The Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise Board has two vacancies and current board Chairman Geoff Hager voiced concerns for the five-member board having a minimum quorum to conduct business during meetings.
As of the recent monthly meeting held May 24, the gaming board comprised Tulsa-based Hager along with vice chair Claudette Carnett and Bruce Pollock who both reside in Missouri and commute to Tulsa for the regular board meetings. Hager expressed his worries and disappointment after the Eighth ON Congress failed to confirm board appointee and retired Ponca City banking professional Natalie Prather during the 2023 Hun-Kah Session.
During the April 26 meeting, Hager said he was “upset” over the situation and said he enjoyed working with Prather, who was appointed to the gaming board by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear in February. Prather attended board meetings as an interim member and was interviewed by Congress during the regularly held 24-day Hun-Kah Session on April 19.
“I don’t even know what the procedural logistics would be, but I just want to make the request for someone to try and figure out how to go get her back,” Hager said of Prather. “I’m very upset that we had an appointee put in front of Congress whose career is in banking, whose career is in financial accountability and stewardship and yet I’m watching in disbelief as 11 of our Congress people sit there in silence and do not make a motion to confirm this appointee.”
With no confirmation vote taken on Prather, her appointee term ended with the Hun-Kah Session. The board vacancy situation also comes months after the Congressional Commerce Gaming and Land Committee started an investigation into the Osage Casino management expenses during a three-year period and questioned current and former board members in February as part of the investigation.
“It’s upsetting because for months we have been in a continuous situation where I have been hearing for months that the issue is about the perception of a lack of accountability or financial stewardship within gaming and we’re three members of five,” Hager said. “It makes it difficult, all three of us have to be present for everything in order for us to have a quorum. And in addition to that, we’ve got an appointee that’s put before Congress that represents the very nature of the thing that we’re told that we need … Before the confirmation, (Prather) got to attend a couple of meetings, in fact, last month we had our bankers here, they gave a presentation … Natalie spoke up in that meeting, she had some great questions and some great insight. After that meeting, I longed to have her on the team.”
Congressional Speaker Alice Goodfox responded to Hager noting “there is not a way to turn back the clock per the law. She would not be eligible for her name to come back up for Congress until six months from now, so that would be our fall (Tzi-Sho) session. Per the law, (a motion to confirm Prather) did not receive a second, so she was not voted up or down. Her name was placed on an agenda (twice) and she didn’t get a motion for confirmation (vote) whether it was up or down.”
Going forward, Goodfox said “Chief has the ability to send any two names he wants (for board appointees) and they will sit in that spot for the next six months until the fall session.”
Congressional legal counsel Loyed “Trey” Gill added that Prather cannot be an appointee during the interim period, but “she can be appointed on Day 1 of the fall session.” The 24-day Congressional Tzi-Sho Session starts in September on the Tuesday following the Labor Day holiday.
In response to Hager, Congressman John Maker offered some insight after the past few months with the Congressional committee investigation. “We all thought from now on, we’re going to be very careful about who we put in this (board) position,” Maker said. “There were a couple of (Prather’s interview) answers that were questionable and you know – and we know – how important this position is going forward.”
Prather’s resume listed several banking positions in Ponca City, including Vice President of Business Development for Community National Bank from 2018 to 2021, but she has no prior gaming employment experience, which was part of the Congressional interview questions.
“As a Congressman, we have to answer to a lot of people, we have the whole Osage Nation and we get calls all the time,” Maker said. “We’re trying to go forward very carefully from now on … Maybe we need more time on Mrs. Prather.”
As for the Commerce Gaming and Land Committee investigation into the casino expenses, Congresswoman Brandy Lemon said an investigation report is still in draft form while attending the Northern California Osage gathering on May 20.
The committee, nor the 12-member Congress did not take any actions on the investigation report during the Hun-Kah Session. At the session’s end, the Congress formed new committees for the next year and the same commerce committee members are serving again with Congress members Lemon, Jodie Revard, Otto Hamilton, Billy Keene, Joe Tillman and Paula Stabler.