When Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear elevated the nation’s controller to acting treasurer in late March, some in the Osage Congress doubted whether he had that authority.
The chief does have the authority, according to an attorney general’s opinion issued on April 22. Not only that, the controller, Tyler McIntosh, can remain acting treasurer until a permanent treasurer is confirmed by the Congress or until Standing Bear takes the title away from him, Clint Patterson wrote in the official legal opinion.
Patterson said the question, posed by Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt, was a novel one. He said he was addressing it from the perspective of “the unique Osage value” established by previous ON case law: “To do one’s best.”
“Established Osage jurisprudence clearly mandates the Osage Nation government operate in an efficient manner for the benefit of the Osage people,” Patterson wrote.
“… Our Constitution is one that demands efficiency and continuity of government … To allow our government to be stalled or crippled by a single vacancy in office, contradicts the intent of the Osage People when they adopted the Constitution because it specifically provides for acting for the good of the whole …”
The Nation has been without a congressionally confirmed treasurer since Jim Littleton resigned last April under pressure from Congress. Before Littleton, Sam Alexander, a longtime Muscogee Nation Council speaker and gaming chair, was treasurer but left after Congress did not confirm him after one term in that post. Before Alexander, Callie Catcher was treasurer; she resigned for health reasons.
Over the past year, the Nation’s Human Resources Department has repeatedly advertised to hire a new permanent treasurer – who must be a certified public accountant – but to no avail. In short, no one wanted the job, even when the salary was nearly doubled to $214,000; at that salary, two applied but neither responded when contacted for follow-up interviews.
When he made McIntosh the acting treasurer, Standing Bear said he did so to avoid an anticipated hurdle getting a cost-of-living raise passed for the nation’s employees; the law requires the treasurer to make the request. The chief acknowledged that McIntosh is not qualified to be treasurer because Osage law requires that he be a CPA and said that McIntosh’s role as treasurer would end when Congress adjourned its Hun-Kah session on April 22.
In light of Patterson’s opinion, Standing Bear said April 25 that he will leave McIntosh in the acting treasurer’s position and noted that McIntosh has been fulfilling the treasurer’s duties since assuming the job.
While some members of Congress have pointed their fingers at Standing Bear for the inability of the Nation to attract a qualified CPA to the treasurer’s post, Standing Bear has squarely pointed his finger right back at Congress and said they make the job insufferable and unattractive to the small pools of CPAs that work in Indian Country.
One of the former treasurers under Standing Bear agreed that Congress has created the chaos and unpleasantness – and wrote the Osage News a letter to that effect in February.
“Certain legislators traditionally carry an attitude and presence harmful to tribal administrative continuity,” wrote Alexander, the long-time Creek Nation leader who was not confirmed in 2018 for a second term as treasurer. “As part of that, the legislature lacks proper respect for professionals including past treasurers; all of whom are experienced certified public accountants licensed to practice.
“Separation of powers violations and legislative interference resulted in two expensive lawsuits. While the court system clarified these issues, informed independent financial professionals know and have avoided the chaos.”
Congress voted 7-4 to send Alexander packing and was poised to remove Littleton if he did not resign, said Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt on April 26.
Pratt said that both men failed to perform in the treasurer’s job, and both constantly deferred questions to the controller at the time, Tasha Fox – or blamed her for their own shortcomings.
Pratt said that Alexander refused to provide Congress with even basic information like salaries, then when forced to do so by court order engaged in such shenanigans as delivering the information by putting one piece of paper in a box.
As for Littleton, Pratt said he, too, failed to perform and, like Alexander, was “solely reliant on Tasha Fox.”
“Both treasurers were derelict in their duties and in meetings they were not able to answer questions; they almost always turned to Tasha Fox.
“It was an absolute lack of performance.”