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Case rescheduled for former child support worker

The civil court case against a former Osage Nation Child Support Department employee, accused of violating the Nation’s open records and child support enforcement laws 50 times, is set for Sept. 4. The defendant requested a rescheduled court date citing a conflicting appointment to appeal her firing.

Elizabeth Kathleen Sherwood asked the ON Trial Court for a continuance in the case on Aug. 6, which is the day before she was scheduled for an initial hearing. At issue is whether Sherwood allegedly violated the Nation’s open records and child support laws 50 times when she disclosed client information to an HR grievance committee that was meeting earlier this summer to consider Sherwood’s appeal regarding a written disciplinary warning against her.

Sherwood filed a copy of a July 30 letter she received from former ON human resources director Delary Walters who wrote to inform Sherwood that her grievance hearing to reconsider her termination was also set for Aug. 7, at the same time she was due in court for the initial hearing.

According to ON Attorney General Jeff Jones, who filed the case on behalf of the Nation, the three-person grievance committee, which heard Sherwood’s Aug. 7 appeal, upheld the termination.

A rescheduled hearing is set for Sept. 4 with presiding Trial Court Chief Judge Marvin Stepson.

Sherwood, also a licensed attorney who is representing herself in this case, responded to the charges by filing an Aug. 6 answer in tribal court simply stating: “The Defendant denies each and every allegation in the Complaint and demands strict proof thereof.”

Jones filed the case in tribal court on July 18 – the same day Sherwood was terminated from her process server and TIP coordinator post with the Child Support Department. Jones said Sherwood had received a written warning for a personnel matter under the Nation’s HR policies, which she sought to appeal and breached her office’s confidentiality rules by disclosing protected client information in her support documents shared with the HR committee to challenge the warning.

According to Jones, Sherwood took screenshots of the confidential client information, which she then copied and gave to the HR department. Child support client information typically includes data regarding the amounts a person is paying in child support, names, addresses and other identifying information regarding those involved in a case.

The court complaint against Sherwood states that if convicted, a person charged with violating the Nation’s open records act faces a fine ranging of $1,000 to $5,000 per charge. A person convicted of disclosing confidential information under the ON child support enforcement act is subject to a $1,000 fine per offense.


Benny Polacca

Original Publish Date: 2014-08-28 00:00:00

Benny Polacca

Title: Senior Reporter


Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.


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