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The Cherokee Observer obtained copies of these interview reports

INTERVIEWS 2 - Investigative Reports

Byrd Administration investigating Mankiller Administration?



  
            Report of Interview of Greg Pitcher on 10-24-95 at Vinita.
 
 
                 Mr. Pitcher was contacted at the office of his wife, Pamela
            Pitcher - Hartley 244 South Scraper where he provided the following
            information.
 
                 He is in the Insurance - Real Estate business in Vinita.  He
            was a member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council from August 1991
            until the last election when he chose not to run.  He had other
            duties for the Cherokee Nation such as being Chairnan of the Board
            of Directors of Bingo Outpost Inc.   This is a Cherokeee Nation
            Corporation originally formed by Wilma Mankiller and Tommy Thompson
            for the purpose of Gaming Operations.  The stock is owned by the
            Cherokee Nation and voted 100% by the Chief of the Cherokee Nation.
            The corporation was originally funded through a Federal loan which
            was paid back the Cherokee Nation Trust Authority and earmarketed
            for economic development.  This loan which was used to open the
            Roland, Oklahoma operation is now paid off.  Bingo Operations at
            Silom Springs and Catoosa, Oklahoma were financed through loans
            obtained on the commerecial market and have not yet been repaid:
 
                 Most profits from the operations are being used for debt
        -   service in order to repay the loans as soon as possible.   Some
            profits have been declared as dividends to the stockholders which
            is the Cherokee Nation.
 
                 The Corporation head-quarters of the Outpost is in Stilwell,
            Oklahoma and is open during business hours.   Records of the
            Corporation are maintained there.
 
                 Rules and regulations governing Indian Gaming are set forth in
            the  National  Indian  Gaming  Regulations  Act.    This  Act  is
            administrated by the National Indian Gaming Cominission.   The
            Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission has been set up to enforce the
            regulations in regards to the Cherokee Nation and answers to the
            N.I.G.C.  The Cherokee National Gaming Commission is comprised of
            Bill Langley , Lawey Adair  and Ms. Vaughan who is unknown to Mr.
            Pritcher.
 
                 The Board of Directors for Bingo Outpost Incorporated is
            comprised soley of appointees of the Cherokee Nation Chief and seen
            at the Chief's pleasure.  Members of the Board of Directors at the
            time of the recent severance pay issue are as follows:
                      Greg Pitcher                 Chairman
                      Wilma Mankiller          Chief Cherokee Nation
                      George Bearpaw
                      Troy Poteete                Member   Tribal Council
                      John Ketcher
                      Tommy Thompson       Chief Executive
                                                           Officer Bingo Outpost
 
                 According to Mr. Pitcher, the Board of Directors was kept well 
                  informed regarding activities of the Bingo operations; however~
                they had no actual authority wince members could be replaced at any
                time by the Tribal chief.   All votes taken by the Board of
                Directors became unanimous after 48 hours unless protested  in
                writing.  Minutes were taken by Tommy Thompson and were usually
                approved at the following meeting.  Meetings were called by Chief
                Mankiller.
 
                     Information provided to the Board of Directors by Thompson and
                Chief Mankiller indicated that the Corp. was being run above
                industry standards.  Salaries paid were exactly within industry
                standards.    Information  received by  the  Board  of  Directors
                indicated the Corp. was being efficiently run, however,  this
                information came from those running the operation.
 
                     Although Mr.  Pitcher, cannot recall the exact dates, two
                meetings ware held prior to the inauguration of Chief elected Joe
                Byrd regarding severance pay.  George Bearpaw was not present at
                -either of these meetings  The first meecting took place during the
                first week of August 1995.  Severance pay was discussed in general
                terms regarding employees of Bingo outpost.  The severance package
                for Tommy Thompson was discussed in detail and it was pointed out
                that other former employees of Bingo outpost has received severance
                pay although Mr. Pitcher doesn't recall who they were.  Through
                discussions, primarily by Chief Mankiller and Thompson it was
                decided that Thompson should receive a severance package as if he
                were being fired by chief Elect Byrd.   This package would be
                determined based on a formula used previously for Bingo outpost
                employees.  Dollar amounts ware not provided.
 
                     Mr. Pitcher can't recall the use of the words resign or fired
                regarding Thompson's termination.  It was discussed that he would
                be rewarded by Joe Byrd and that Byrd had made promises to do so
                The Board ot Directors felt Thompson had done a good job.
 
                     A motion was made by Chief Mankiller to approve the severance
                package and was seconded by John Ketcher.  No one else voted on the
                matter  and  it passed-    Wording  of  the  resolution was  not
                distributed during the meeting and Mr.  Pitcher is unsure if
                Thompson was fired or he resigned.  The minutes to this meeting
                were taken by Thompson but were never seen by the noard of
                Directors or submitted for approval.
 
                     The second meetting regarding severance pay was held just prior
                to the inauguration.  No figures were provided but a formula was
                discussed which has been used in the past for fired employees.
                Rick Smith told the Board of Directors that he had been locked out
                and denied access to his work.  He cried during these revelations.
                Chief Mankiller, Thompson  and Smith discussed several employees
                who would be leavinq because of the change in administration.
                There was an attitude that the situation was intolerable and the
                employees would be fired.  Mr. Pitcher described it as a siege
                mentality.

                Chief flankiller made a motion to offer severance to named
            employees,  Ketcher second the motion and they were the only two to
            vote and it passed.  Within a very few days both resolutions were
            faxed to the Board members individually.  Mr. Pitcher read his copy
            of each and signed them.  He noted the severance amounts as he read
            the resolutions.  He thought they were a little higher then he
            expected for employees other than Thompson and Smith which he
            expected to be high.
 
