--- Am. Tribal Law ----, 2018 WL 1193213 (Cherokee Sup.Ct.)
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Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation.
Jason SCHMITZ, Appellant,
CHEROKEE NATION BUSINESSES, LLC, Appellee.
January 31, 2018
Attorneys and Law Firms
For the Appellant Jason Schmitz: Chad Smith, 22902 S. 494 Rd, Tahlequah, Ok 74464, ph (918) 453-1707, firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Appellee Cherokee Nation Businesses, LLC: Clint Russell, Mark Ramsey, Taylor, Burrage, Foster, Mallet, Downs, Ramsey and Russell, PC, 400 West 4th St, P.O. Box 309, Claremore, Ok 74018, ph (918) 343-4100, fax (918) 343-4900, email@example.com
Before: James G. Wilcoxen, Justice, Lynn Burris, Justice, Angela Jones, Justice, Mark L. Dobbins, Justice
Opinion by: Lynn Burris, Justice
FACTS & RULING
Jason Schmitz began his employment at Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) on October 4th, 2010 and was terminated on March 31, 2014. The litany of circumstances follows.
On February 4th & 5th, 2014 Jason Schmitz contacted Debbie Schauf, the Executive Director of Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association (OQHRA) by his personal email while employed by Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB). His title at the time was Manager of Strategic Investments. On February 5th, 2014 Debbie Schauf in a lengthy email answered.
On February 6, 2014, Schmitz learned from Charles Garrett, the CNB business unit supervisor, that because of the email correspondence be may be terminated. The email from Schmitz requested information about the industry that was needed for a course “at OSU to pick up enough additional credit hours to sit for the CPA exam. The capstone for the finance course was to dissect a business in an industry of interest.”
Schmitz failed to identify his title with CNB or his employer. In addition, his inquiries aroused the wrath of the Director of OQHRA in that it implied that gaming supported the racing industry.
On February 13, 2014, pending an investigation, Schmitz was suspended without pay. Schmitz was provided a pre-termination hearing which he attended with legal counsel, Chad Smith. At this hearing Schmitz expressed regret. He was formally terminated on March 31, 2014 for violation of CNB’s Corporate Policies & Procedures and Standards of Conduct.
On appeal to the District Court, Judge Cripps affirmed the ruling of the EARP upon a de novo review. His order included 51 CNCA § 1010(A) which provides that an employee of Cherokee Nation may be terminated for cause without prior warning, counseling or reprimand based upon one (1) of the following grounds: 1) Any reason involving moral turpitude affecting or potentially affecting conduct while on duty. Moral turpitude is defined (51 CNCA § 603) as “an act of business, vileness or depravity in private and social duties which man owes his fellow man.” Concealing his identity rose to that level of moral turpitude contemplated by the statute?
These acts jeopardized the entire casino operations as SQ 712 allowed the tribes to game at their casinos so long as there is a continued offering of the live and simulated racing programs as set forth in the act.
The Court finds that the actions of the Appellant in emailing the Director of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association and concealing his identity rose to the level of moral turpitude contemplated by the statute. Appellant’s objection to late filing of motions is over ruled.
Therefore the ruling of the EARP is affirmed and the appeal to Judge Cripps of his finding is sustained.
Abstaining: John C. Garrett, Chief Justice
James G. Wilcoxen, Justice
Angela Jones, Justice
Mark L. Dobbins, Justice
--- Am. Tribal Law ----, 2018 WL 1193213