Government

Changes to elected officials salaries take effect

Salaries for the elected officials in the Osage Nation’s three government branches changed due to a bill passed by the Third Osage Nation Congress.

The bill (ONCA 14-39) passed with a 10-2 vote during the May 22 special session of Congress, but the salary changes did not take effect until July 2 – the Inauguration day for the Fourth ON Congress, Office of the Chiefs and the Judicial Branch judges re-elected for retention in the June 2 general election.

According to ONCA 14-39 (sponsored by Congresswoman Shannon Edwards), the legislation sets a salary increase for the Assistant Principal Chief as well as set a salary structure for the Judicial Branch judges who serve initial four-year terms once appointed and confirmed by the executive and legislative branches. Afterward, the judges are listed on the ballot for a retention vote by the Osage public, if the judges are interested in serving another four-year term.

The breakdown of elected official salaries, according to ONCA 14-39 for the Executive Branch is:

Office of Principal Chief’s salary remains the same at $95,000 per year with a cap of $7,500 for expense allowance items including phone, Internet, local mileage, entertainment and other expenses not in the annual budget, according to a May 21 Congressional office fiscal analysis of the bill. The expense allowance is to be paid in equal pay period installments, according to ONCA 14-39.

Office of Assistant Principal Chief’s salary increased by $3,750 with the salary increased to $75,000 from $71,250. The position also includes an expense allowance of $6,000. Both Executive Branch elected offices are eligible to participate in the employee benefit package, if interested.

In the Legislative Branch, the 12-member Congress will each receive a $65,000 annual salary and benefits (if interested) and the Congressional Speaker and Second Speaker will also receive expense allowances of $3,000.

For the Judicial Branch, the salary structure for the Supreme Court and Trial Court judges is set as follows:

The Supreme Court Chief Justice will be paid a contract fee of $24,000 annually for administering the Judicial Branch; $500 per court day for oral arguments; $150 per hour for research/ writing opinions not to exceed $24,000 per year; annual expense allowance not to exceed $2,500; and for judicial services required by the Osage Constitution or law that are not related to cases pending before the Supreme Court, $100 per hour not to exceed $500 per day.

The Supreme Court Associate Justices will be paid $500 per court day for oral arguments; $150 per hour for research/ writing opinions not to exceed $24,000 per year; and an annual expense allowance not to exceed $2,500.

The Chief Judge of the ON Trial Court will be paid $700 per regular court day when matters are docketed and heard; and for scheduled judges meetings; $150 per hour for research/ writing opinions on cases not to exceed $10,000 and an annual expense allowance not to exceed $2,500.

For ON Trial Court Associate Judges, they will also be paid $700 per regular court day when matters are docketed and heard; $150 per hour for research/ writing opinions on cases not to exceed $10,000 and an annual expense allowance not to exceed $2,500.

Edwards said she sponsored the salary structure bill in response to several years of questions she’s raised concerning salaries/ benefits for elected officials and learning the compensation was handled differently in each branch. “As you all know, I’m all about process and putting it in writing and to be able to go to a place, find the answer, look in the book, look what we’ve done, read the law and understand what it means,” Edwards said before the bill’s vote.

Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead said she wished the branches were broken apart by legislation and that she did not agree with all parts of ONCA 14-39.

Congressman William “Kugee” Supernaw said he supports the bill noting there is no increase in salaries for the Congress and said the salary for the Supreme Court Chief Justice would decrease from its previous annual base amount of $50,000. Supernaw said he applauded the reduction request from Chief Justice Meredith Drent who delivered feedback for the Judicial Branch regarding the bill.

ONCA 14-39 passed with a 10-2 vote with “no” votes from Buffalohead, who is now Second Speaker, and then-Congressional Speaker Raymond Red Corn who was elected Assistant Principal Chief in the June general election.