Cherokee Press Association
Copyright © 1997 CPA
All Rights Reserved
by Donna Hales,
Copyright © 1997 Muskogee Phoenix
TAHLEQUAH Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Joe Byrd formed a new tribal police force Thursday, defying a Feb.25 order of the tribe's highest court forbidding him to fire the director of the tribe's marshal service.
Byrd issued an executive order disbanding the present Cherokee Nation Marshal Service.
In a 2:30 p.m. press conference [Thursday], Byrd announced he doesn't recognize the authority of the tribal courts over "my marshal service."
Tribal prosecutor A.Diane Blalock immediately asked the court to issue a bench warrant for Byrd ordering him to appear before the court and explain why he should not be held in contempt of the February court order.
The court refused to issue the warrant but ordered again that Byrd not interfere with the marshal service.
In her request for the warrant, Blalock said Byrd has continued to flaunt the court's orders against interfering with the marshals.
Byrd has said Ragsdale is fired and the court cannot enforce its own orders and cannot prevent Byrd from obstructing justice, Blalock's filing said.
"He apparently will stop at nothing to make sure the investigation of his administration is thwarted," her filing said.
Byrd fired Pat Ragsdale, director of the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, and Ragsdale's assistant, Sharon Wright, after they led 15 marshals in the execution of a search warrant at the tribal complex Feb.25. Marshals seized copies of documents the tribal prosecutor alleged could be evidence of misappropriation of funds.
The tribe's highest court, the Judicial Appeals Tribunal, then immediately issued an order saying Ragsdale and Wright could not be fired over the incident because they were executing a lawful search warrant.
The court then ordered no one interfere with any of the marshals in their duties. The tribunal refused Byrd's request to pull the tribal prosecutor off the criminal investigation.
In a prepared speech, Byrd said he would not allow his executive power to be usurped by "illegal orders of the court."
He named Joe Fishinghawk as interim director of the marshal service and ordered marshals who wanted to remain tribal employees to report to Fishinghawk by 5 p.m. Thursday.
"Failure to do so shall result in the termination of their employment," Byrd said in the speech.
Byrd notified area law enforcement agencies that Fishinghawk became interim marshal at 2:30 p.m. Thursday and all law enforcement activities should be routed through Fishinghawk.
Byrd announced that within the next few days he will appoint a special prosecutor and a special investigator to continue the investigation of his administration. The tribal council will be asked to confirm that action, he said.
No marshals had reported to Byrd by the 5 p.m. deadline.
A security guard at the complex said five of the marshals didn't get notification and were given until this morning to report to Byrd.
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