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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cherokee Nation Employees PRESSURED to Donate To Chad "Our Slaves were Well Treated" Smith?

Would Corntassel really strong arm employees?  Yes. See below

The primary election for the Cherokee Nation's Principal Chief is coming up June 25.

And some Cherokee Nation employees say they feel like they're being strong-armed to back a certain candidate.

As FOX23's Janna Clark shows us from Tahlequah. It all started with a letter that was sent out.

The letter that's sparked the controversy was written to employees of Cherokee Nation's clinics and hospitals like Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. Some say the letter's putting pressure on them to donate money.

At first Bill John Baker thought it was just a rumor. But then a Cherokee Nation employee handed him a copy of the letter.

Baker's running for Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. He says the letter was sent to Cherokee employees working at clinics and hospitals around Green Country.

The letter asks for a $500 to $1,000 dollar contribution toward current Principal Chief Chad Smith's campaign. It was signed by three health administrators.

Baker says it breaks a federal law to ask employees to donate money. We called the U.S. Attorney's office, and an attorney there told us since the health administrators who signed the letter are not federal employees, sending the letter is legal. Baker says even if it's legal, it's still wrong.

"It's absolutely wrong to strong-arm people and give a suggestion to give $500 to $1,000 when you're their bosses," Baker said.

Baker says because their bosses signed the letter and because Chad Smith is their ultimate boss, employees feel pressured to pay.

Several wanted to speak to us on camera but feared if they did, they might lose their jobs.

"They're obviously scared for their employment or retribution," Baker said.

We spoke to Chief Chad Smith. Even though he didn't sign it, he stands behind the letter. He says sending it was legal and those who wrote it have the right to do so.

"I support their right to support whatever candidate they want. In this instance, they supported me rather than Bill John Baker," Smith said.

Smith says Baker's the one intimidating employees - the three administrators who wrote the letter.

"By dressing them down in public... when all they did is send a letter to friends and colleagues to support me rather than Baker," Smith said. "This is a desperate move in a campaign to gain standing where he doesn't have any."

Smith wants to reassure employees, they shouldn't feel any pressure.

"They're protected by our constitution, and I adhere to our Constitution," Smith said. "I'll defend their right to campaign against me."

The three people who signed the letter are high-ranking managers in Cherokee Nation's health services. We tried each of them. But as of Tuesday night, they hadn't returned our calls. In Tahlequah, Janna Clark, FOX23 News

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