Cherokee Press Association
Copyright © 1997 CPA
All Rights Reserved
by Donna Hales,
Copyright © 1997 Muskogee Phoenix
Federal agencies began their own investigation into allegations that federal funds have been misspent by the Cherokee Nation, authorities said Thursday.
U.S. Attorney John Raley announced that an investigation of "recent developments" in the Cherokee Nation by the FBI and investigators for the Department of Interior will focus on allegations of violations of federal law.
Meanwhile, the tribe's highest court issues a new order for marshals who defected Wednesday from the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service to return Thursday or consider themselves no longer marshals.
Marshals returning to the supervision of Director Pat Ragsdale are not to be retaliated against, said the order of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal.
Two of four marshals who defected Wednesday signed affidavits filed with the courts saying they defected after the tribal inspector general, Bob Posell, threatened them with their jobs if they didn't.
Ragsdale and Principal Chief Joe Byrd have been at odds since Ragsdale and 15 marshals executed a search warrant at the tribal complex Feb.25.
Marshals seized evidence of alleged misappropriation of funds, payments to outside attorneys and records pertaining to the loan of a tribal employee to the Democratic National Committee since July.
Byrd fired Ragsdale and his first assistant and sued Ralph Keen, chief justice of the Tribunal. He alleged Keen had no authority to issue the warrant. Tribunal Justice Dwight Birdwell reinstated the marshals, ordered they not be interfered with, and ruled Keen legally issued the warrant.
Byrd ignored the court's order by announcing Ragsdale still was fired and that Powell was in charge of the marshals.
Tribal Councilor Troy Poteete said he know of no place except the Cherokee Nation where an inspector general is in charge of law enforcement. The position usually is an auditing function of internal wrongdoing, he said.
Byrd created Powell's position without prior approval of the council and without the office being budgeted, Poteete said.
"It is the height of their conniving," Poteete said. "That's how they intended to keep anything like this from happening-putting the inspector general in charge of law enforcement."
Tribal prosecutor A.Diane Blalock requested Wednesday that Byrd be found in contempt of court for:
- *-Interfering with her investigation,
- *-Intimidating marshals,
- *-Violating a gag order by holding meetings and press conferences to defend his position.
Byrd alleged to the court that councilors at odds with him were allowed to plunder and pilfer the evidence seized, which councilors deny.
The Tribunal ruled its orders had been violated, promised a future hearing, and warned Byrd that those persons violating the court's orders could be sanctioned.
Keen said Thursday that Byrd had agreed to abide by the court's orders. He also said Blalock's investigation will continue and she will turn over any findings involving federal law to Raley's office.
Meanwhile, an independent Cherokee newspaper, the Cherokee Observer, alleges tribal employees are being pressured to support Byrd. Requiring employees to wear ribbons or attend rallies to show support for Byrd could be a violation of their civil rights, the bulletin said.
"It is unfair for our tribal leaders to use employees as a shield in a running gun battle with the media," the bulletin said.
The Indian Civil Rights Act provides Cherokee employees freedoms guaranteed to all U.S. citizens and the Bill of Rights includes them, too, the bulletin said.
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