CARNEGIE —The impasse between the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma’s Executive and Legislative branches has escalated with a pending lawsuit.
This action follows the Legislative Branch’s push to impeach tribal Chairman Matthew Komalty over allegations of failing to follow the tribe’s constitution.
Angela Chaddlesone McCarthy, District 1 Legislator and speaker for the group of seven, said an injunction was placed on the executive branch due to disagreements about the use of COVID-19 funds received by the tribe through the CARES Act.
A hearing on the case will be July 21 in the Bureau of Indian Affairs CFR Court via a virtual format.
McCarthy said that Komalty’s legal counsel approached the legislators about seeking a settlement.
The legislators offered the following conditions in their response:
•The chairman agrees to cease spending COVID funds until voted on by the Kiowa Indian Council.
•The chairman rescind his budget request for a budget election (currently scheduled for July 18) and await a vote of the Kiowa Indian Council regarding the legislature’s proposed budget which would allow the $1,000 disbursement to each enrolled Kiowa.
•A simplified application form for members to apply for funding relief.
•COVID relief disbursement be made immediately after the budget election is approved.
Komalty had 24 hours to agree to the demands. He declined.
McCarthy said the legislators have been shut out of the COVID relief distribution process. The tribe received over $19 million from the U.S. Treasury. Although the executive branch has implemented a plan to assist tribal members with COVID-related expenses, she said that constitutional protocols weren’t followed.
“We had to get that (information about the funding) ourselves,” she said. “The chairman has been spending this money without an approved budget.”
In response to the settlement conditions, Komalty issued a statement.
He cited federal rules and conditions for the COVID-19/CARES Act funds that came through federal financial assistance and come with extensive conditions for use as well as severe repercussions for misuse.
Regarding the request to rescind the July 18 budget election that has only the executive budget on the agenda, Komalty responded that there was to be an approved operating budget by July 1. He also said that the issuance of $1,000 payments would be judged by the Department of the Treasury as a per capita payment and, without proof of financial need, would be against the federal guidelines.
Komalty said the applications in use are as simple as can be made under the Federal Financial Assistance guidance.
The chairman also argues that his budget could not have been considered with the CARES Act funding because they are not tribal funds and weren’t available on Jan. 20 when the budget was submitted to McCarthy.
The speaker of the legislature said that Komalty has failed to work toward compromise with the seven lawmakers.
“The chairman refused us,” McCarthy said. “He met with us twice and walked out on us twice. It’s sad that it’s got to come to this. We could have had an agreement two months ago.”
On top of the court action, the legislative branch voted unanimously June 22 to approve moving forward with impeachment. The impeachment and the lawsuit are separate actions.
The five impeachment charges cite five allegations of failure to follow protocols of the Kiowa Constitution, including the distribution of the CARES Act funding.
Komalty has since denied all of the allegations and said that they are “an example of misrepresentation of accuracy.”
An impeachment hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 23 at Red Buffalo Hall of the Kiowa Tribal Complex in Carnegie.
McCarthy said the last time an attempt at impeachment was implemented, the venue was shut down and it had to be held at the Carnegie Fairgrounds building. That will be the alternate space this time around, she said.
“It will proceed rain or shine,” she said. “It’s a legislator hearing. … He will have to bring his defense to dispute the charges and the legislature has to vote unanimously for impeachment.”
There is also a tribal member effort to earn the more than 1,500 names needed for a Kiowa Indian Council recall hearing of Komalty. McCarthy said it is a “sort of a backup” if the Legislature fails to remove the chairman.
McCarthy said that COVID-19 has affected her tribe greatly. With tribal members located throughout the nation and world, Kiowa needs are many. She said that more tribal members have been getting sick with “at least a dozen” people ill and four who died from the virus — two in Arizona.
“We’re not that big of a tribe, but they’re out there and they’re being affected,” she said. “We want to get them help. We’ve got to help our people first.”
Written by Scott Rains: email@example.com.