Chief Red Eagle makes two appointments to Gaming Commission

PrincipalChief John Red Eagle appointed two Osages to the Nation’s Gaming Commission and both are now subject to Congressional confirmations during the Hun-Kah Session, which starts Monday.

Fredrick Beartrack was appointed to the three-member Gaming Commission on March 14 and was sworn into his post the next day at the tribal courthouse in Pawhuska. Former ON Congressman Doug Revard was also selected for a commission seat and took oath on Feb. 28. Trial Court Judge Marvin Stepson administered the oath of office for both.

Beartrack, of the Grayhorse District, is a Fairfax native who is an operations engineer for Laredo Petroleum Inc., according to a news release from Chief Red Eagle’s office.

“Fred brings significant regulatory experience to the Commission, and the Nation is grateful for his willingness to serve the Osage people,” Chief Red Eagle said in the release. Beartrack, who lives in Owasso, is a 2004 Oklahoma State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering.

Beartrack was also employed with ExxonMobil as a drilling engineer and has dealt with federal and state regulations, as well as state corporation commissions, the release stated.

“Fred’s background lends itself well to the needs of the Gaming Commission in terms of diversity, diligence, and a keen eye for analysis and thought. That is what’s required of someone on the Gaming Commission as it regulates the economic engine of the Osage Nation,” Red Eagle said. 

Revard, of Ponca City, is a retired Oklahoma state district court judge for the Eighth Judicial District, which covers Kay and Noble counties. He received his juris doctorate from Oklahoma City University in 1975 and served on the First ON Congress from 2006 to 2010.

The Gaming Commission is the Nation’s entity charged with enforcing federal, tribal and state gaming compact laws and regulations, as well as issuing gaming licenses.  

Search underway for third Gaming Commissioner

Beartrack and Revard will comprise a quorum of the Gaming Commission while Chief Red Eagle’s office continues to search for a third board nominee. Matt Shunkamolah was appointed as an interim gaming commissioner in December, but his post expired March 13.

Congress passed ONCA 10-73 during the Tzi-Zho Session, which is a bill amending the Nation’s gaming law to expand the Gaming Commission from one to three commissioners. According to the bill, the chief is charged with nominating the three commissioners who will serve three-year terms once confirmed by Congress. Interim commissioner service is limited to three months if no congressional confirmation is granted, according to the bill.

ONCA 10-73 also calls for the position of commission director who has “the authority to supervise and direct all staff of the Gaming Commission in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Commission.” The director has supervisory and administrative authority over gaming license processing and monitoring the casinos’ compliance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Congress raised questions about the Gaming Commission’s status during its Sixth Special Session last month when its members reviewed ONCA 11-24, which would modify the Gaming Commission’s 2011 fiscal year budget to add several positions under the Gaming Commission including seven investigative agent positions and two supervisors over those jobs, according to the original bill filed Feb. 22.  

During the special session, ONCA 11-24 was ultimately tabled when a substitute copy of the bill was presented to the Congressional Commerce and Economic Development Committee, which has jurisdiction over gaming-related legislation before it goes to a floor vote of the Congress. Shunkamolah, and other gaming officials attending the committee meeting, alerted the Congress members present that the substitute bill did not include the positions to be added.

In his Feb. 28 “Updates” newsletter, Congressman Raymond Red Corn discussed the Sixth Special Session and noted Shunkamolah wrote the proposed budget bill and questioned whether Shunkamolah was acting as an interim commissioner or as director of the commission.

The gaming commission met for a March 9 public meeting at the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center in Pawhuska where the question of Shunkamolah’s dual role was discussed. During the March 9 meeting, Revard said he nominated Shunkamolah “to be the acting interim gaming executive director along with being a commissioner and we (Shunkamolah and him) voted on that and it passed” when the two met during the prior week.

Raymond Lasley, the executive advisor of programs for Red Eagle’s office, said during the March 9 meeting that Red Eagle recommended Beartrack for the commission, but he had yet to accept the nomination. The status of Shunkamolah is being determined by the Chief’s office while Beartrack and Revard’s names were forwarded to Congress for consideration of confirmation during the forthcoming 24-day Hun-Kah Session.

Chris White, the executive director of governmental affairs for Chief Red Eagle’s office, said in an e-mail: “Congress failed to include a transition period in (ONCA 10-73) that created the more effective three-member form of Commission. As is proper, the decision on the status of Mr. Shunkamolah will ultimately be made by the Gaming Commission. The Chief's office is working with the two new Commissioners and the Attorney General on clarifying the current and future status of Mr. Shunkamolah during this period of transition.”