Legal

BIA Osage Agency superintendent on leave

The BIA Osage Agency has a new acting superintendent and no one is saying why, on the record.

Rhonda Loftin will be filling in for Osage Agency Superintendent Melissa Currey while she is out of the office for 120 days.

Speculation as to why Currey is out of the office rose at a Jan. 11 Osage Minerals Council meeting after numerous shareholders alleged she was under investigation and that she was detailed to the Seminole Agency in Wewoka, Okla. One shareholder described in detail the day Currey was escorted from the Agency by BIA police.

Currey told the Osage News Jan. 11 she has been working from home because of an ongoing medical issue and her absence may have caused rumors of an investigation. She said she was not escorted out of the Agency. She declined to comment further.

Nedra Darling, Public Information Officer for the BIA, said Jan. 14 that she could neither confirm nor deny Currey was under investigation because she was not allowed to discuss personnel issues per BIA policy.

At the Jan. 11 OMC meeting, Osage Nation Principal Chief John Red Eagle was added to the agenda and used his time to speak about the “internal unrest” at the Osage Agency. He said it had been occurring for some time and as a result Currey might be removed.

“We work very well with Melissa (Currey). She has the best knowledge of the Minerals Estate and she knows us,” Red Eagle said. “She has the support of the Chief’s Office, of keeping her here.”

Red Eagle went on to say he had spoken to the BIA Interior Secretary’s office and they were aware of how Red Eagle’s office felt about Currey.

Acting Osage Agency Superintendent, Rhonda Loftin, gave a report at the OMC meeting Jan. 11 and introduced Christy Hammons, who is the acting deputy superintendent.

“I’ve only been here for a few days and we’re working on the processes and procedures (for permits) and trying to update those,” Loftin said.

OMC Chairman Galen Crum didn’t know about Currey’s situation or that she was going to be gone.

“They have people filling in at this time and those folks are meeting our needs,” Crum said. “I don’t even know (if there is an investigation) to tell you the truth. All I know is it’s a personnel matter.”

Currey has worked for the Osage Agency for 28 years and she’s been the superintendent since November of 2004.

Allegations

Investigation or not, two people are determined to have change at the Osage Agency and that’s Nona Roach and Bob Jackman.

Roach, an independent oil producer who contracts with various companies working in the Osage, and Jackman, a petroleum geologist, have publicly expressed their disappointment with how the Osage Agency is ran.

Roach wrote a letter dated Jan. 4 to Currey, BIA Director Mike Black, the Department of the Interior Director Jeff Carlson, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn’s office and others, detailing a situation in which Roach alleged Currey was negligent in her duties in not signing off on drilling permits in a timely manner.

Roach said she turned in the paperwork for drilling in Aug. 20 of last year for Black Lava, a small company from Texas that hires local people. She said it took 140 days for the permit to be signed, causing oil production to be delayed and the company to suffer an economic downturn. Roach said she called the BIA offices during the 140 days, rarely getting an answer and having to call three to four different numbers to get an answer. During the holidays she didn’t get an answer at all and she wasn’t able to leave a message because there was no voicemail.

“I think it’s ludicrous that a $4 billion Mineral Estate can’t have an answering machine so that messages might be left inquiring as to the status of leases and drilling permits,” she wrote in the letter. “I left several messages including one with you (Currey) personally where you assured me that Charles Hurlburt (BIA petroleum engineer) would return my call. I AM STILL WAITING ON HIS CALL!”

Hurlburt signed the permit on Jan. 5 but due to the delay Black Lava had missed out on a months worth of drilling during their primary term. Roach said permits usually run an average of 70 days or more to be approved and signed by the BIA.

“I am going on the record that this is totally unacceptable in anyone’s realm of responsibility! Your (Currey) office is economically impacting Operators who can’t afford to continue losing leases and who want to pump money into the Osage economy,” she said.

She also contracts with the company Encana who had three full tanks of oil ready to be transported to their refinery but due to a BIA mishap, Encana’s oil rig had to be shut down because the BIA failed to mark the tanks so the trucks could transport the oil. After emergency telephone calls and meetings with Loftin, the situation was cleared up and the trucks were allowed to transport the oil. But, Roach said until the matter was cleared up Encana was venting oil into the air and at 20 percent to the shareholders, the shut down cost shareholders at least $40,000 in royalties, and it cost the oil producers more. Encana’s rig is across the street from ALCO on the west side of Pawhuska. The rig is not within city limits, but ALCO is.

She alleged that it was commonly known among producers that when working with the Osage Agency companies were going to deal with unprofessionalism.

Jackman echoed Roach’s sentiments and was critical of Currey’s management skills and the BIA.

“The result of this grossly inferior management (of the minerals estate) is costing the Osage shareholder in two ways: One, royalties are going uncollected because the BIA doesn’t have a competent royalty compliance department. And two, with the old, inadequate, unqualified way this place has been ran, the oil and gas industry cannot maximize the oil and gas resources,” he said. “To allow this $4 billion minerals estate to be managed by a BIA manager with only a high school education is terrible.”