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Osage Congress unanimous in vote for removal trial for Chief Red Eagle

Vote for a removal trial is a first for the Osage government; Trial date yet to be set
Osage Congressional Clerk Barbara Rice reads the two-page motion during the ninth special session. Photo by Chalene Toehay/Osage News

The Third Osage Nation Congress voted unanimously for a removal trial of Principal Chief John Red Eagle on Nov. 15.

The 12-0 vote is a first in the history of the reformed tribal government.

Per the 2006 Osage Constitution, elected or appointed government officials may be removed from office with cause with a removal trial conducted by the ON Congress with an ON Supreme Court Justice presiding.

A removal trial date was immediately unknown after the session ended. Chief Red Eagle was not in attendance at the session. He is in Washington, D.C., along with Assistant Principal Chief Scott BigHorse.

The 12 Congress members present did not make any amendments to the 6-allegation motion for a removal trial for Chief Red Eagle before the vote. Congressional Clerk Barbara Rice reread the two-page motion, which was made by Congressman Archie Mason less than 24 hours earlier during the Nov. 14 special session.

Before the vote, Congresswoman Shannon Edwards questioned whether the language of Mason’s motion was in order. She questioned whether “… move to remove (Chief Red Eagle) from office by removal trial…” was proper.

Congressman Geoffrey Standing Bear said: “I believe it’s clear the intent is to have a trial and this motion is not a removal itself.”

Red Corn said the motion was ruled to be in order and was certified by the Clerk, adding the Congress would be violating the constitution if the removal trial were not held. Any accused persons subject to a removal trial are afforded due process and an opportunity to be heard, according to the Constitution.

The roll call vote on the motion for a removal trial was 12 “yes” votes.

Afterward, Edwards motioned for the Congress to have a committee-of-the-whole discussion on what happens next. But the discussion did not occur, pending a scheduled Congressional committee meeting.

Red Corn said a Nov. 20 meeting of the Congressional Affairs committee is scheduled and at that time the committee will consider matters such as retaining legal counsel and this would occur in executive session due to attorney-client privilege.

The Congress then adjourned the session.

The Osage News asked Chief Red Eagle’s office if he would like to comment on the vote and is awaiting a response.

Six allegations from the Select Committee of Inquiry investigation will be considered during the trial as recommended by the committee report issued Oct. 28.

The three-person ON Supreme Court has a vacancy meaning Justice Jeanine Logan is likely to preside at the removal trial. The Congress is allowed to “prescribe additional rules and procedures that are necessary to implement the provisions of (Article XII, which is the Osage Constitution section on removal).”

With the Congressional rules on removal in place, the Supreme Court Justice who picked the five-person Select Committee of Inquiry is ineligible to preside at a removal trial. That means Supreme Court Chief Justice Meredith Drent, who selected the Congress members to serve on the SCOI, will not preside.

Mason’s six-allegation motion for the removal trial states the following allegations will be considered:

1.     Chief Red Eagle “interfered with an investigation of the Office of Attorney General of the Osage Nation, which constitutes malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office and arrogation of powers.”

2.     Chief Red Eagle “attempted to have the investigation being conducted by the Office of Attorney General of the Osage Nation terminated to give preferential treatment to an employee, which constitutes malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office and arrogation of power.”

3.     Chief Red Eagle “refused to uphold Osage Nation Law, ONCA 11-78, enacted by the (Congress) with a veto override on October 6, 2011, which delegates, “… full and sole control over all Mineral Estate Accounts…” (Section 2A) to the Osage Minerals Council, an independent agency within the Osage Nation. In response to the (OMC’s) letter requesting the release of accounts, he replied by letter stating, “the management of these accounts shall remain in the Osage Nation Treasury” which constitutes malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, and arrogation of power.”

4.     Chief Red Eagle abused the power of his elected position to improperly influence the administration of the Osage Nation Election Board by forbidding disciplinary action against an Election Board employee, which constitutes malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, and arrogation of power.”

5.     Chief Red Eagle “abused the power of his elected position to improperly withhold one or more contracts between the Osage Nation and Rod Hartness properly requested under the (Nation’s Open Records Act) by the Osage News staff and The Bigheart Times staff, which constitutes malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, and arrogation of power.”

6.     Chief Red Eagle “violated Osage and federal laws, misusing public money of the Osage Nation by authorizing Paul Allen to be paid $73,334 in Osage Nation public monies for personal services contracts, for which he admittedly did no work to earn his fees, which constitutes malfeasance in office, abuse of the government process and undermining the integrity of the office.”

The written motion closes with: “The foregoing allegations, if true, constitute grounds for removal from office for malfeasance in office, undermining the integrity of the office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, arrogation of powers and abuse of the government process. If any of the allegations set forth herein are sustained by 5/6 of the Members of the Osage Nation Congress, Principal Chief Red Eagle will be removed from office, and will be further subject to disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit in the Osage Nation.”

In his Nov. 13 Notes to the Nation, Congressman William "Kugee" Supernaw said another special session will be called to set the date for a trial. He then said: "At the conclusion of the trial on one or more of the Articles of Removal, should the Chief be found guilty on any Article, he could be removed from office. Ten affirmative votes are required for any Article of Removal to be sustained; in other words, 10 of the 12 members of Congress must find the accused guilty of at least one Article."