
             Vickie Crook
             Executive Director
             Stilwell Housing Authority
             8Ol N. 4th Street
 
                  Mrs. Crook stated she was the Administrative Assistant to
             Tommy Thompson at Bingo Outpost from August 1993 until July 1, 1994
             when she resigned.  Her duties were to work directly for Tommy
             Thompson as liaison to the Bingo Board and Tribal council members.
             She made sure that Bingo Outpost followed the Federal regulations
             and handled matters  that  came up with  the  Bingo  Board of
             Commissioners as well as kept the commissioners apprised of what
             the outpost could and could not do regarding compliance with gaming
             regulations.
 
                  She resigned due to the treatment of employees by Tommy
             Thompson,  Rick Smith,  and Elizabeth Burmingham [AKA Mary Harris].
             There     were
             numerous employee problems. In her opinion, Burmingham and Thompson
             had some type of an agenda to which no one else was privy.  This
             agenda benefitted Burmingham, Thompson and Rick Smith.  No one was
             allowed to do their job or make improvements and changes due to the
             total control of Bingo outpost by Tommy Thompson.  Burmingham was
             Thompson's  righthand  employee,  her  title  was  Director  of
             Administration.
 
                  Mrs. Crook recalls that Thompson told the employees not to
             talk about anything pertaining to the Bingo operation.  He didn't
             want it revealed were the money was going, were it was being spent
             or what the accounting practices were going on behind the scenes.
 
                  All Outpost funds ware manipulated to the benefit of Thompson,
             Rick Smith,  Elizabeth Burmingham,  George  Bearpaw,  and Wilma
             Mankiller.  Mrs. Crook stated she has no direct knowledge as to
             what exactly what was going on but could tell something was wrong.
             Burmingham let it me known that she was covering Tommy Thompson and
             she could get whatever she wanted from Thompson.
 
                  Thompson, Rick smith, and Burmingham all received numerous
             extra checks from outpost funds for various reasons.  Thompson was
             an accountant and smart enough to manipulate the books to cover
             their activities.
 
                  Jody Reece was Director of Finance until about May 1994 when
             he quit and went back to work at the Cherokee Nation as an auditor.
             He had numerous arguments with Thompson.
 
                  Charlie Locust was in charge of physical plants and knows
             alot.  He quit the Outpost headquarters and is now Director of
             Operations at the Siloam Springs in Catoosa Bingo Halls.
 
                  Tim Thompson took over as Director of Finance when Jody Reece
             resigned.  Tim Thompson was there for only a short period of time.
 
                  James Starr took over as Director of Finance and apparently
             knows about alot of things that took place at the Corporate
             headquarters.
 
                  Deanna Panter has some type of a vendetta against Gerald
             Cantrell as does Todd Davis, Director of Marketing and James Starr.
             For that reason she does not know how coopertive they will be.
 
                  Susie Scott may have caused Karen Brooks to transfer to the
             Roland Bingo Hail.  Brooks was in charge of payroll.  Brooks is a
             very sharp and ethical individual
 
                  Mrs. Crook stated that while employed for Bingo Outpost she
             was forbidden to go to the Commissioners with information and she
             got in trouble with Tommy Thompson when she spoke to George Bearpaw
             about the fight which took place between Susan Swafford and
             Elizabeth  Burmingham.    Susan  Swafford  worked  for  Elizabeth
             Burminghan in Personnel as a clerk before she resigned.  She now
             works at the Cherokee Nation offices, South of the Adair County
             courthouse.
 
   

 
            Report of Interview October 30, 1995
 

 
            Gerald D. Cantrell
            Director of Administration
            Bingo Outpost, Stiliwell, OK
 
                In late July in 1995 Mr. Cantrell heard a rumor that Tommy
            Thompson had resigned not as just has resigned from the Bingo
            Outpost.  During this time frame Thompson was making request from
            Tim Thompson,  Director of Finance for the Bingo outpost,  for
            information regarding Bingo Outpost finances.  Tim Thompson would
            take Bingo Outpost files to Tommy Thompson's office until Thursday
            prior to the transition in power of the Cherokee Nation.
 
                About August 4, 1995 Tommy Thompson called a meeting of the
            Directors of Bingo Outpost and announced he had resigned his
            position as President and Chief Executive officer of Bingo Outpost
            as of two days prior to the meeting.  He stated he was retaining
            his seat on the Board of Directors and he would be around until the
            transition to kick everyones ass because he had worked hard to get
            the Outpost to where it was.  He told everyone how well he and
            Chief Mankiller had done with the Outpost as a tribe.  He then left
            the Bingo Outpost Corporate headquarters and did not designate
            anyone to be in charge.
 
                During the week prior to the inauguration of Chief Joe Byrd,
            Mr. Cantrell saw a letter of some kind reflecting severance pay and
            a quarterly bonus going to Tommy Thompson.  Later he saw a written
            request by Thompson for an additional quarterly bonus throuqh the
            month of September and an expense payntent request.  Mr. Cantrell
            then talks with Tin Thompson and told him that Tommy Thompson was
            asking him to do things he sliouldn't do .  Tim Thompson then left
            town and was unavailable to satisfy the request of Tommy Thompson
            for additional bonus and expenses.  Mr. Cantrell later received a
            call from Tommy Thompson requesting the additional severance pay
            and quarterly bonus check to be issued. Mr. Cantrell informed them
            he was not in the position to make such a request.  After that
            conversation with Tommy Thompson~ Thompson's wife came to the Bingo
            Outpost with a request for $11,000 but she was not allowed into the
            building by Mr. Cantrell.   She left and then called Mr. Cantrell
            and said she had been there and then chewed him out.  Cantrell told
            her that he would not act on the request but that if she brought it
            back to the Outpost then he would accept it.
 
