During its last days before swearing in newly elected members, the Cherokee Tribal Council unanimously passed an ordinance amendment that will prevent future tribal councils from getting cumulative backpay with pay raises.
A resolution that would have negated a 2007 vote to up Tribal Council’s pay by $10,000 was withdrawn last week following debate about what exactly the legislation’s impact would be.
Defendants in a lawsuit stemming from raises and backpay the Cherokee Tribal Council voted itself in October 2014 are hoping to convince a judge to dismiss the case against them.
The day after Cherokee’s new chief and vice chief took their oaths of office, a lawsuit naming nearly all the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ elected leaders from the previous term found its way to the courthouse.
With elections a week away and threat of a lawsuit still hanging, the Cherokee Tribal Council is considering a proposed budget that includes a pay raise of nearly 5 percent for its members.
A group of Cherokee people angry over Tribal Council’s decision last fall to give itself a 15 percent pay raise and back pay is planning to file a lawsuit against its members this month.
Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick remembers many Haywood County budget hearings in which the public was absent from the process, but that was not the case this year.
Editor’s note: Cherokee Tribal Police would not allow Smoky Mountain News Staff Writer Holly Kays entry into the Cherokee Tribal Council chambers to report on this meeting, which took place on Dec. 11. This story was written after watching a DVD recording of the meeting.
It’s been two months since Cherokee Tribal Council members voted to increase their salaries by $10,800 — and receive backpay for the years when the raises supposedly should have gone into effect — but that hasn’t been enough time for the public reaction to the increases, which many believe to be illegal, to cool down.
There wasn’t much discussion in the chamber Oct. 14 when Cherokee Tribal Council passed its budget for 2014-15. But as news of backpay and a $10,000 raise for council members spread through the reservation, things heated up.
“You’ve opened a door by doing it, and I’m going to question and I’m going to stay on top of this and I’m going to refresh our memories and I’m going to keep the public refreshed,” Teresa McCoy, councilmember from Big Cove, told council during its Oct. 21 meeting. “They’re going to hear about it until they get sick of hearing what council’s doing. You need to go back and read your oath of office.”
Hoping to combat a steady departure of officers, Haywood County entry-level deputies will see a 5 percent raise starting in January — the first step in a three-year plan to bring salaries of Haywood lawmen in line with the rest of the region.
Haywood deputies are among the lowest-paid officers in Western North Carolina. That means high turnover as deputies take higher-paying jobs in neighboring counties.