Thursday, September 11, 2008

Column: Feather News Editor Denies One Of Two 9/11 Government Requests

By Ken Davison
Feather News

September 11th has become an unforgettable day for me. As it has for most of us.

On September 11, 2001, I was on the banks of the Hudson River a half-mile from Manhattan and watched the World Trade Center burn with my own eyes (see picture below).

On September 11, 2005, I was told that a job was waiting for me in Kabul, Afghanistan if I chose to go, which I did.

On September 11, 2008, I waited most of the day to receive a response from the Mohegan Election Committee on my complaint over tribal laws that require us to vote for candidates that we don't want to vote for.

I began the day reading an e-mail that our government requested we fly the flag at half-mast. I went outside and lowered the flag. I thought about the events of that transforming day in September 2001, what happened and how I felt.

But I had other things on my mind too.

While I thought about the next steps to take over the anticipated response that I would receive later in the day from the Election Committee, I was receiving various irritating e-mails throughout the day from the Tribe's chief operating officer, Phil Cahill. I received an e-mail from Phil earlier saying that the Tribal Council was requesting that I meet with them in executive session at next Wednesday's Tribal Council meeting.

I did what I thought was reasonable. I responded by asking him what the meeting was about and told him that I could not meet with the Tribal Council behind closed doors, that it had to take place in open session.

Does that sound unreasonable?

Since my election complaint was going on, I certainly wouldn't be able to discuss that issue with them. I think they may be the defendants if I have to take the election issue to tribal court and the last thing I want to do is jeopardize this case for tribal members.

In short, I just cannot talk to them about pending or planned action over topics outlined in election complaints so I wanted to know what it was they wanted to talk to me about. And I certainly could not meet with them in closed-session about anything. Regardless of the election law case, I would still want to know what any given meeting is about.

Shortly before I went to the tribal office today to get my response from the Election Committee I finally got a short reply from Phil. "it will be an informal discussion (about) responsibilities."

I couldn't understand his message and was trying to focus on my election complaint at the moment but I was courteous enough to e-mail him. I asked, "what responsibilities, whose responsibilities?"

Why they couldn't tell me what the meeting was about was beyond me. I don't think I've ever gone to a meeting without knowing what the meeting was about. I doubt Phil has either.

Moments later, before I left for the government building, I e-mailed Phil again so that I would be crystal clear, "Phil, I have no problem talking with you informally in any setting. I think you know that. I cannot, however, talk to the tribal council in closed session under any circumstances. I repeat, they need to put the request in writing and give me a detailed description about the topic and their concerns before I will consider it. If that cannot be done, then don't waste your time (and) consider their request denied."

I thought that would result in them telling me what the meeting was about. Boy, was I wrong. While sitting at the computer and talking with a friend about what our lives were like on September 11, 2001, I saw Phil's name pop up on my computer. I opened his e-mail:

Phil wrote, "Ken - let me clarify - the Council would like to meet with you after the Council meeting next Wednesday - the meeting is not part of the formal 'Council meeting agenda' and it will be held in the Council conference room. It’s an informal discussion and does not require any preparation on your part and I promise to have all the torture equipment removed first. Honestly I find your “demands” disrespectful and rather silly. Since I’ve been here the Council has requested dozens of people to come in and discuss a matter - you are the only one who has made this type of request. A simple “yes” or “no” will be fine."

I ask not to be in a closed-door "executive session" and ask the the reason for the meeting and I'm then called "disrespectful?" "Silly?"

I felt irritated, I had a lot of other things on my mind today. My response to Phil was short. Phil is an okay guy and I know it can't be easy for him when his bosses make him explain patiently over and over again exactly why 2 plus 2 cannot equal 5 but I knew what my response would be once I got half-way through the e-mail where Phil called my request "disrespectful." I answered, "no."

If the Tribal Council truly feels an urgent need to meet, I suggest they start meeting with those "dozens of people" again.

Then I looked up at the television - the World Trade Center was burning again, this time it was chronicled in a TV documentary.