                He then received another call from Tommy Thompson telling him
            that this request was legal.  Cantrell told him to wait until after
            the transition.   Thompson than advised him that the request
            represented a board approved action.
 
                 Greg Pitcher,  Chairman of- the Board of Directors Bingo
            Outpost, then called Mr. Cantrell and told him the request was
            legal and had been approved by the Board.  And that Chief Elect Joe
            Byrd had asked Pitcher to stay on during the transition.  Pitcher
            told Mr.  Cantrell that John Ketcher was on his way to the
            corporation headquarters to provide the request which had been
            signed by the board members.  Pitcher advised Mr. Cantrell to act
            on the request.  Ketcher arrived at Bingo headquarters with the
            request for severance pay for all the employees that had been
            authorized by the Board of Directors.   Mr. Cantrell informed
            Ketcher there was no one available who could write the checks.
            Ketcher told Mr. Cantrell he would come back at 4 p.m.
 
                Mr.  Cantrell then put all the employees in the finance
            department on a administrative leave.  He received another call
            from Greg Pitcher telling him they would bring the Marshals with
            them the next time they arrived.   At 4 p.m. Ketcher cane back and
            Mr. Cantrell told Ketcher that all the finance people were out.
            Ketcher then told Cantrell that when he got the checks cut to bring
            them to his office.
 
                Mr. Cantrell then called Joe Byrd who returned his call about
            5 p.m. and Mr. Cantrell briefed Chief Elect Byrd.  Chief Byrd then
            asked Cantrell to lock up headquarters for the good of the Cherokee
            Nation.  Mr. Cantrell closed down corporation headquarters.
 
                     During the ongoing dispute regarding the severance checks
            Mr. Cantrell heard from someone in the security department that
            Rick Smith was removing files from the Catoosa outpost in trash
            bags.  On that same day Mr. Cantrell faxed a memo, on his own, that
            particular named individuals had resigned from the outpost and were
            no longer allowed in the facilities.  Mr. Cantrell also heard from
            the Catoosa Outpost that Greg Stice, the Manager, was deleting
            information from the computer hard drive.  He also heard that Rick
            Smith has sold some gaming equipment.
 
                These rumors are the reason that Mr. Cantrell decided to close
            the Bingo halls as well as the corporate headquarters.  This was on
            Thursday before inauguration and the facilities remained closed on
            Friday.
 
                That Thursday night Chief Mankiller, Tommy Thompson and some
            computer people from Cherokee Nation broke into the Bingo Corporate
            headquarters.  The next day he found that his files had been gone
            through and his desk had been entered.
 
                On the following Priday Chief Mankiller and John Ketcher went
            to BankFirst in Tahlequah and had money wired from the Bingo
            Outpost trust account to the Cherokee Nation payroll account.  The
            severance pay checks were then issued from Bankfirst on counter
            checks.  Had these checks been properly issued they would have been
            drawn on tile Outpost payroll account and not the Cherokee payroll
            account.
 
          - Mr. Cantrell stated that he has never received minutes from
            the Bingo Board of  Directors meetings for August 1st and August 8th.
 



Report of Interview 11/14/95 at Tahlequah
        
WP (Pat) Ragsdale
Director, Marshal Service
Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, OK
 
                  Mr. Ragsdale stated that he hold his current position during
             the Mankiller Administration.  shortly after the tribal election
             on July 29, 1995 and prior to the appointment of transition teams
             there was a staff meeting regarding the upcoming transition.  Chief
             Mankiller was not present at this meeting.   It appeared to Mr.
             RagsdaIe that several individuals in the meeting believed their
             jobs to be in jeopardy under the new administration.  A transition
             team consisting of George Long, Mark Downing and Don Vaughan was
             appointed at the meeting
 
                  Later that day there was a meeting between the transition
             teams.  After that meeting Mr. Ragsdale was told by Mark Downing-
             the new administration transition team had requested that the
             executive staff be informed that it was expected that the executive
             level staff members submit their resignation so that Chief Byrd
             could act on them individually.  It was Mr. Ragsdale's perception
             that the resignations would be considered over a period of time and
             it would be decided what employees would be retained.     Mr.
             Ragsdale told Downing that he would not resign until requested to
             do so by the new Chief.
 
                  There were two or three more staff meetings regarding the
             upcoming  transition.    Chief  Mankiller  did  not  attend  these
             meetings.   During one of there meetings Mr. Ragsdale heard some of
             the executives indicate they were wavering about remaining with the
             Nation.    Mr. Ragsdale advised them against resigning.  Soneone
             mentioned that they might receive better benefits if they left
             prior to being forced out.  Mr. Ragsdale continued to encourage
             them against leaving and told them there was a merit system of
             employment.
 
                  On Monday prior to inauguration, Ragsdale learned that several
             executives had resigned and sone were contemplating resigning.
             Those individuals included Pam Iron, Gwen Grayson, Lynn Howard,
             Rhonda Clemmons, Allan Harder and Lee Fleming.  He advised George
             Long and Don Vaughan against leaving.   Ragsdale was under the
             impression that  those  resigning were  receiving  some  type of
             severance pay but was not aware of details.  He doesn't know how
             the severance pay idea was originated.   He never heard Chief
             Mankiller say anything about severance pay.  There was no attempt
             to disrupt the new administration or the transition.  He felt the
             transition problems arose because the New Chief and old chief
             didn't get together.
 
                  Mr.  Ragsdale  doesn't  recall  a  conversation  wIth  Chief
             Mankiller concerning Diane Kelley
 
             

 
 
CLICK MAILBOX TO EMAIL
THE CHEROKEE OBSERVER