By Staff Writer
Muscogee Nation Principal Chief A.D. Ellis recently issued Executive Order No. 11-07directing the Muscogee Nation’s Controller “to withhold payments of any kind” when funds are not available and payments for certain legislative acts passed by the National Council. The order, dated November 2, 2011, specifically prohibits disbursement of funds by the Controller for legislation that does not designate a source of funding or for appropriations that are not for tribal purposes. As usual, the executive order seems focused on acts of the National Council but it also sends a strong message that the tribes finances are in poor health.
The findings in the executive order claim to reference sections of the Muscogee Nation’s Constitution but appear to some tribal officials to be no more than Ellis’ labored interpretation of what the Constitution actually says. In a request for comment emailed to National Council members 2nd Speaker Sam Alexander responded, “It isn’t clear whether Finding 1.01 attempts to quote the Constitution. My copy doesn’t agree, and mentions the advice and consent of the National Council.” 2nd Speaker Alexander, of Tulsa District, went on to say that Ellis’ use of the term “appropriation” was “generic”.
The following day Rep. Kara Medina, also from Tulsa District, re-submitted legislation that would authorize the National Council to issue a “Request for Proposal” to hire a firm that could conduct a forensic audit of essentially the entire government. In an email to members of the National Council, Rep. Medina stated “ I revised and re-submitted this legislation because of the inability of either or Council or our Citizens to get detailed line-item financial information on how much of our Tribal money is spent (particularly in regard to the lawsuits and with our Judicial Branch).“ In addition, Rep. Medina expressed concern about conflicting reports from Principal Chief A.D. Ellis and Controller Gary Rogers. “This is just my opinion, but making allegations in a veto message which contradict the statement of the Controller sure seems questionable to me…”, said Medina.Ellis attempted to explain his actions in a press release that included a memo from the Controller and another financial document that listed twelve appropriations bills dating back as far February 2011. According to the documents, the largest payments would have gone to the two former gaming communities of Checotah and Okemah. Ellis had previously stripped these communities, among others, of millions of dollars they had generated from casino operations that began as bingos.
Ellis’ press release cited citizen trust and fiscal responsibility as reasons for issuing the executive order. Ellis’ new stance is in stark contrast to about a year ago when the Chief submitted the Proposed Fiscal Year 2011 Budget which indicated that a deficit of over $20 million would be created if the measure was passed. At the time, Ellis claimed that allegations of a deficit were part of a “power play” by the National Council.
While Ellis claims concern about the future as the reason for the executive order, some council members just aren’t buying it. “The executive order isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. There is a process for vetoing legislation outlined in the constitution”, remarked Okfuskee Rep. Bill Fife. “Guess A.D. doesn’t understand the constitution.” 2nd Speaker Sam Alexander also criticized the recent action by the Chief saying, “This is a little useless bluster and bellicose drivel designed to generate fee income for the attorneys. They know the ride is just about over.”