If the last year of political life for Muscogee National Council Rep. Travis Scott were a dramatic football game, welcome to the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.
Removed from the Council, impeached from office and then reinstated to his position by a tribal court, Scott now faces former Councilwoman Sandra Golden in the Nov. 13 general election for the nation’s Okfuskee District B seat.
Scott says the allegations against him are “politically motivated,” but Golden says elected officials should hold themselves to “a higher standard.”
Scott, who is seeking his fourth term in office, serves as vice-chairman of the Council’s business, finance and justice committee. He also owns Scott Native Products, doing business as Parks Brothers Ace Hardware.
Golden previously served two terms on the National Council in the Okfuskee District. She was elected in 2001 and served until 2005. Among other community activities, Golden is currently a member of the Deep Fork Community Action board.
In the September primary, Scott finished first among the four candidates running, with 30.1 percent (740 votes). Golden, in second place, received 24.8 percent support (608 votes).
The Okfuskee District covers Okfuskee County and includes the cities of Okemah and Weleetka. Each of the eight districts represented in the tribe’s National Council features an A and a B seat, which are up for grabs in alternating elections. Representatives serve four-year terms on the Muscogee National Council, and all eligible voters are able to vote in each Council district race.
In-person voting for the Muscogee general election takes place on Nov. 13 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early in-person voting on Nov. 9 and Nov. 10 also runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Absentee ballots must be received by the Okmulgee post office by 11 a.m. on Nov. 13. For this election, the tribe has provided absentee voters with prepaid U.S. Postal Service priority express mail envelopes. (During the September primary, 57 percent of absentee ballots returned by voters were received after the 11 a.m. deadline. The National Council extended the general election date from Nov. 6 to Nov. 13.)
NonDoc gathered the following information by conducting phone interviews with both candidates.
This year’s National Council elections mark the first election cycle since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma affirmed the existence of the Muscogee Reservation in July 2020, a decision with ramifications that tribal leaders are working to implement.
Scott calls impeachment allegations ‘politically motivated’
Over the summer, Travis Scott faced allegations that his private business had engaged in more than $107,500 of illegal transactions with Muscogee Nation business entities. Scott’s wife, ShaRee Scott, is Principal Chief David Hill’s daughter.
In May, Scott was expelled from his duties as a representative. In August, the National Council voted 14-0 to approve an impeachment directive, which detailed the allegations against him. A Sept. 2 decision and order by Muscogee Nation District JudgeStacy Leeds undid the the Council’s decision to expel Scott, and reinstated his duties as a representative. Scott called the allegations against him “a political advocation against me and Chief Hill.”
“We never had binding contracts or agreements with the nation,” Scott said. “We operated as the federal government does, as an open-door, everyday policy to do business. We have never changed any of our structure.”
Scott said that there were never any issues regarding his business during Chief James Floyd’s administration, but problems arose once Hill was elected.
“During the two-year term of Chief Floyd, there was no directive from the nation to stop doing business with our company,” Scott said. “So when my father-in-law, in essence, gets elected, then all of a sudden it was a problem.”
Scott believes the allegations against him were politically motivated.
“In my opinion, I feel this is more politically motivated than it is anything, because it’s an election year for me,” Scott said. “It derived during an election year prior to filing, and so they were trying to prevent me from running for office again. It’s politically driven, and by those on the Council that don’t support Chief Hill.”
Asked about the allegations Scott has faced, Golden said “there are more than tribal laws about ethics and conflict of interest.”
“If you’ve been a board member, an official or a business owner, you know about that,” she said. “As a representative of the people, you must hold yourself to a higher standard. I’m sure we have the laws in place and anyone violating them should be held accountable.”
Scott and Golden want cross-deputization agreements
Following the Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, Scott and Golden agree that the Muscogee Nation needs to make changes within Lighthorse police departments to more adequately protect Muscogee Nation citizens.
Scott said the number one issue within the tribe’s Lighthorse department is compensation and that the Council is trying to approve a salary increase.
