Osage chief could face removal; tribal congress committee finds evidence of wrongdoing
Findings to support seven allegations of wrongdoing against Osage Nation Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle were revealed late Monday in a report released by an Osage Congress investigating committee which recommended that the tribal leader be removed from office.
Although eight other allegations were deemed insufficient — and no criminal matters are involved — the tribe’s Select Committee of Inquiry ruled that six of the charges were serious enough to warrant removal from office for the chief, who was elected in 2010.
Red Eagle has steadfastly denied the allegations, which he said are of a political nature.
The 58-page report culminated a two-month probe of Red Eagle by the five-member congressional committee. Its findings were to be initially considered by the full Osage Nation Congress when it reconvened Tuesday morning. Approval of the report by the legislative body would almost certainly bring about removal proceedings for the 65-year-old principal chief.
According to the Osage Constitution, if the committee finds sufficient grounds exist, a written motion to conduct a removal trial must be issued for a vote by the entire congress. All dozen members of the Osage Nation Congress would serve as jurors at the trial. The motion for removal could be based on one or more of the specified charges.
The report found sufficient evidence to support allegations against Red Eagle on charges of malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, arrogation of power and abuse of the government process.
Among the Red Eagle charges for which sufficiency was found were: refusing to uphold a tribal law delegating “full and sole control over all Minerals Estate accounts” to the Osage Minerals Council; withheld information about terms of a contract with a pipeline consultant from the Osage News and another newspaper that filed formal requests under the tribe’s Open Records Act; violated Osage and federal laws by using tribal funds to pay a consultant for developing and maintaining his personal website.
A statement that accompanied the report said the five-member ON panel “was unanimous in its opinions of which allegations had sufficient evidence.” Committee approval of the report came by a 4-0 vote from chairwoman Alice Buffalohead, Raymond Red Corn, John Jech and Maria Whitehorn. Congressman Archie Mason was absent Monday, Osage officials said.
The committee statement also refuted claims that Red Eagle has not been afforded due process by the investigative procedure, which took place mainly in executive sessions.
“If the Osage Nation Congress proceeds to a removal trial based on the evidence, the Principal Chief and his legal counsel will have the opportunity to present a legal defense, call witnesses, cross-examine witnesses and submit evidence on his behalf,” the statement concluded.
Also released with the report were 236 pages in support of two charges that were ruled to be sufficient — alleging the chief interfered with an official investigation of the Osage Nation attorney general. The claim further alleges that Red Eagle attempted to terminate the investigation in order to give preferential treatment to an employee.
One allegation that the committee found to be sufficient was not involved in its motion for removal. It involved a claim that the chief abused his power by attempting to influence the payment of a tribal employee’s travel expenses by the Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise Board.
In its preparation of the final report, the committee was assisted by a specially-hired Tulsa attorney. The tribal legislature voted unanimously to form the special committee on July 10 after being presented with the list of allegations by Congressman William “Kugee” Supernaw. Investigations began after the five members were named Aug. 19 by Osage Supreme Court Justice Meredith Trent.
The committee held its final meeting Monday during a noontime recess of the ON Congress, which had previously announced plans to adjourn the current special session (which began Oct. 21) on Thursday.