Court order blocking COVID-19 funds spending by Kiowa tribe lifted


Kiowa Tribe Chairman Matthew Komalty sits next to Angela McCarthy, Kiowa legislative speaker, with members of the tribe’s executive branch and legislators during a discussion earlier this year about tribal safety during early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo courtesy of The Kiowa Tribe

The Court of Indian Offenses lifted the court order that halted the Kiowa chairman from spending COVID-19 CARES Act funds following a lengthy legal battle between the Kiowa Legislative and Executive branches.

The ruling will permit Chairman Matthew Komalty to resume spending the funds to help tribal members and pay for other tribal needs related to the pandemic.

According to an Executive branch news release, CARES Act funds have strict rules on how the money can be spent. Payments must be used to cover expenses incurred by the pandemic between March 1 and Dec. 30, 2020. 

Failure to comply with these restrictions could leave the Tribe responsible for paying the money back to the Federal Government, according to the statement.

The Kiowa Legislature’s previous proposal of a $1,000 payment to each tribal member is considered a “per capita” payment, which does not comply with the regulations put in place by the US Treasury, according to the press release.

The court order by the CFR Court arrived in the midst of the impeachment trial against Komalty. Despite an earlier injunction that temporarily halted the trial, the Legislature is continuing its pursuit of impeachment.

Kiowa’s District 4 Legislator Jessie Svitak said that the Legislature is working to obtain all the documents requested by the tribe’s Chief Magistrate Shannon L. Edwards in order to move forward.

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.