MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

January 21, 2014

Osage Nation chief removed from office after trial for law violation

PAWHUSKA (AP)  — Osage Nation Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle was ousted Tuesday from office after a trial in which he admitted violating tribal law by ignoring records requests from two newspapers.

The counts included abuse of power, interfering with an Osage attorney general’s investigation, refusing to uphold tribal law, withholding information requested under the tribe’s Open Records Act by two newspapers and breaking federal and tribal law by using tribal funds to pay a contractor more than $70,000 to maintain his personal website. The tribal congress oversaw the trial and found that there was evidence to support five of the six counts of wrongdoing against Red Eagle.

The tribal congress also voted 11-0 with one abstention to disqualify Red Eagle from holding any future elected or appointed office with the tribe, the Tulsa World reported Tuesday.

Red Eagle, who had previously denied any wrongdoing, left the chambers without commenting. Assistant Chief Scott BigHorse was sworn in to replace Red Eagle as the tribe’s top leader. He also left without commenting.

Much like a U.S. president, the principal chief governs the tribe’s 15,000-plus citizens and upholds the laws and constitution of the tribe.

Red Eagle admitted under oath during trial Thursday that he violated tribal law by ignoring records requests from two newspapers. In 2013, the Osage News, the tribe’s newspaper, and the Bigheart Times, an independent weekly newspaper based in Barnsdall, both requested copies of a contract between the tribe and Rod Hartness, a pipeline consultant.

“It breaks the (tribal) Open Records Act,” Red Eagle said Thursday of his decision not to release the contract within the law’s 10-day response window. “In that instance, I did it. I broke the law.

“We suspected they would write something negative if they (the Osage News and the Bigheart Times) got his contract.”

Red Eagle also defended his decision to pay former contractor Paul Allen more than $70,000 in tribal funds over two years to develop and maintain a website for the principal chief’s office, despite not being able to show any tangible proof of Allen’s work.

Before the trial’s start, Red Eagle filed paperwork to run for a second term. He is one of four principal chief candidates on the Osage Nation’s primary election ballot in March.

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