The Osage LLC has three new board members, Galen Crum, Hank Hainzinger and Dr. Ladd Oldfield.
The three ranchers took their oaths of office at the ON Trial Court on Oct. 4 and will join Frank Freeman and Rick Perrier to fill the five seats on the board.
If those three names sound familiar it’s because they are the former board members of the now defunct ON Ranch Advisory board, which the Osage LLC summarily fired last year. So why would Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear nominate three cattle ranchers to serve on the Osage LLC board, the business arm of the Nation, that just voted on Sept. 28 to liquidate its livestock?
But not so fast. Standing Bear said he’s starting over on the Ranch, and the Nation owns that livestock.
“There’s a doctrine of law that prevents a corporation or operator from what they call ‘wasting the assets’ of an entity,” Standing Bear said. “And waste is shown by whether or not you are achieving the proper pricing, the proper management and I suspect that this kind of action was not supported by good fiscal studying and report, and if they are trying to sell property of the Nation, the Nation’s property, at fire sale prices, for whatever reason, my view is that is a loss with no rational reason and it calls for what we call an injunction. An injunction, and it’s up to the board, is to call an emergency meeting and put a halt to that.”
According to the ON Constitution, Congress can only confirm a chief’s appointment for board or commission service during one of two regular Congressional sessions, the Tzi-Sho Session (held in September) and the Hun-Kah Session (held in late March and April). However, the question of whether to allow the Congress to call special sessions to confirm board nominations will be on the 2024 Osage Nation Election ballot.
Standing Bear made the three nominations on Oct. 3, the day after the Congressional Tzi-Sho session ended, thus denying Congress any chance to confirm or deny Crum, Hainzinger and Oldfield. This ensures the three men will serve on the Osage LLC board for at least six months until the Hun-Kah Session begins on March 25, 2024. That’s when Congress members will have their chance to vote on the board nominations.
All boards and commissions have requirements and qualifications to serve. According to Osage law, qualifications of board members of all limited liability companies in which the Nation or an Osage Nation-owned LLC is the sole member must be at least 25 years old, possess a high school diploma or GED, and have no felony convictions. Board members of the Osage Nation-owned LLC shall have substantial business, financial or industry experience.
Standing Bear said when the ranch was purchased in 2016, their bid package said the ranch would be used for cattle operations and a bison preserve. After it was purchased, an operating structure was put in place and a master lease was created for the ranch. However, sublease after sublease and the many complicated arrangements and relationships that followed, he doesn’t think that structure is working. “There were a lot of problematic terms in that lease,” he said.
He wants to do away with the master lease structure and simplify operations of the ranch. He said this will aid the current fee-to-trust application process.
“We are making really good progress on the fee-to-trust application. Bryan Newland, (Asst. Secretary of the Interior), has pledged to put his A-team on it right now, all of our team is making progress,” Standing Bear said. “If there is more chaos, it’s really going to hurt our fee-to-trust application. We need to simplify everything and remember the goal is to make enough money to take care of operations. But if you’re looking for profit, folks, I’m gonna tell you that’s what the casinos are for.”
When asked why he didn’t give Congress a chance to vote on the nomination of Crum, Hainzinger and Oldfield during the Tzi-Sho Session, Standing Bear said it was because he found the Congress untrustworthy.
“This Congress has shown that they are not trustworthy. They have taken good applicants, I can think of two strong Osage women that were well qualified, Susan Kneeland, who was on the (gaming enterprise) board. She went in and I thought no problem, she’ll be confirmed. She was criticized unjustly, and she was not confirmed,” Standing Bear said. “Then we had Natalie Prather, and you can’t get any better than Natalie Prather. Osage, a banker, and brought her up there and again, the day before in committee she had to endure insults, in my opinion they were insults, to her professional reputation. She’s more qualified than anybody I could think of in this tribe to be on that board and they would not work with her. And it seems to be the pattern of this Congress.”
He said he is personally against the politics he has observed between the Congress and the Gaming Commission, he felt a lot of misinformation was leaked to the press and that he would have a lot to say about the “so-called Congress Committee that spewed poison out and with falsehoods” in reference to the Congressional Commerce, Gaming and Land committee that investigated former Osage Casinos CEO Byron Bighorse in February. Bighorse is Standing Bear’s son-in-law.
“In my opinion, we need six new Congress members, and you can quote me on that,” Standing Bear said. “That’s the next election cycle. I do not trust this Congress, that’s why I’m doing it.”