                Mr.  Pitcher feels that under the by-laws,  the Board of
            Directors had the authority to offer severance.  These were not
            tribal funds until dividends were voted.  Mr. Pitcher questioned
            whether  the  Board  members  may  have  violated  fidaccuracy
            responsibility to the stockholders but believes the Board is
            indemnified by the By-laws of the Corp.
 
         



 
            Report of Interview 11/0/95 in Tahlequah
 
            Diane Kelley
            Cherokee Nation,  Tahlequah, OK
 
                Ms. Kelley stated that she was the Executive Director, Social
            Programs for the Cherokee Nation at the timc of the change in
            administration during August 1995.  During the transition period,
            the old administration designated a transition team or points or
            contact which included George Long, Mark Downing and Don Vaughn.
            The new administration designated Joe Jones, Bill Collins and Gena
            Blackfox as a transition team.   It appeared that Joe Jones was
            calling the shots for the new administration.
 
                On Thursday (probably August 31 1995) she was told by Don
            Vaughn that he had been informed that the new administration wanted
            cabinet level personnel to consider submitting resignations. Later
            that day she was told by Joe Byrd ttiat he would like to speak with
            her but he never came by her office.
 
                Friday the following afternoon she saw Don Vaughn,  Mark
            Downing and Pat Ragsdale outside the office.  They told her that
            everyone but Ragsdale was resigning.  Until this time she had been
            unaware of these developments.  She heard that some individuals had
            been offered severance pay by Wilma Mankiller.   She voiced her
            concern to Pat Ragsdale who told her her would mention it to Chief
            Mankiller that weekend.
 
                On Wednesday, August 9th, she received a call from Chief
            Mankiller.  When Ms. Kelley told her that she, Kelley, might be on
            a hit list, Mankiller told her she would let her have severance pay
            if she chose to resign.  Ms. Kelley told Mankiller she would stick
            it out but later did speak with Kerry Langley, who was in charge of
            benefits, regarding severance pay.   Langley told her that Chief
            Mankiller would have to decide how many weeks of severance pay to
            calculate and she could give Kelley the proper figures.  Ms. Kelley
            did not pursue the matter further.  Ms. Kelley had heard that some
            individuals were receiving more severance than others.
 
                Ms. Kelley was aware that Lynn Howard had been responsible for
            some negative campaigning and was close to Wilma Mankiller.
 
                Sometime after her phone conversation with Wilma Mankiller,
            Ms. Kelley had a discussion with Joe Jones in her office.  Je told
            her that:, for the record, the new administration was requesting
            cabinet level employees, those who reported directly to Chief
            Mankiller, to consider tending resignations.  He stated that Joe
            Byrd had not asked for her resignation.
 
                Ms  Kelley believe that Deputy Chief elect Garland Eagle is
            after her due to a past school board issue.  In her opinion that is
            why she has been removed from her position.  She does not know her
            present job title.
 
                 She recalled that about the time of transition, Bill Collins
            and Andy Dreadfulwater were going around the halls saying who was
            going to be fired and who was not.
 
 
         

 
            Report ot Interview 10/23/95 at Tahlequah
 
            Donald Ray Vaughan
            Director of Exocutive Support
            Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, OK
 
                 Mr. Vaughan was part of a transition team for the Mankiller
            administration prior to the inauguration of chief  elect Joe Byrd.
            On August 3 he was at a meeting with the Byrd transition team which
            included Joe Jones, Gena Blackfox and Bill Collins.  During this
            meeting Joe Jones said that they expected an offer or there should
            be an offer to resign from the executive directors.  This included
            the employees who reported directly to Chief Mankiller.
 
                 It was Mr. Vaughan's understanding that they were expected to
            resign.  He felt they would be fired one way or another.  He did
            not want to resign but did submit a resignation August 3, 1995
            effective August 11, 1995.  On August 7, 1995 he was contacted by
            Joe Jones and was told there would be a meeting at Western Hills.
            Chief Byrd wished to meet with he and George Long.  Joe Jones also
            told him that it was not the intention that Don Vaughan or George
            Long resign.   Mr. Vaughan rescinded his resignation after the
            meeting with chief Byrd.
 
                 Prior to rescinding his own resignation Mr. Vaughan had
            conversations with other tribal executives and told them that their
            resignations were expected.   After hearing of Mr.  Vaughan's
            resignation, Chief Mankiller telephoned him and stated that she had
            thought be and George Long would not resign.  She offered him the
            sane severance pay that others were receiving.   He planned to
            accept it until he rescinded his resignation.
 
                 When a fax was received at Cherokee Nation from Jim Wilcoxen
            regarding the severance pay, he and George Long took it to Chief
            Mankiller.  She told them she choose not to follow the legal advice
            and instructed them to pay.  He believes that some of the checks
            had already been cut by that time and some were being cut that day.
            He and Long noted on the letter that she ignored the advice.
 
                 Mr. Vaughan knows of no meeting with Chief Mankiller regarding
            severance pay.  He provided a copy of notes talen by Mark Downing
            in the transition meeting referred to above.  This copy is attached
            to this report of interview as is a copy of the Jim Wilcoxen's
            letter with Mr. Vaughan's and Mr. Long's note.
 


 
             Report of Interview 11/15/95 at Tahlequah
 
             Curtis Wilson
             Area Contracting Officer
             BIA Muskogee, OK
 
                  Mr  Wilson explained that the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
             operates under a Compact of Self - Governance; therefor funding
             passes directly from the Department of Interior to the Cherokee
             Nation.  The BIA would have no authoriby to approve severance pay
             for the Cherokee Nation.


 
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