A newspaper owned by the Osage tribe has taken legal action against Osage Nation Principal Chief John Red Eagle claiming violations of the tribe’s open records law.
In a civil lawsuit filed in tribal court Wednesday, the Osage News alleges Red Eagle has failed to respond to an open records request related to the terms of employment for a non-tribal contractor. The matter is scheduled for a July 11 hearing before an Osage trial judge.
Shannon Shaw Duty, editor of the Osage News, said the request was for a copy of a contract between the tribal administration and pipeline consultant Rod Hartness. She said Friday that the chief had still not responded to the request, which was made last January.
"The Osage News has a duty to uphold its integrity and follow through with the laws set forth by the Osage Nation, even if its elected leaders do not," said Shaw.
Under terms set forth in the tribe’s Open Records Act, public requests for records are supposed to be satisfied within 10 business days. If the records are believed to be exempt from disclosure, a written response explaining why the request was being denied is to be provided, states the law — which conforms closely to the Oklahoma statute.
"Our claim, filed in the Osage Nation Trial Court, is another step toward building a stronger Osage Nation, where laws are followed and people are held accountable for their actions," Shaw added.
The Osage News case is the second civil action in two weeks to be taken against the chief.
On June 12, Red Eagle was named in a three-count ethics complaint filed by Osage Nation Attorney General Jeff Jones. It marked the first time that such an action has been taken against an Osage principal chief.
Jones alleged two separate ethics violations by Red Eagle. One involved interference with an investigation by the attorney general’s office concerning an Osage Nation employee and the other concerned travel expenses for an Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise Board member.
Red Eagle has refuted the allegations made against him in the ethics case.
"I absolutely deny the allegations that anything unethical has occurred, and look forward to defending this vigorously," the chief stated.
Hearings on the ethics cases are set for July 8.