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Chief Standing Bear raises spending concerns to gaming board

TULSA, Okla. – Oct. 15 marked the start of a new fiscal year for the Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise Board, but its members received the task of investigating questionable purchases, actions and storage issues raised by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear that day.

That day, Standing Bear, along with staffers, attended the board’s first FY 2015 meeting, but addressed the meeting with issues brought to his attention regarding the casino and past gaming board business.

“My staff and I are here to present some suggestions to the board,” Standing Bear said, adding his administration supports a new (planned Tulsa) casino “as long as we understand that this property of the Osage people should not be obtained at the cost of crushing debt, we have needs for our people and we must address those first.”

Standing Bear referred to the issue of the gaming enterprise’s annual plan of operation that has yet to be sent to the ON legislative and executive branches for their review and consideration. He said the plan should also be a priority for the board.

Standing Bear raised issue with the past board’s payment of architectural fees for the casino projects. After reviewing gaming financial documents, Standing Bear said he could not find any authorization to spend $7.6 million in architecture fees when he could only find that $1 million was authorized for spending in the 2012 plan. “Where is the authority for this expenditure? It’s not in the annual plans,” he asked.

That morning, the gaming board held its officer elections and selected Mark Simms as chairman and Dawn Pratt Harrington as vice chair. Simms told Standing Bear he is still researching the financials as well and the board is working on the new plan of operation. “I’m not sure what has happened in the past, I’m having to go back … With all this happening, I can just safely say we can do our best to try to find out what answers you’re seeking,” Simms said.

Standing Bear said he is seeking answers in wake of his new administration’s duties after winning election in June. Since then, he’s moved the Constituent Services and financial hardship offices into the Administration building housing his office. As a result, Standing Bear said he has opportunities to speak one-on-one with Osage clients, adding he’s concerned about discussing money issues with his casino/ gaming questions unanswered.

Harrington said she had a partial answer to Standing Bear’s question, but preferred to respond during executive session citing proprietary/ confidential issues.

Jason Zaun, chief of staff for Standing Bear’s office, referred to a recent tour he took around the gaming facilities. Zaun raised issues with observations and spending concerns noted during the tour including:

  • In the south hanger (the Osage Casino central services office is based at the former Tulsa airpark), there are two bedrooms built as mock-up hotel rooms that were apparently built to train employees, Zaun said, adding the rooms were never finished, nor utilized. “We had reports it could be upwards around $10,000 each,” he said.
  • Zaun also referred to the board meeting room that was closed for several months for remodeling work. That day was the first time in months that room was used and the renovation work completed at the time included newly painted walls. A small corner kitchen area with a refrigerator and shelves was removed and plans were previously pitched to build another kitchen area outside the meeting room. Zaun said he was told $80,000 had been spent on the remodel work but “it’s pretty much the same as it was” and $40,000 was spent on a conference table for the room and $15,000 for a conference table in the planning room.
  • During the tour outside the Tulsa casino, Zaun said they were shown three metal boxes “with spray foam insulation that had an AC unit put in, 24 hours running. Upon further investigation, we found they were cooling chairs and forks, spoons and plates and cups,” he said.

 

Harrington, who was confirmed to the board in September by the Fourth ON Congress, said she appreciated the raised concerns, but noted the pending investigation by the ON Gaming Commission regarding the gaming license suspensions involving three Osage Casino management officials and the information she had at the time contained confidential/ proprietary information.

Harrington then said: “We’ve only been on the board a short while – and what a treat it’s been – I do appreciate the opportunity to serve, I cannot tell you the endless questions I have had… I think that previous boards perhaps have misplaced and not kept themselves fully informed and misplaced their trust perhaps… I can say for myself I have every intention of addressing every single one of these things.”

Later that day, the board passed a motion to stop the board meeting room remodel project and to return any purchased appliances for refunds.   

Standing Bear said he would be agreeable to hearing more in executive session, but noted he and the board are going to have to sit down and have a discussion “more than once” reminding them that the casinos are here for one reason “and that’s for our people.”


By

Benny Polacca


Original Publish Date: 2014-11-14 00:00:00

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Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org
Benny Polacca started at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter and has covered various stories and events impacting the Osage Nation and Osage people. Polacca is part of the News team awarded the Native American Journalist Association’s Elias Boudinot Free Press Award in 2014 and other NAJA Media Awards and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter awards for news coverage and photography. Polacca is an Arizona State University graduate and participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. He previously worked at The Forum newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. region as the weeknight reporter.
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