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Congressional hearings on gaming enterprise scheduled for Feb. 7-9

Fifteen witnesses are slated to testify and they include current and former employees and board members of Osage Casinos, the Gaming Enterprise Board and the Gaming Commission

A committee of the Osage Nation Congress has slated three days of hearings for 15 witnesses as part of its investigation into the spending habits and protocols of higher-ups at the Nation’s gaming enterprise.

In all, the Commerce, Gaming and Land Committee has set aside 24 hours to hear testimony from Feb. 7 through Feb. 9. The witness list includes former casino Chief Executive Officer Byron Bighorse, whose expense reports between January 2019 through December 2021 alarmed legislators for their extravagance: Bighorse charged nearly $400,000 to Osage Casinos in that time span, spending much of it on expensive dinners, drinks, travel, golf and clothing while generally failing to report whom he was entertaining.

The Osage Nation – not the casinos – is ultimately responsible for compliance with the federal laws governing gambling operations on Native American land, hence the Congress’s interest in the behavior and accounting at the casinos.

The National Indian Gaming Association maintains a list of 185 “Notices of Violations” that it has issued since 1997, but the Osage Nation has never appeared on it. Among the violations it has found at other tribes, the Osage News could not find a single incidence of exorbitant executive expenses being at the center of a violation finding; most violations occur when tribes fail to properly file reports with the NIGC, fail to properly vet employees, or stray from the regulations in terms of the specific games a tribe offers.

Tribes are limited in how they can spend casino revenue, but that applies to net revenue not gross revenue – in other words, the distribution that casinos make to the parent tribe after all expenses.

The Commerce Committee hearings will kick off at 9 a.m. Feb. 7 with nine called witnesses – who may or may not attempt to quash the subpoenas – including:

  • Bighorse and his wife, Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s daughter Jennifer Bighorse, the former casino marketing director;
  • Casino Chief Financial Officer Tim Steinke;
  • Current casino CEO Kimberly Pearson (who was elevated to the position when Bighorse resigned in December);
  • Casino Marketing Director Mike McGuire;
  • Bighorse’s executive assistant Kasi Stumpff;
  • Casino Assistant Controller Jake Taylor;
  • Former casino Chief Operating Officer Joe Cooper; and
  • Chief Standing Bear’s executive assistant Sheryl Decker.

On Feb. 8, the witness list contracts to two people, both regulators:

  • Osage Gaming Commission Director Elizabeth Hembree, whose agency has been investigating the expense scandal; and
  • Patrick O’Brien, Osage Casinos’ director of compliance.

Feb. 9 will concentrate on the Gaming Enterprise Board, which oversees casino operations and approved Bighorse’s golden parachute – a $600,000 after-tax bonus paid out after he resigned. Those witnesses are:

  • Longtime board chairman Mark Simms, who is currently the secretary-treasurer of the board;
  • Board member Julie Malone;
  • Current Board Chairman Geoff Hager; and
  • Mark Revard, who chaired the enterprise board from November 2021 to April 2022, but was not reappointed to the post by Chief Standing Bear. Revard had raised concerns about executive expenses and said his questions were largely rebuffed by his fellow board members. Said Revard last month: “I ran into roadblocks and stalling and headwinds – not from the C-suite, so to speak, but more from the board.”

Author

  • Louise Red Corn

    Title: Reporter

    Email: louise.redcorn@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Twitter: @louiseredcorn

    Languages: English, Italian, rusty but revivable Russian

    Louise Red Corn has been a news reporter for 34 years and a photographer for even longer. She grew up in Northern California, the youngest child of two lawyers, her father a Pearl Harbor survivor who later became a state judge and her mother a San Francisco native who taught law at the University of California at Davis.

    After graduating from the U.C. Berkley with a degree in Slavic Languages and Literatures with no small amount of coursework in Microbiology, she moved to Rome, Italy, where she worked as a photographer and wordsmith for the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development, specializing in the French-speaking countries of Africa.

    When the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl parked over Rome in 1986, she escaped to New York City to work for the international editions of Time Magazine. She left Time for Knight-Ridder newspapers in Biloxi, Miss., Detroit and Lexington, Ky., During nearly 20 years with Knight-Ridder, she was a stringer (freelancer) for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Parade Magazine.

    In 2004, she married Raymond Red Corn and moved to Oklahoma, where she worked for the Tulsa World before she bought the weekly newspaper in Barnsdall and turned a tired newspaper into the award-winning Bigheart Times, which she sold in 2018. She hired on at the Osage News in early 2022.

    Throughout her career she has won dozens of state, national and international journalism awards.

    Red Corn is comfortable reporting on nearly any topic, the more complex the better, but her first love is covering courts and legal issues. Her proudest accomplishment was helping to exonerate a Tennessee man facing the death penalty after he was wrongfully charged with capital murder in Kentucky, a state he had never visited.

Louise Red Corn
Louise Red Cornhttps://osagenews.org

Title: Reporter

Email: louise.redcorn@osagenation-nsn.gov

Twitter: @louiseredcorn

Languages: English, Italian, rusty but revivable Russian

Louise Red Corn has been a news reporter for 34 years and a photographer for even longer. She grew up in Northern California, the youngest child of two lawyers, her father a Pearl Harbor survivor who later became a state judge and her mother a San Francisco native who taught law at the University of California at Davis.

After graduating from the U.C. Berkley with a degree in Slavic Languages and Literatures with no small amount of coursework in Microbiology, she moved to Rome, Italy, where she worked as a photographer and wordsmith for the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development, specializing in the French-speaking countries of Africa.

When the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl parked over Rome in 1986, she escaped to New York City to work for the international editions of Time Magazine. She left Time for Knight-Ridder newspapers in Biloxi, Miss., Detroit and Lexington, Ky., During nearly 20 years with Knight-Ridder, she was a stringer (freelancer) for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Parade Magazine.

In 2004, she married Raymond Red Corn and moved to Oklahoma, where she worked for the Tulsa World before she bought the weekly newspaper in Barnsdall and turned a tired newspaper into the award-winning Bigheart Times, which she sold in 2018. She hired on at the Osage News in early 2022.

Throughout her career she has won dozens of state, national and international journalism awards.

Red Corn is comfortable reporting on nearly any topic, the more complex the better, but her first love is covering courts and legal issues. Her proudest accomplishment was helping to exonerate a Tennessee man facing the death penalty after he was wrongfully charged with capital murder in Kentucky, a state he had never visited.

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