Government , Legal

Congress lacks votes to call Special Session to form Select Committee of Inquiry

Photo caption: The 6th Osage Nation Congress at work during the 2019 Tzi-Zho Session in the ON Capitol Building in downtown Pawhuska. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

A Special Session Proclamation to consider the formation of a Select Committee of Inquiry to investigate the allegations of disqualification of Congresswoman Shannon Edwards has failed.

The proclamation did not receive the required eight signatures to schedule a special session for March 23. However, the members of Congress who did not sign the proclamation say the issue will be taken up during the Hun-Kah Session, which begins on March 30, only seven days later.

“There is nothing time-sensitive to the matter in my opinion and the 23rd didn’t jive with everyone’s schedule. I expect the same motion to establish a committee of inquiry to be made on the first or second day of the Hun-Kah Session when there is a higher likelihood of all members being present,” said Congressman RJ Walker, who did not sign the proclamation. “Regardless of any member’s personal feeling about Congresswoman Edwards, or any other elected official in the future, due process is a necessary step prior to consideration of removal.”

The failed proclamation itself is not a public document, according to Osage Congressional attorney Loyed “Trey” Gill.

“The proposed Special Session Proclamation is a draft, which is a protected record unless otherwise classified as public under Osage law at 15 ONC 8-104, and it does not become a public record of the Osage Nation Congress until it receives the required eight signatures and is certified by a Clerk of Congress,” said Gill in a March 6 email. 

Due to the fact that Congress is a public body and who did or didn’t sign the proclamation is of public interest, the Osage News called each member of Congress to ask if he or she signed it. Six members of Congress said they signed it, three members said they did not, one member had no comment and two members did not immediately return a request for comment.

Speaker Joe Tillman: No, “The first day of session someone will make the motion to form the committee of inquiry.”
Second Speaker Paula Stabler: Yes
Congressman Scott BigHorse: Yes
Congresswoman Shannon Edwards: Did not immediately return a request for comment.
Congresswoman Alice Goodfox: Yes
Congresswoman Brandy Lemon: Yes, “I felt we could get this going so it wouldn’t be hanging over the Hun-Kah Session because that is when we are doing the people’s work. But others didn’t feel that way. I voted my conscience.”
Congressman John Maker: Yes, “I signed it electronically with an email. I spoke with my family about it and this is what they wanted me to do.”
Congressman Archie Mason: No, “I think the call for it and the reason can be brought forward during the regular session coming up in a matter of weeks.”
Congressman Eli Potts: No comment.
Congresswoman Angela Pratt: Yes
Congressman RJ Walker: No
Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn: Did not immediately return a request for comment.

Signatures were due by 4:30 p.m. on March 5. The spring Hun-Kah Session begins on March 30.

On Feb. 25, the Congressional Rules and Ethics Committee made a motion that would begin the removal process for Edwards, who has served on the Osage Nation Congress since 2006. The committee amended the motion two days later on Feb. 27 to provide for due process for Edwards, as called for in the Osage constitution.

The issue came to light after the Osage News published an article in its February 2020 edition about the swearing-in of Edwards as the Yavapai-Apache’s new appellate justice. Allegations arose on social media soon after that she disqualified herself to serve as a member of Congress by taking the judgeship. The News obtained the article about her swearing-in after Edwards sent a copy of it to the Osage News’ Editorial Board on Jan. 24.

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