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Osage News Editorial Board cancels future Candidate Debates

Under the advisement of the Osage Nation Attorney General’s office, and due to the way the Independent Press Act is currently written, the Osage News Editorial Board has canceled the remaining Congressional and Minerals Council Candidate Debates scheduled for April 14 and April 28.

The editorial board met in a Special Meeting on April 4 at the Osage News offices in downtown Pawhuska to discuss the legality of the News staff hosting the debates. They also discussed the recusals of board members Jerri Jean Branstetter and Teresa Lamsam during election season.

Both issues came to the attention of Attorney General Holli Wells after Congresswoman Shannon Edwards complained about the legality of the debates and whether interim appointments should be made for Branstetter and Lamsam. Edwards has publicly stated that Branstetter and Lamsam are recusing from their board duties for the entire Osage election season, which is not true. Branstetter and Lamsam are only recusing if Osage News Editor Shannon Shaw Duty has a specific editorial issue in covering Congressional candidates Angela Pratt or Thomas Trumbly. Pratt is the niece of Branstetter and Trumbly is the brother of Lamsam, and it is against Osage News election policy for any member of the board to be involved in decisions about candidates that are of the first or second degree. Only if Shaw Duty has a specific editorial issue with both Pratt and Trumbly at the same time would Branstetter and Lamsam have to recuse and the board would lose quorum. Shaw Duty has only had two issues with candidate coverage in the past 11 years.

The Osage News has provided Candidate Debates for the offices of Principal Chief, Assistant Principal Chief and Osage Congress since 2010. Additional Osage News candidate debates have been held in 2012, 2014, 2016 and one Principal Chief Candidate Debate in February of this year. The News has also provided a Minerals Council debate in 2014 and planned on another debate for candidates this year.

The issue of the legality of the Debates comes after Shaw Duty canceled a second Chief’s debate on March 2, due to lack of funding, which drew Edwards’ ire. The cancellation also upset Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn, who is running for chief and is also being supported by Edwards. Both Congresswomen have continually expressed their disappointment to the editorial board, the editor and staff in the form of emails, phone calls and face-to-face conversations. Whitehorn has also expressed her disappointment on her campaign Facebook page.

According to the Independent Press Act, sections 12-106 G and 12-108 E, pertaining to the editorial board and editor and staff, it states they “… shall serve their terms of office free from political influence from any Executive, Judicial or Legislative officials of any Branch, Division or Department of the government of the Osage Nation …”

However, when it pertains to the News hosting the debates AG Holli Wells said the way the law is currently written, it prohibits the Editorial Board and Editor from participating in any political campaign or “political activity,” such as a debate. However, she said there was nothing in the law that prevents the News staff from asking questions at a candidate debate that wasn’t hosted by the Osage News.

The board voted unanimously to cancel the debates following Wells’ explanation. Shaw Duty told the board she has reached out to a new local Osage grassroots organization called Osage Impact in hopes they will carry on the civic service the debates provided for Osage voters.







Osage News

Original Publish Date: 2018-04-04 00:00:00


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Shannon Shaw Dutyhttps://osagenews.org
Shannon Shaw Duty is the editor of the Osage News. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a master's degree in Legal Studies, Indigenous Peoples Law from the OU College of Law. She served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) from 2013-2016 and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee from 2017-2020. She is a Chips Quinn Scholar, a former instructor for the Freedom Forum’s Native American Journalism Career Conference and the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. She is a former reporter for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She is a 2012 recipient of the Native American 40 Under 40 from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED). In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive the Elias Boudinot Free Press Award, NAJA’s highest honor. An Osage tribal member, she and her family are from the Grayhorse District. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and six children.

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