Oklahoma's Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes claim $6.4 million was frozen illegally by bank

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are suing an Oklahoma bank in federal court, alleging that roughly $6.4 million of its funds were illegally frozen at the end of April.
by Andrew Knittle Published: May 8, 2012

— The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are asking a federal judge to order the release of roughly $6.4 million in cash assets they claim were illegally frozen at the request of a Clinton bank in late April.

Lisa Liebl, a spokeswoman for the tribes, said the bank's actions have placed its members in a precarious position.

“The freeze is impairing the tribes' ability to govern itself and provide basic services,” she said. “That's a violation of federal law.”

Liebl said the effects of the April 24 freeze on the tribes' accounts already are plain to see.

“We've bounced payroll checks, and we've bounced checks to contractors and vendors,” Liebl said. “That's a lot of money to just have frozen.”

Liebl said the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes employ roughly 500 western Oklahoma residents, a total that doesn't include casino workers.

According to the lawsuit, the tribes claim that key governmental functions such as housing assistance and a food voucher program will be severely cut back if the funds remain frozen. Documents provided by the tribes indicate that hundreds of tribal and nontribal members could be affected if the funds aren't freed up.

Emergency medical services, firefighting units, substance abuse programs and a laundry list of other social services provided by the tribes “will likely be scaled back tremendously,” Liebl said.

“We also started a 32-hour workweek last week,” she said. “That will go on — and could get more drastic — for as long as this goes on.”

Executive dispute

The administrative freeze on the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes' accounts at the end of April in large part was because of a dispute between the tribes' top executives.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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