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Tribal Council passes term limits for casino board members

Tribal Council passes term limits for casino board members

After nearly an hour of debate, Tribal Council voted unanimously last week to place term limits on members of the two boards that oversee tribal gaming operations.

“I think we need to spread it out for other people to serve on these boards,” said Birdtown Representative Boyd Owle, who submitted the legislation. “They’re great boards. There are a lot of bright minds here in Cherokee, so let’s give them an opportunity. To be honest, I’d like to see it for all boards.”

Owle’s legislation proposed changes to the ordinances governing the Tribal Gaming Commission and Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise. The three-member TGC makes rules governing games and gaming equipment at the tribe’s casinos in Cherokee and Murphy. The five-member TCGE handles policies and financial decisions as outlined in the tribe’s management contract with Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. Board members are appointed by the principal chief with approval from Tribal Council — TGC members serve three-year terms and TCGE members serve five-year terms.

Other councilmembers were quick to voice support for Owle’s ordinance.

“Boyd, thank you for bringing this in,” said Big Cove Representative Richard French. “I agree with you 100 percent.”

“It’s long overdue,” added Birdtown Representative Albert Rose. 

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Some of the people sitting on these boards carry a “sense of entitlement” to their position, he said. 

Tribal member Peggy Hill came forward to ask that council also consider addressing the process for soliciting applications for board appointments. 

“The only time we ever know or hear are when the appointments come up and those have already been decided,” she said. “I like what Boyd (Owle) said. We have many tribal members who have gone, gotten their education, some experience, and we are not utilizing it. We’re not.”

Chairman Adam Wachacha said that he agreed with the overall intent of Owle’s ordinance but suggested that council consider changing the limitation from two terms total to two consecutive terms. That would allow experienced board members to be considered for reappointment after rolling off for a time. 

“It’s really hard to replace experienced people on some of these commissions and boards, but I too stand with the majority of council in making sure we’re looking outside of a specific pool and considering everybody,” he said. 

Vice Chairman David Wolfe moved to amend the ordinance to limit members to two consecutive terms rather than two lifetime terms. That proposal garnered some support but was ultimately shot down following a divided vote on the amendment. 

Principal Chief Richard Sneed came to the podium to respond to some of the criticisms expressed over the course of the discussion. He told Tribal Council that during his time in office he has appointed a total of 12 first-time appointees, and that several more first-time board members would be appointed that very day provided Council approved them. He questioned whether term limits were all that necessary, considering that Tribal Council has the power to reject proposed appointments. 

“I can understand wanting to codify term limits in it, but to your same point, the term limit is this body says no,” said Sneed. “At the end of the day, this body has the authority to say yes or no, and I’m interested to see the process that will be coming. That’s something we’ve talked about in here for about two-and-a-half years now, because every time appointments come up we have a debate like this.”

While the vote as to whether members should be limited to two consecutive or two total terms was divided, the final vote on the ordinance was unanimous, with all 12 councilmembers voting to pass it. Sneed has 30 days from the date of passage to ratify or veto the ordinance. 

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