“It is hard for that entity to maintain enough law enforcement officers at the salary that the nation provides to them,” Scott said.
Additionally, Scott said state and tribal agencies need to communicate more effectively in order to negotiate jurisdictional problems.
“I feel there was a lot a lot of lackluster communication between the tribes and the state agencies in order to get this accomplished and to get this running smoothly,” Scott said.
Golden echoed the same sentiment.
“It’s imperative that we make agreements with these county law enforcement (agencies) as well as the state,” Golden said.
Golden referenced problems that Muscogee Nation citizens have previously had with state-affiliated police.
“They have a tendency to arrest our citizens because of the color of their skin,” Golden said. “But because the families can’t afford to pay, you know, to get them out or to pay their fines, they end up being in jail, and then it goes against them.”
Both Scott and Golden said that some state agencies are hesitant to cross-deputize with tribal agencies and that their reluctance can create problems for public safety.
“We do cross-commission with several agencies, but there are agencies that do not want to cross-commission with us,” Scott said. “And so when things transpire, they have to wait for an hour or two hours, where ever our Lighthorse is coming from. And by that, I mean, there’s no telling what could transpire.”
Golden said apprehension toward state-tribal agreements is a wider issue and pointed to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s statements.
“He’s not interested in working with any of our tribal missions,” Golden said. “But that’s what’s really important. We’re only scratching the surface on that. We’ve got many more things that we have to deal with.”
Marijuana farms and travel plazas
One area of economic development that Golden would like to see the Muscogee Nation pursue is marijuana agriculture.
Golden said many Muscogee citizens are hesitant to pursue the venture, as much of the nation’s land is federal property or held in trust.
“We do have citizens who have property that is not in trust or is not restricted,” Golden said. “I’ve been looking into that.”
Golden said marijuana farms could create jobs for Muscogee Nation citizens who might struggle to find other work.
“In this area, we have people that could do the job, but they’re more of a manual labor job,” Golden said. “Because they only get to high school, and after that they get in trouble. And after that they have a background that they can’t get hired.”
Scott said he would like to see the Muscogee Nation build travel plazas, as the Choctaw Nation has done, as a new source of revenue.
“They have a very good travel (and) casino mechanism that they’ve implemented within their jurisdiction, and I would like to see that within our jurisdiction to solidify the revenue and different sources,” Scott said.
Candidates agree on education incentives
Scott and Golden both agreed that their tribe needs to increase education incentives provided to Muscogee citizens.
“I think with the rise in tuition, and with the rise in [cost] of living in general, a lot of our kids don’t have the opportunity to get scholarships,” Scott said. “So, I would like to see our incentives increased.”
In addition to incentives, Golden said she would like to see the Muscogee Nation create avenues for students to find employment within the nation after graduation.
“I would like to see more of them providing some kind of — not just an incentive — but some kind of connection,” Golden said. “Because once they get educated and they got the money to do it, however hard it is, some people like myself wanted to come back and work with the tribe. But guess what? I never could.”
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Governmental transparency a priority
Scott applauded Muscogee Nation citizens for enshrining the independence of Mvskoke Media in their constitution during the September primary election. But he added that he believes the tribe needs to be more transparent about its finances.
“This is the citizens’ and our tribe’s money, and they need to see how we spend it,” Scott said.
Golden said the Muscogee Nation needs a way to hold leadership accountable to guidelines and policies. She echoed Scott’s comments on transparency, particularly regarding government salaries.
Golden said the nation’s published government salaries are not accurate and are just an estimation, based on level of standing.
“You’re publishing that information, but it doesn’t tell what the actual salary is,” Golden said.
Making a case for why citizens should give her their vote, Golden spoke about her ongoing community involvement in the Okfuskee District.
“When people get on the Council, they tend to lose that contact with the people, and I don’t like to do that,” Golden said. “Because then I feel like I don’t know what’s going on in the community, with our students.”
Scott, meanwhile, pointed to his political track record.
“Everything we’ve done in our campaign for the last four years is what we iterated we were going to do, and I’d just appreciate their support in the future,” Scott said.