MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 25, 2014

Tribes, Shawnee officials meet on tax


— SHAWNEE (AP)  — Representatives of four tribes met with city of Shawnee officials but reached no agreement on the city’s request for the nations to begin collecting sales tax from non-tribal members on their properties and sending it to the city.

The Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, and Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma met in a closed meeting Monday with Shawnee officials, including the mayor and city manager. The parties agreed to meet again but set no date for it to happen, The Journal Record reported Tuesday.

Tribal officials said they were not pleased by the outcome of the meeting.

“From the perspective of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the meeting was little more than a cosmetic attempt to make the city appear reasonable in the public eye, because they offered to negotiate,” Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John Barrett said in a statement. “The negotiation was entirely one-sided. The only choice left to the CPN was to meet the city’s demands for tax collections or be sued in federal court.”

The Citizen Potawatomi’s Firelake Discount Foods is the only tribal retail business in Shawnee, and the tribe said the store is not within the city limits. Barrett maintains the land is in federal trust and not subject to the city’s governmental authority.

City officials have presented the tribes with a letter referencing court cases that stated that federal law permits states and cities to require Indian retailers on reservations to collect and remit tax from sales made to non-Indians or to Indians who are not members of the tribe governing the reservation.

“Sovereign immunity does not excuse compliance with an injunctive order of the court issue against government officials,” the letter stated.

The city never intended to disrespect the tribe’s sovereign immunity, Mayor Wes Mainord said.

“We recognize the contributions of the tribal nations to our community and the economic development they have brought,” he said in a statement.

Mainord said the city has yet to decide whether it will begin litigation against any of the tribal nations.