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Timeline: Gaming Commission report comes following an AG opinion, earlier request unanswered

The report, over 1,500 pages, was originally requested nearly a year ago

The Eighth Osage Nation Congress met on Nov. 22 to reclassify a previously confidential Gaming Commission report as a public document that focuses on Osage Casinos management expenses.

In accordance with Osage law, the reclassification by Congress is necessary as the report contents were labeled “confidential” due to the business’s proprietary information regarding management officials’ expenses, which include those for travel, restaurant meals, entertainment, private club membership expenses and others reviewed by the Gaming Commission in the 1,500-plus page report at issue.

In a letter to the Gaming Commission dated Aug. 8, Congressional Speaker Alice Goodfox issued the Congressional request to Gaming Commission Board Chairman Gary Weyl. In the Congressional request, Congress asked for “a report of the expenses of the Osage Casinos (Chief Executive Officer), (Chief Operations Officer) and (Chief Finance Officer) for the time period of January 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2021.”

Next, the Gaming Commission made the request for the specified information and supporting documentation from the Gaming Enterprise Board, which was received on Sept. 2 with additional information delivered through Sept. 19, according to the ONGC report dated Sept. 21 with a letter from Weyl addressed to Goodfox.

In her Nov. 22 special session legislative address, Goodfox said the request for the casino management expenses date back to the Seventh ON Congress with an initial request that went unanswered in early 2022 and later prompted an Attorney General’s written opinion stating Congress is entitled to review the finances of the Nation’s wholly-owned businesses.

Then-Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt requested the Attorney General’s opinion after Congresswoman Pam Shaw, who was chair of the Congressional Commerce, Gaming and Land Committee at the time, asked for the expense reports filed by Osage Casinos’ top executives. Shaw’s request was sent in January to the Gaming Enterprise Board, which initially ignored it and then denied the request in March after Congress pressed the issue, the Osage News reported on July 7.

Former GEB member Mark Revard, who was gaming board chair at the time, wrote that Shaw had relied on the Osage Constitution’s provision that the Congress “shall reserve the right to review an action taken by the Board” but that she had failed to identify any “action” when making her request for information. He also wrote that Congress as a whole could review such actions but that the Constitution did not authorize a review by a committee, its chair or any individual Congress members, the News also reported.

In his AG opinion filed with the Judicial Branch on July 1, Clint Patterson referred to Osage law that governs the Gaming Enterprise Board, which states that the board must, “[w]henever requested in writing by the Speaker, appear before and answer to the Osage Nation Congress and/or any committee thereof so designated by the Speaker, in connection with any investigation into the use or disposition of funds, resources or property within the Board’s control or any other action or inactions of the Board.” Patterson noted a “plain reading of this section means Congress, through the request of the Speaker, is entitled to investigate, and therefore review, any expenses within the GEB’s control, without limitation.”

On Sept. 21, the Gaming Commission delivered its report on the Osage Casinos’ management expenses to the Congressional Office.

The Commerce, Gaming and Land Committee held two closed-door executive sessions on Nov. 2 and Oct. 19 to discuss the Gaming Commission report.

At the November Commerce committee meeting, the committee reconvened in a public meeting following executive session. Congressman Billy Keene then made a motion “to hold a Commerce, Gaming and Land Committee hearing to investigate the Gaming Enterprise Board approval of the expenses of the (Osage) Casino executive officers on a date set by Chairwoman (Jodie) Revard.”

Keene’s motion passed with six unanimous votes from the committee and the Congress later issued a special session proclamation calling the Legislative Branch into the special session that took place Nov. 22.

The Gaming Commission board also met in an emergency meeting one day prior on Nov. 21. Gaming Commission Executive Director Elizabeth Hembree said the three commissioners voted to release the report to Congress as the Legislative Branch requested. 

The Gaming Enterprise Board met for a Nov. 15 meeting with an executive session held for “legal advice” with no actions taken afterward, according to the meeting minutes. On Nov. 21, the gaming board met again to formally approve a written response letter with their signatures to the Congress, which was marked as a confidential document for use during the Nov. 22 special session, current board Chair Geoff Hager said during the meeting.

During the Nov. 22 special session, the 12-member Congress met in a nearly three-hour executive session and discussed the report with the three commissioners who sit on the Gaming Commission Board.

After the executive session, Congressman Eli Potts made a motion “to reclassify the Osage Nation Gaming Commission report to the Osage Nation Congress dated Sept. 21, 2022, and all supporting documents submitted with the report as public information in accordance with Osage law.” The motion passed with a 10-2 vote with “no” votes from Keene and Shaw.

Following the session that day, the Osage News made a formal open records request for the report, which was then subject to redactions of sensitive information still protected by Osage law. On Dec. 12, Potts posted links to access the Gaming Commission report in PDF format on social media and his personal website. In response to Facebook comments regarding the report, Potts said on Dec. 14: “My hope is that we can get to the bottom of this through the Congressional Hearing process.”

To read the full report, visit:

Benny Polacca

Title: Senior Reporter


Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.


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