County, PCI closer to meeting?

Published 9:12pm Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Almost a week after the Escambia County Commission announced they plan to send a formal letter to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, officials on both sides say that is a good move, although no meeting time has been officially scheduled as of yet.

Commission Chairman David Stokes said the county sent a formal request to Poarch officials last week about a meeting, days after a letter from the Department of the Interior seemingly reinforced the tribe’s contention that their land is on protected federal property, which would preclude them from local taxation.

But Stokes and the commission’s attorney Bryan Taylor, who was hired to advise them on the issue, have said that the Interior’s letter did not address the issue of taxation, especially in light of a three-year-old Supreme Court ruling.  PCI Tribal Councilman and Governmental Relations Advisor Robert McGhee said Tuesday that an email from the tribe has been sent to County Administrator Tany Sanks to get the ball rolling on setting up a meeting. McGhee also said the tribal council has some concerns about what commissioners hope to achieve.

“I’ve been a little confused,” McGhee said. “The county commission has been saying, ‘We want to sit down and have a meeting and talk about the taxation issue.’ There is no taxation issue. We’ve always said in the past that the best way to handle this was to sit down and have a meeting. That’s what the first agreement that we had called for.”

McGhee said his hope is that the county is willing to talk about what PCI can contribute and is pleased they agreed to meet.

The email from the Tribe simply states that tribal Chairman Buford Rolin will be in touch “in the near future” to schedule a meeting.

Last week, Commissioner David Quarker — who represents the area in Atmore in which the tribe’s land is located — suggested that commissioners reach out to PCI for a meeting. Quarker also suggested that the commission no longer needs the services of Taylor, the attorney, but commissioners took no formal vote on the suggestion and Stokes said Taylor remains on retainer for the county.

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