Federal and Osage Nation law enforcement authorities are wrapping their investigations into the former Pawhuska Indian Village Five-Man Board activities this month, according to ON Attorney General Jeff Jones.
The investigation into the former board activities launched after an ON Congressional Office of Fiscal Performance and Review audit was attempted last year. The OFPR audit was unsuccessful after the former board chairman Joe Don Mashunkashey refused to participate in the audit. At issue is the village money accounting with more than $806,000 unaccounted for, according to report issued in September. The Pawhuska village – located on land held in federal trust – receives its revenue from its lease with the Pawhuska Osage Casino.
On Jan. 3, Jones updated the Congressional Committee on Government Operations on the investigation being handled by his office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Jones said an investigator from his office completed his work and Jones said he plans to meet later this month with the U.S. Attorney’s Office who assigned an FBI agent to investigate the issue as well.
On Dec. 14, Jones met with Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Cozzoni, who is the point of contact on the federal investigation and she informed him the FBI investigator assigned to the case “was just about finished with his investigation. He had subpoenaed bank records, had that and he wanted to meet with us toward the end of January.”
Jones said the meeting with the federal officials would focus on exchanging information in case one entity has information that the other does not on issues raised in their respective investigations. “And then, hopefully soon after that, the U.S. Attorney – if the evidence warrants it – would issue indictments,” Jones said.
Regarding the federal investigation, Jones said: “They’ll either choose not to file charges, say that nothing criminal happened, or they’ll choose to file charges.”
If charges are warranted on a person, Jones said federal authorities will “have to go before a grand jury and ask for an indictment to be issued. Once that indictment is issued on a person then that person will be arrested, held in Tulsa County Jail under federal charges … Once (the indictment) is unsealed, the person is arrested then they have 70 days to either have a plea deal in place or be ready to go to trial.”
The Tulsa federal grand jury meets the first week of every month.
Charges or no charges at the federal level, Jones said his office would also prosecute under tribal law if charges were warranted, adding there is no danger of double jeopardy.
Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn, the governmental operations committee chair, said she is seeking updates on the investigation through committee meetings to keep Osages informed on what’s happening. “This is just my attempt to let people know that this matter is being looked into by the legislative body and by the proper agencies and authorities in the Osage Nation,” she said.
The Irons report
The Jan. 3 meeting conversation also discussed an audit report on the Five-Man Board recently conducted by Jeff Irons (Osage) who is a former state government auditor and who unsuccessfully ran for Assistant Principal Chief in the Nation’s 2010 election.
The Irons report is independent from the OFPR audit and became an online social media chatter item last fall among Osages. Principal Chief John Red Eagle asked Irons to conduct the audit, but the issue of payment for Irons’ services became a hot topic last month when Irons said Chief Red Eagle was refusing to pay him.
On Dec. 22, Irons emailed Osage News Editor Shannon Shaw-Duty notifying her of his audit report on the Five-Man Board finances completed in late October and that he had yet to be paid for his work. Chief Red Eagle and Congressional Speaker Raymond Red Corn were carbon-copied on the email.
Irons said he presented a six-page report to Chief Red Eagle when they met at the Executive Branch office on Nov. 2 along with several pages of spreadsheets with additional financial information. In wake of nonpayment for his work, Irons told Shaw-Duty he was offering the report provided it was printed in the newspaper.
Shaw-Duty declined to publish the report or its contents because it could interfere with the ongoing federal investigation. Shaw-Duty then notified Jones and the Osage Nation Police Department that Irons had contacted her and that of her decision not to print the report.
Jones praised Shaw-Duty for her decision. “I was very happy with the integrity she showed in choosing not to print that since there’s an ongoing investigation,” he said.
In a Jan. 9 emailed statement regarding the Irons report, Chief Red Eagle said: “I did a one-time contract to have someone do an evaluation of the five-man board to determine if there was a need for more structure in the operation of the board.”
During the Jan. 3 meeting, Congresswoman Shannon Edwards asked Jones if he received a copy of the Irons report. At the time, Jones said he did not have a copy of the report. Since then, Jones and members of Congress including Red Corn and Whitehorn have received partial copies of the six-page report without the spreadsheets.
Red Corn declined to comment on the Irons report, adding the report has been referred to the governmental operations committee.
Whitehorn said she did not have the entire report and declined further comment on it. In the meantime, Whitehorn added: “The governmental operations committee is in agreement to hear the findings of the investigation by the Osage Nation Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
Current Pawhuska village board chairwoman Paula Stabler said Chief Red Eagle announced to the village that he planned to do an audit on Oct. 10 – the day she and four others were elected to the Five-Man Board by village residents. Stabler said board secretary Asa Cunningham received an invoice for the Irons report last year, but the board decided to hold off on any action until the 2013 new year.
On Jan. 10, Irons told the Osage News he’s since been paid. According to the invoice attached to the six-page report, Irons services cost $1,764.
Regarding the Irons report, Chief Red Eagle said: “If they (Congress) make an official request for this report, then we’ll give them a copy.” He also added the cost of the Irons report was paid for out of the Chief’s budget.
On Jan. 11, Jones said he did have a copy of the Irons report, but would not use its contents because his office’s investigation has more material and covered some issues already noted.
Congressman RJ Walker echoed Whitehorn’s comments on keeping the Osage public informed on the investigation. “We’re not on a witch hunt, we owe it to the Osage people to find out what happened, not let the issue be swept under the rug.”
Walker and several Congress members said several phone calls they receive inquire about the village investigation issue. “Some of those phone calls are from people that are being alleged to have done certain things,” Walker said adding those subjects have stated the allegations aren’t true or being exaggerated. “We owe it to both sides to see this thing through.”
The governmental operations committee will hold its next meeting Jan. 30 at 1:30 p.m. with the current village board listed as an agenda item. The committee will also hear from Jones’ office on any further updates regarding the investigation at the meeting.
The next Pawhuska village board meeting is slated for 7 p.m. on Monday Jan. 21 at Wakon Iron Hall. Stabler said the board will discuss the status of their work projects and provide updates on village maintenance issues and a forthcoming village cleanup day.