The ongoing Osage Nation Congressional special session and its investigative proceedings into the 15 allegations of wrongdoing against Principal Chief John Red Eagle prompted a delay in the ethics complaint case ON Attorney General Jeff Jones filed against the Chief earlier this summer.
On Aug. 6, the Chief’s attorneys filed a motion for a continuance request in ON Trial Court where Jones filed the complaint. Two days later, presiding Associate Judge Lee Stout granted the motion just before a scheduling conference was to be held with the attorneys. A new date for the scheduling conference has yet to be set.
The continuance motion comes less than two weeks before the ON Congressional investigation of 15 allegations against Chief Red Eagle started during the seventh special session. The ON Congressional Select Committee of Inquiry is holding executive session meetings to investigate those allegations by gathering evidence and hearing witness testimonies.
The ethics complaint allegations raised by Jones are also listed in the 15 allegations made public for a Congressional vote to form the committee during a July special session.
Citing “recent developments,” James Burson, attorney for Chief Red Eagle, requested the continuance and noted Jones had no objection, according to the document.
“What was postponed was a technical meeting between the attorneys to line-out an agreeable schedule for discovery, motions, and hearings,” Burson said in a statement regarding the scheduling conference. “This kind of ‘conference’ is optional when requested by the attorneys, as in this case. Nothing substantive was postponed. Part of the reason for the postponement was the upcoming congressional hearings and part of the reason was based on our concurrence with the AG that the case can be managed without a formal schedule.”
Jones filed an initial three-count ethics complaint in June, arguing that Chief Red Eagle broke Osage law when he allegedly interfered with an investigation by contacting AG Investigator Brian Herbert and demanded that an investigation involving a “certain person” stop immediately. Jones also alleges that Chief Red Eagle contacted the Gaming Enterprise Board and told them “that they will pay” for travel expenses for board member Randy Carnett when the board decided not to pay for the entire travel to cut costs.
On July 12, Jones filed an amended ethics complaint adding a fourth count regarding an Executive Branch appointment contract with Paul Allen who maintains the Chief’swww.johnredeagle.com website. In the amended complaint, Jones argues those payments made to Allen with tribal money is considered an “unauthorized use of Osage Nation resources in the amount of $71,603.00,” which is the amount paid to Allen through contract up to July. Also in his complaint, Jones alleges the payments to Allen violate two sections of the Nation’s ethics law regarding unauthorized use of ON resources.
On Day One of the special session during the Select Committee of Inquiry’s first meeting, Jones and Herbert were present at the chambers and met with the committee in executive session shortly after the committee elected Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead as chairwoman and Congressman Archie Mason as vice chairman. The three remaining committee members are Maria Whitehorn, John Jech and Congressional Speaker Raymond Red Corn.
Several other witnesses, their testimonies and evidence are all being sought for the Select Committee of Inquiry executive sessions in addition to Jones and Herbert’s visits.
Chief Red Eagle criticizes investigative process
In an Aug. 12 statement posted to the Nation’s website, Chief Red Eagle argues the investigation process is being conducted in a “one-sided manner.”
“The Osage Nation Congress has rules for such inquiries, which it calls Hearings. However, the hearings can be conducted in a completely one-sided manner because neither I, nor my attorneys, will be given the opportunity to respond in any way to the allegations being presented in these hearings,” Chief Red Eagle said.
According to the Congressional rules regarding the Select Committee of Inquiry process, an appointed or elected official who is the subject of a Select Committee of Inquiry investigation has the right to receive written meeting notices and is permitted to attend all hearings and executive sessions with or by legal counsel.
In addition to the rules regarding the investigation process, the Select Committee of Inquiry voted Aug. 19 to allow the Chief and his counsel to attend the committee’s executive sessions, but to prohibit them from observing committee deliberations in the executive sessions.
“This is especially troubling because on completion of the hearing, the Committee will give a report to the Congress, which will be relied upon by the 12 members of Congress to vote on whether or not a formal trial for my removal should take place,” said Chief Red Eagle. As a result, all of the information gathered may be only one side of the story.”
According to the Congressional rules, officials subject to a removal trial will be allowed to have legal counsel appear and be heard during trial. At that point, witnesses called to the stand will be subject to examination and cross-examination by attorneys for both sides in the case.
On Friday Aug. 23, the Congress met briefly for Day Five of the special session. No announcements were made related to the ongoing committee investigation of the 15 allegations except for new committee meeting notices.
Select Committee of Inquiry chairwoman Alice Buffalohead said this week's meetings will be held daily Aug. 26-30. According to the Osage Constitution, the Congress shall not adjourn during any session for more than three days, Sundays exempted.
The Congress will next meet Wednesday Aug. 28 at noon.
ENTIRE STATEMENT: To read the rest of Chief Red Eagle's statement regarding the Congressional investigation process, visit:www.osagetribe.com/executive/news_story.aspx?news_id=3204