Up for re-election in 2024 for the Osage Nation Congress is Jodie Revard, Joe Tillman, Pam Shaw, Billy Keene, Paula Stabler and John Maker. The Osage News asked the Congress if they had comment on Standing Bear’s remarks and below are the Congress members who responded:
Jodie Revard: “Well, I’m sorry to hear that Chief will not be advocating for my re-election as I do intend on seeking to serve another term on Congress. I will continue to work with Geoffrey because I respect the Chief’s position and the people expect us to work together. I wasn’t aware of any ‘trust’ issues, but the Chief has his opinion as I have mine. Constitutionally, his position is to appoint board members and my position is to vote to confirm or not. It’s that simple.”
Joe Tillman: “Not surprised to see the Chief’s attempt to apply logic to circumventing of the Osage Nation Constitution by appointing three individuals back to a board that he had removed them from. Our Chief is required to make appointments ‘in a timely manner,’ precisely so that Congress can fulfill its constitutional duty to consider their appointment during regular sessions. Saddened to see that his ‘strategy’ is to ignore the Constitution.
“That’s why I sponsored legislation to allow voters to decide if Congress can consider appointments during special sessions. Instead of playing politics this early in our process. Congress took responsible action and will let the voters decide in the election that won’t occur until next year.
“As for the appointees? I believe all three men are qualified to help with the Osage Nation Ranch. That’s why I voted against dissolving their board in the first place by voting against ONCR 21-15. While the Chief is trying to figure out who will run the ranch, it’s also worth noting he just appointed these three men to a board that canceled the leases with both the Osage Nation Ranch and the Lost Creek Ranch just last week.
“If you think the relationship between Congress and the Chief is strained-imagine being a part of his economic development team. Not only does the left hand not know what the right is doing, it appears his strategy is once again all hat and literally no cattle …”
Paula Stabler: “These men have been appointed to more than the ranch, the Osage LLC oversees Osage broadband, Skyway 36, Lost Creek and a series of 8a companies all performing well at this time. As to the reappointments of Hank Hainzinger, Galen Crum and Ladd Oldfield; the Chief has the right to submit his choice of appointments to Congress and Congress has the right to confirm or not confirm his choices. I will reserve my questions and comments when they come before Congress for confirmation.
“I hope and expect, as the Osage people should expect, to see more growth and prosperity as we have seen over the past two years.
“The current financial position of the ON Ranch under the current leadership of Frank Freeman, Rick Perrier, Danny Sadler and ranch foreman Mike Alexander brought in a profit for FY 2023 of $1.2 million. That profit resulted in a dividend from the ranch of $240,000 along with a total dividend to the Osage Nation’s overall companies of $508,725.20. This is the largest dividend received since the establishment of an economic development arm of the Nation.”
Alice Goodfox: “The Constitution is clear on what the roles are for each branch regarding board members. Executive is charged with the nomination of the individual and Congress is charged with either confirming or not confirming (by either not receiving a majority yes OR by no motion to confirm at all).
“I do not understand why this has become personal … it shouldn’t be. We each have a job to do. There have been several appointees (under three Chiefs) since 2006 where individuals have not been confirmed by the Osage Congress.
“Per the Constitution, Congress can only confirm during our two regular sessions. In the past names have been given to Congress in the interim when a sitting board member has resigned or has passed, but in my humble opinion it should not be used in a ‘strategic’ manner to skirt the process of what the Osage people voted for in our Constitution, which is for 12 elected officials in a separate branch to say yes or no.
“In June 2024 the Osage people will have a ballot question that if passed would allow for the Osage Congress to confirm board members in any regular OR special session and I strongly encourage everyone to vote yes.”
Eli Potts: “I’m appalled that the Chief intentionally appoints individuals after the conclusion of the regular session to deliberately and blatantly ignore provisions of our Constitution.
“It’s not new, and we’re still waiting on a qualified Treasurer nomination- 874 days and counting since the Nation had a confirmed qualified Treasurer. We all need to support the proposed constitutional amendment proposed by Congressman Tillman, and supported by all of Congress, that would allow Congress to consider appointees during special sessions. I’m disappointed that it takes a constitutional amendment to force the Chief to do the right thing, but then again, we’re 874 days without a Treasurer so I’m not surprised.”
John Maker: “I represent and serve the Osage people and obey our Constitution and the Laws of the Osage Nation. I am disappointed in the remarks and political strategies of our Principal Chief, although I’m certainly not surprised. Again, I will state that I represent all Osages not just the privileged, I represent the forgotten Osages … This at a time when we should advocate Unity and work together for the success and betterment of our Great Osage Nation.”