ON Congressmen accuse Chief Standing Bear of placing ON employees ‘in jeopardy’

Osage Nation Congressmen Eli Potts, Joe Tillman and John Maker are alleging illegal treatment of Executive Branch employees by the Standing Bear administration.

In a 3-page March 4 press release, the congressmen allege Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear may have violated the Osage Constitution and Osage law with an Executive Branch memorandum pertaining to personnel matters. On Feb. 18, acting Human Resources Director Julie Gilmore sent the memorandum to over 400 employees that said the following:

“Under the supreme executive power vested in the Principal Chief by the Osage Constitution, any personnel decision directly from the Principal Chief is exempted from any personnel policy or procedure. In that regard, any employee of the Executive Branch is an employee at will of the Principal Chief until further notice.

“Due process will be provided to any affected employee at a scheduled interview with the Principal Chief. Except for those decisions by the Principal Chief the remaining provisions of personnel policy and procedures are still in effect.”

The congressmen said the memorandum “places employees’ rights aside, could create a hostile work environment and negatively impacts employee morale.” They said Executive memorandums “openly violate Osage law” and place the Osage Nation workforce in jeopardy. They said there were many employee departures from the Standing Bear administration that went unreported and “almost no scrutiny is being placed on executive decisions and how they impact the operations of the Osage Nation.”

Osage News asked Standing Bear for a comment about the release and he issued a response on March 4.  

“My response is that I do not comment on personnel matters. Eli Potts, Joe Tillman, and John Maker should not either. It is well known that my political opponents have a right to their opinions, even when not based on fact. All personnel actions of the Executive Branch are between the employee and our branch. We just don’t talk about those matters publicly, even to the Osage Congress, which is a separate branch of government,” Standing Bear said.

“Most of the employees of the Osage Nation demonstrate their commitment to the goals of this Administration and we are supported by the majority of the 12 member Osage Congress. We believe in our culture, language and expanding our land base. We are building around the youth, which is our future. We care for our elderly, and the health of our people. No employee has ever been denied nor will be denied due process in a personnel action,” Standing Bear said. “I can confidently state that without the opponents to the progress we have made, we would have been much further ahead than we are today.”

The congressmen allege there have been high-profile departures of employees from within the Education Department, the Immersion School, the Treasury Department, the Attorney General’s office, the Accounting Department, Human Resources, the Osage Nation Ranch Board LLC, Enterprise Boards, the Health Authority Board, and others.

“Simply put, these employees work for the Nation, not at the will of the Standing Bear Administration,” Potts said in the release. “Their service to this Nation should not be dependent upon who is currently serving as the Chief of the Nation. Employees of the Nation deserve stability and deserve workforce protections.”

Employee personnel records and terminations are considered protected records under Osage law. The release does not name the employees allegedly terminated.

“Our hope is that other Members of Congress will be equally outraged by the Standing Bear administration’s outright rejection of a law he signed to guarantee employee protections such as a procedural due process that is created by the Human Resources Department, not by executive memorandum,” according to the release.

The Congress meets on March 11 for a Special Session that begins at 10 a.m. The Congressional Hun-Kah Session begins on March 29.