CARNEGIE — It would be just under three hours of presentation of the case to remove Kiowa Tribal Chairman Matthew Komalty before another cliffhanger in the saga of the tribe ended the proceedings.
During the Legislature’s presentation Thursday inside Red Buffalo Hall at the tribe’s Carnegie headquarters, District 1 Legislature and speaker of the seven-member group Angela Chaddlesone-McCarthy listed the five reasons for the Legislature’s actions against Komalty.
She was joined by legislators Michael Primus, District 2; Marilyn Bread, District 3; Jessie Svitak, District 4; Anita Onco Johnson, District 5; Ben Wolf, District 6; and Modina Waters, District 7; in casting the June 22 votes to conduct a public hearing of the five charges.
The five charges against Chairman Komalty center on allegations of failure to follow the Kiowa Tribe Constitution of 2017.
Subpoenaed witnesses explained their claims of evidence for the case against the chairman. It was then the chairman’s opportunity to defend himself. He declined by not being in attendance.
Following Komalty’s declination to offer a defense, tribal members were ushered out and the Legislature went into an executive session to deliberate the impeachment’s outcome.
In a video statement from the legislators that was posted to Svitak’s Facebook page, the announcement was made of an injunction request made by Komalty through the Bureau of Indian Affairs — Court of Indian Offenses was temporarily approved until a hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday before Chief Magistrate Shannon L. Edwards. Both the Executive and Legislative branches will need to file briefs and present evidence by Tuesday.
According to a statement from Komalty’s office, the temporary restraining order was due to health concerns about COVID-19 and due process.
“The Executive Branch believed upon credible sources that at least two of the legislators tested positive for the virus. The legislature would not provide evidence of negative testing.”
Komalty alleges the legislature didn’t release the names of witnesses until shortly before the hearing began. There is also the complaint that the legislature didn’t release its procedures for the hearing and didn’t send subpoenas to executive branch staff until Tuesday.
“I have the utmost respect for the Kiowa people and the Kiowa Constitution,” Komalty said. “But, to proceed with the extraordinary act of impeachment requires extreme caution and care. The precedent being set will impact the Kiowa people for generations.”
The news of the injunction and its order prompted the legislators to end their deliberations.
The judge will have to determine if the hearing will need to be held all over again or if the chairman would be allowed to make his defense.
“We still would like the chairman to answer our questions, we actually demanded he be here,” Svitak said. He shared that he and his fellow legislators are worried about exposure to the population and potentially to COVID-19.
With funding halted, it will be after a scheduled budget election on Aug. 22 before the relief money will be allowed to be expended at the earliest, according to the legislature. There are two budget modifications left with $4 million the tribe is using for the rest of the current fiscal year. The chairman’s proposed budget of just under $18 million that had not been approved by the legislature was shot down by voters on July 18.
If Komalty is removed from his post, it would leave Vice Chair Rhonda Ahhaitty at the helm of the Executive Branch.
Chaddlesone-McCarthy said legislators had heard about Komalty’s filing right before the hearing’s beginning but didn’t receive the official order until deliberations were underway.
Although COVID-19 relief is held up until Aug. 22, Chaddlesone-McCarthy said the call center’s staff could possibly remain on site completing applications already received.
“But would have to be paid with tribal funds which could be reimbursed after Aug. 22 after it is approved by the KIC (Kiowa Indian Council),” she said. “Also we have proposed to the chairman that he could pay out those pending applications and those who received or was about to receive a check when the bank accounts were frozen with tribal funds and get reimbursed after Aug 22.”
Thursday’s events follow another CFR Court decision from Magistrate Edwards placing an injunction that any use of Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma funds, including the $19.7 million awarded to the tribe by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is to be decided by the tribe’s citizens. That ruling is appealable to the court’s Appellate Division.
Written by Scott Rains: firstname.lastname@example.org.