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Osage chief complies with records’ request

The principal chief of the Osages has released a pipeline-consultant contract sought since January by the tribe-owned newspaper, apparently diffusing a tribal court showdown over violation of the Osage Nation open-records act.

Last Thursday, Principal Chief John Red Eagle provided The Osage News with a copy of the contract-service agreement made Jan. 17 between the chief and pipeline consultant Rod Hartness, tribal officials said.

The newspaper had filed a lawsuit two weeks ago in an effort to force the chief to comply with an open-records request for the non-tribal contract information. It made the request nearly five months ago, shortly after the agreement was signed.

A July 11 hearing was scheduled on the matter before an Osage trial judge.

The tribe’s open records act states that public requests for records are supposed to be satisfied within 10 business days and, if the records are claimed to be exempt from disclosure, a written response is to be provided explaining why the request is being denied.

While the open-records issue apparently is rendered moot by the release of the requested contract, Red Eagle still faces a July 8 hearing on ethics complaints made by Osage Nation Attorney General Jeff Jones. The chief has previously denied all the allegations made in the ethics case.

The three-count tribal action alleges that Red Eagle interfered with an investigation of an Osage Nation employee by the attorney general’s office. It also claims the chief caused undo travel expenses to be paid for a member of the Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise Board.

On June 20, the Osage Nation Congress announced plans to convene for a special session on July 8. The agenda for the session includes a motion to consider forming a special committee that would investigate allegations against an unspecified tribal official.

According to the Native American Times, the formation of a Select Committee of Inquiry would be “the first step in the potential removal of a tribal official.” That removal process also could involve a trial — presided over by the Osage Nation Supreme Court, with the entire congressional membership serving as a jury, the newspaper said.

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