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HomeGovernmentMinerals CouncilMinerals Council increases their pay amidst drop in headright payments

Minerals Council increases their pay amidst drop in headright payments

Newly appointed council member Stephanie Erwin introduced the motion for the pay raise, which has caused controversy among Osage community members and shareholders

Newly appointed Osage Minerals Council member Stephanie Erwin motioned to increase council members’ salaries as her first act of business.

At the May 15, 2024, Osage Minerals Council meeting, under an agenda item titled New Business, Erwin asked for a salary increase to $77,000. This is the salary of what the Osage Nation Congress members will make in July after the new Congress is sworn in. They currently make $65,000 annually. The Congressional increase was made two years ago in the Hun-Kah session.

Erwin said she believes the OMC needs to have an annual salary to align with their work.

“We need to approach this to enhance our infrastructure. I do believe we need to have an annual salary,” Erwin said.

“We operate at an executive level,” Erwin said during the meeting. “We make decisions, we approve things for the Nation … We have created millions and millions of dollars in grants they got, including plugging,” she said in reference to the multi-million-dollar well-plugging grant the Osage Nation received last year.

“I’ve already been to several meetings this past week,” Erwin said regarding the meetings she’s said she’s had to increase money to shareholders.

Fellow Councilman Paul Revard seconded the motion. He said he doesn’t like basing it off what Congress makes because he thought what OMC does far outpaces the work Congress does.

“It exceeds it,” he said during the open comment section. Later, he asked to retract the statement saying he didn’t know what Congress did after hours on the part of the Nation.

Councilman Myron Red Eagle, second chair for the OMC, said he also supports the raise.

“We have a lot on our minds,” Red Eagle said during the meeting, referencing the lawsuit OMC is involved in over the wind farm and trying to increase production amidst new federal regulations poised to make production more difficult.

Two councilmen voiced concern over the motion, including Talee Redcorn.

“Is this considered kind of a raise,” asked Redcorn.

“Our payment just went down $500 per headright, our production is going down. Is it appropriate to ask for a raise?” Redcorn questioned.

“I’d like to have more discussion among ourselves,” said Councilman Anthony Shackelford about the motion. Shackelford voted no for the increase.

OMC Chairman Everett Waller said this would be the only raise they’ve received since the new government was formed in 2006.

Erwin wants the council to be paid as much as Congress members, which includes benefits and expenses. She asked for the increase to take effect on June 14, 2024.

The Council voted 5 to 2 for the motion and it passed. Councilman Kenny Bighorse was not present at the time of the vote. Both Shackelford and Redcorn voted against the pay increase. Voting in favor were council members Everett Waller, Paul Revard, Myron Red Eagle, Stephanie Erwin and Joe Cheshewalla.

The vote to increase the council’s pay comes at a time when shareholder payment is down. June’s shareholder payment is $4,290 for a full headright share.

Osage News reached out to Councilwoman Erwin and was told she had no comment. Even when asked about the timing of the increase and shareholder payments being low.

“I don’t do interviews,” Erwin told Osage News.

A source close to the Osage Minerals Council told Osage News the council’s budget is capped at $1 million and comes from royalty payments from the minerals estate. That money also is allocated to pay for lawyers’ fees and administrative costs associated with running the OMC. The ON Congress also appropriates money to help the OMC with legal fees.

Osage News also reached out to Treasurer Clark Batson and was told he had no comment on the issue.

In a public Facebook page titled, Osage Community for Responsible Citizenry, people voiced some strong opinions about the raise. 

“The first action of newly appointed Minerals Council member Stephanie Erwin was to seek an increase in pay for Minerals Council members from stipends to $65k annual salaries,” Wilson Pipestem wrote. Pipestem is a headright holder and is the OMC’s former legal counsel. “Payments to Osage headright holders are down, but the OMC now pays itself more than half of the total budget the Minerals Council receives from minerals proceeds.”

Osage News reached out to the Osage Shareholders Association. Shareholder Julie Malone said she supports the raise.

“I am very comfortable with the OMC voting to give themselves a pay raise,” she said. 

“Their stipend has remained the same for 20+ years. Their work on behalf of the Osage Shareholders is extremely important at this time, considering the new Code of Federal Regulations (25 CFR 226) is about to be published and restricting our access to our Osage Mineral Estate, the Osage Nation is trying to take control of the Osage Mineral Estate, Enel lawsuit is pending, and various other important issues are facing us,” Malone wrote in an email to Osage News.

At this time, the council’s stipend for OMC members is $30,000. 

This is a developing story. Check back for details

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Allison Herrera
Allison Herrerahttps://osagenews.org
Title: Freelance Reporter
Email: aherrera@osagenation-nsn.gov
Languages spoken: English

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs Desk.

Herrera recently worked on Bloomberg and iHeart Media's In Trust with Rachel Adams-Heard, an investigative podcast about Osage Headrights.

She currently works for KOSU as their Indigenous Affairs Reporter. Herrera’s Native ties are from her Xolon Salinan tribal heritage.

In her free time, she likes buying fancy earrings, running and spending time with her daughter.

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