The Osage Nation Gaming Commission ended its tenuous relationship with former Osage Casinos CEO Byron Bighorse without fanfare on Aug. 25, when it signed off on an agreement to relinquish his gaming license and never apply for one again.
License No. 1410 will therefore be retired, but under the agreement hammered out by Bighorse, his attorney, Grace Yates, and the Gaming Commission, Bighorse will still face the likelihood of being ordered to pay restitution for his spending on expenses for nearly three years at the helm of the casinos: The most recent complaint against him that was filed on June 30 pegged the cost of expense-report abuse at $134,353.08.
In addition to negotiating the amount of restitution, the Osage Nation Attorney General’s Office will continue a criminal investigation of Bighorse which, if it finds a crime has occurred, could result in him being charged with a misdemeanor in tribal court, said Attorney General Clint Patterson.
“The criminal investigation has been ongoing and if and when charges are filed restitution will be a part of that,” said Patterson.
In a press release that listed attorney Yates as the contact, Bighorse thanked the Gaming Commission “for their diligent research on the allegations against him which has resulted in the dismissal of the licensing action against him.”
“Bighorse says he did not break any laws and left his CEO position voluntarily to ‘calm things down in a politically charged environment,’” the release said. “Bighorse’s departure in December was a personal decision. He was not asked to resign. He did however believe that if he continued to stay, himself and the company would be held back based on unfortunate Osage politics that were spilling over into the business. His decision to leave was a difficult one because he is proud of what he accomplished during the 17 years of employment and leadership with Osage Casinos which resulted in at least an 80% increase in casino revenue.” [sic]
The release continues by saying Bighorse “wishes the Osage Nation well with its continued growth and dedication to its tribal members.
“Bighorse says that his departure was an internal matter that was decided between the Osage Nation Gaming Board and himself in December 2022, months before the Osage Nation Congress committee began their public slander.”
Thus far, Attorney General Patterson said there has been no determination that Bighorse actually committed any crime by filing expense reports that lacked such details as to who was present at expensive dinners awash in pricey wine and whisky, including a round of four scotches that racked up a $1,860 charge at the Summit Club in Tulsa.
Patterson said that his office launched the investigation in December, when more than 1,550 pages of casino executives’ expenses were reclassified as public instead of confidential. Other executive expenses contained in the document drop raised few eyebrows, but Bighorse’s caused a brouhaha: He had spent more than $400,000 in 33 months on food, drink, golf, golf clothing and golf clubs – including children’s clubs that appeared to have nothing to do with furthering good business relations for the casinos.
The hearing on Aug. 25 was brief and to the point: Eight minutes from prayer to adjournment. Only one commissioner, Chairman Gary Weyl, attended in person, and Bighorse himself was not present. Only three people not associated with the Gaming Commission – former Gaming Enterprise Board Chairman Mark Simms and his attorney, David Youll, and an Osage News reporter – attended the meeting in person while Congress members Jodie Revard and Brandy Lemon, along with lawyers for Bighorse and the commission, attended telephonically.
Since he resigned as CEO of the casinos on Dec. 2, 2022, Bighorse has put his Tulsa home on the market and found a new job, according to public records.
The home that the Tulsa County Assessor’s Office reports Bighorse and his wife, Jennifer Bighorse – who is Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s daughter – bought in August 2021 for $645,000 was put on the market June 5 for $879,900, a price that has since dropped to $829,999.
According to LinkedIn, the employment and business social media platform, Bighorse is now working as a senior advisor for Aspire Partners USA, a Georgia-based consulting company that delivers “leading-edge, cost savings solutions to companies nationwide.”