Patricia Spurrier Bright is suing the Third Osage Minerals Council for not honoring a request for financial records.
Spurrier Bright, an Osage shareholder, filed suit in the Osage Nation Trial Court on Dec. 2. This is the first time an Osage shareholder has filed suit against the minerals council for access to records.
She requested the general ledger of the minerals council’s S510 and C395 accounts on Oct. 16 under the Nation’s open records law. She believes the records would show the council’s expenses and income for the 2016 fiscal year. She said she never got a response.
According to the open records law, a government entity has 10 business days to reply to a request, either with the records or a letter of denial. Violation of the open records law is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, and the court also awards court costs, attorney fees and expenses.
“The reason I’m doing this is I believe this council is the first council in 110 years to spend the million allotted to run the council for the year, and they really have nothing to show for it,” Spurrier Bright said. “It’s about transparency in government … and a lot of them ran for council on that.”
The council is given a one million dollar allotment from the U.S. Treasury each year and the money is placed in the council’s C395 account. The council’s S510 account is the revenue from land plot maps sold by the Osage Agency Bureau of Indian Affairs and that revenue is controlled by the OMC.
Spurrier Bright believes the answers to her questions about the council’s expenses lie within the general ledgers of the two accounts. She has been told from various sources that money is being spent frivolously on attorneys to answer questions or attend to issues that have already been settled, in her opinion.
“They have messed with the wrong shareholder this time. Osage shareholders have every right to know how the council is spending the money because it’s our money,” she said. “I think they’re wasting shareholder money and they think they don’t have to answer to anybody.”
The minerals council is made up of eight council members: Everett Waller (chair), Talee Redcorn, Stephanie Erwin, Joseph Cheshewalla, Cynthia Boone, Kathryn Red Corn, Galen Crum and Andrew Yates.
The Osage Nation Attorney General, Holli Wells, issued a five-page opinion in August that said the minerals council is subject to the Nation’s Open Meetings law and Open Records laws. The Osage Nation Supreme Court ruled the minerals council is subject to the Nation’s Constitution and ethics law.
Chairman Waller did not return comment before this article was published online.