Records for a tribal loan could outside of tribal jurisdiction
By Angel Ellis/Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY– Several members of the Oklahoma City Muscogee (Creek) Association (OCMA) were present for a meeting with tribal representatives to learn about updates for where the community stands regarding its recent charter revocation.
OCMA’s charter was revoked June 3 through an executive citing the order states there was also a failure to comply with audits for 2018 and 2019.
This meeting provided an opportunity for members of the community to find out why the charter was revoked, what operations for the community would look like going forward and possibly remedies for reauthorization of the charter.
Present from the MCN were Secretary of Community and Human Services Neenah Tiger, Community Research and Development’s (CRD) Diane Billie and Richard Anderson, Assistant Attorney General JoEtta Toppah and several National Council Representatives.
Toppah read community members the proclamation, explained tribal code and how it relates to the OCMA.
“Title 11 is a portion of tribal code creating charter communities,” Toppah said. “Any community with a business enterprise is required to conduct a yearly audit and provide a copy of that audit to the Chief, the controller and a copy to Community Research and Development.”
Toppah said OCMA had two different business enterprises.
“Your community had the embroidery business and the gift shop, so an audit should have been conducted on both businesses,” Toppah said. “Those audits were not done; We don’t have anything for Fiscal year 2018 or 2019.”
She said the types of funding received by the community came from different sources. According to Toppah, OCMA received community maintenance and development funds.
“That’s $60,000 every fiscal year that every charter community gets,” Toppah said. “That funding requires the community to report quarterly.”
According to Toppah, Community maintenance fund reporting goes directly to CRD. She told the group that the second type of funding was an appropriation from National Council.
“The reason for it was your embroidery shop and your gift shop, it was in the form of a loan.” Toppah said. “It was done as an NCA, which appropriated $300,000 to the community for those two businesses.”
“And there was a Tribal Resolution that was a companion piece for $300,000 that they had to enter into a loan agreement with the tribe, so there was two pieces for that.”
The OCMA also received a $50,000 loan from the Mvskoke Loan Fund.
According to CRD’s Diane Billie, the department had notified the community back in December 2018 audits were due.
“We notified the community board then that you didn’t have an audit,” Billie said. “The community hadn’t produced an audit for two years for either business.”
Community member Yogi B. Harjo of OKC said that the community members made decisions and he felt misled by the community’s board members.
“We don’t even have none of our board members here,” Harjo said. “The last time we voted on this stuff I think we voted wrong.”
“Blue Clark was telling us how to vote but it was misunderstood.”
Harjo felt it was important to have that board present for the meeting.
“We need our people here that got us in this situation,” Harjo said. “We need answers.”
He said the membership was trying to work and do fundraising to keep things going for the community.
“That $200,000, $300,000 is a lot of money,” Harjo said. “We can say names, Teresa Gouge and Blue Clark…they need to be here an answer some questions.”
“If you’re not wrong come here and tell us.”
Harjo asked those presenting how the community could get back to where it was.
“How can we get back to that point again?” Harjo said. “Is it going to take a year?”
“How can we follow rules and regulation so that we aren’t the ones getting hurt.”
Billie told the group that CRD does provide four trainings a year. She said the goal was to get the community up and running again.
“Things are still under investigation,” Billie said.
Harjo asked her where the OCMA money was.
“Normally when we have to issue a proclamation for a charter community, we confiscate the funds because the community still has to run,” said Billie. “But with this case we were unable to because OCMA was incorporated under the State of Oklahoma.”
“The building, the property is owned by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation,” She said. “The OCMA name is incorporated under the State of Oklahoma as a 501(c)(3), plus the businesses…both LLC’s are state entities.”
Toppah told the group that in this case jurisdiction plays a role in OCMA’s situation.
She said that some of those bank records haven’t been accessible for the tribe.
“I can’t comment to much,” Toppah said. “When you do a 501(c)(3) with the state your pulling yourself out from the reach of the tribe.”
She said that detail prevents the MCN from taking control of the OCMA accounts. It also leaves the tribe responsible for the utilities at the building where the community meets.
“Then the tribe understands that there’s no money here,” Harjo said. “That we need those two people and they’re not here.”
Toppah told the group that the tribe only had the authority to come in and take possession of the building owned by the tribe.
“But the tribe doesn’t have any authority over those LLC’s, so if they are still operating them…we don’t know,” Toppah said. “Their signature authority is on those accounts.”
“We sent a letter to the bank asking to freeze those funds, but the communication we received back were they are state entities and we don’t have authority,” Toppah said.
According to Toppah, Chief Claude Cox signed the OCMA Charter.
MCN Principal Chief James Floyd did an interview with Mvskoke Vision on June 17.
Chief Floyd said the community was given until Dec. 2018 to report financial information.
“As we did the internal audit we discovered some discrepancies that were significant and that were continuing,” Floyd said. “We revoked the charter, released the officers of the community, Community Research and Development then becomes the direct operator of the functions.”
“We own the property, they had funds from the Community Research and Development as well as a loan from National Council,” Floyd said.
He said that the tribe would continue honoring any agreements for groups who have rented the meeting space in the building and accommodating the OCMA members to assemble on the property.
“We will continue doing that until such time as we can organize the community again with community leaders,” Floyd said.
The plan would be ultimately setting up new leadership. Then monitoring progress and eventually allowing them operate independently.
Mvskoke Media will continue following the topic and make updates as they become available.