October 21, 2014

Judge places Caddo Nation programs under independent administrator

Due to the extended turmoil within the tribe, the Bureau of Indian Affairs labeled the Caddo Nation as a “high risk contractor” late last year and was in the process of taking over the tribe’s self-governance programs.

 

ANADARKO, Okla. – Until further notice, neither of the two claimant Caddo governments will have signatory authority for the tribe’s self-governance programs.

After reviewing expense accounts Monday afternoon, Judge Ronald McGee with the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Court of Indian Offenses issued an order that places the Caddo Nation’s self-governance programs under the authority of an independent administrator, Anadarko attorney Jason Glidewell.

As the special master, Glidewell will be required to provide monthly reports to the court of the programs’ expenditures until the conclusion of the litigation. Each government has an appointee to work with Glidewell, but all final decisions – including signatory authority for checks -- will rest with him.

Due to the extended turmoil within the tribe, the Bureau of Indian Affairs labeled the Caddo Nation as a “high risk contractor” late last year and was in the process of taking over the tribe’s self-governance programs prior to McGee’s order.

That turmoil, coupled with concerns over financial statements submitted by one of the two claimant leaders, prompted the ruling. At a previous hearing, McGee had requested Brenda Edwards to submit monthly expense reports to the court in concert with an amended injunction that limited her ability to write checks on behalf of the Caddo Nation.

 “The accountings submitted have caused me some alarm,” McGee said. “Some of the information leads me to believe that there are expenditures for non-essential services, which is contrary to my original order.”

McGee did not elaborate on what items in the expense reports caught his attention and the reports were not made available to the public after court adjourned for the day.

The decision came after more than six hours of testimony on whether to extend a temporary restraining order against Edwards.

Re-elected as chairwoman last summer, Edwards was subject to a recall petition within weeks of taking office. Since then, the tribe has had two factions claiming to be its legitimate authority. One administration, currently led by Anthony Cotter, is working out of the Caddo Nation complex. Edwards leads the other and is  working off-site. The Cotter faction is seeking a permanent injunction barring Edwards from conducting business on behalf of the tribe.

Monday’s hearing primarily focused on the procedures surrounding the recall petition. Under the tribe’s removal procedures, a membership meeting to vote on recalling an elected official may be called if at least 50 registered Caddo voters sign off on a petition and those signatures are verified by the tribal council’s secretary.

Seventy-nine people signed the initial recall petition filed against Edwards in August 2013, but Wildena Moffer, the tribe’s secretary at the time who is currently recognized by the Edwards administration, testified that she only verified 23 signatures as belonging to qualified, registered Caddo voters based off of the information provided to her by the tribe’s election board. According to Moffer’s testimony, at least one petition signer was disqualified because she did not recognize the person’s handwriting.

Under the terms of the tribe’s election ordinance, an unqualified voter is one who has not participated in the last two elections of the tribe and must re-register to cast a ballot. The recall provisions of the Caddo Constitution do not specify whether all 50 signatures have to be from qualified or unqualified voters – just registered voters.

“If you don’t vote, what right do you have to kick someone else out of office?” Moffer asked rhetorically while testifying.

However, while on the stand, Caddo Election Board Chairwoman Charlotte Bentley said that prior to the tribe’s July 2013 election, the board had almost no records to go off of other than recently submitted registration forms. Voters who showed up at a polling place last summer and were not on the registration list were still allowed to cast a ballot if they had a previous voter identification card and a CDIB with them.

Among the names not on the registered voter list prior to the July 2013 election were Edwards, Cotter, Vice Chairman Phillip Smith and Jennifer Reeder, who is recognized by the Cotter administration as the tribal council’s Oklahoma City representative. That list, along with the list of citizens who actually voted in the 2013 election, was used to by Moffer to validate the petition signatures.

“We gave both lists to Mrs. Moffer,” Bentley said. “We gave her what we had to go by – it was all we could do.”

The next hearing will not be scheduled until after briefs are filed on a motion from Edwards to dismiss the case.

Headquartered in Binger, Okla., the Caddo Nation has about 5,500 enrolled citizens.

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