District Judge Rules Against BIA
On December 21, a ruling in the Northern Oklahoma District Court found several oil leases in Osage County invalid. District Chief Judge Gregory Frizzell ruled that the Bureau of Indian Affairs Osage Agency did not abide by the National Environmental Policy Act when it approved two oil and gas leases in 2014 for Chaparral Energy, LLC.
Frizzell issued his ruling in the David P. Hayes v. Chaparral Energy, LLC; United States of America; Department of Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs case. According to the ruling the BIA approved two separate drilling permits for Chaparral Energy and sited an Environmental Assessment from 1979, as a blanket survey for Osage County. The ruling therefore declared the drilling permits “void ab initio.”
Void ab Initio means void from the beginning, ruling the oil and gas permits are not valid and should not have been issued. The issue of Environmental Assessments and oil and gas drilling permits continues to be a hot topic with the BIA and Oil Producers and this ruling has added more fuel to the debate. Chaparral Energy is one of few companies still operating in Osage County.
Read more about the ruling and the ongoing debate at www.OsageNews.org
District Judge Rules in Favor of Osage Trust
In a historic ruling Northern Oklahoma District Chief Judge Gregory Frizzell has ordered the United States to give an accounting of the Osage tribal trust account prior to its distribution to headright owners.
The case is William S. Fletcher, et al. v. The United States of America, which was first filed in 2002 over the tribal voting rights of non-headright holders, and later evolved into an action against the government’s alleged wrongful distribution of Osage royalty income to non-Osages and its failure to account to headright owners. Lead attorney for William Fletcher, Jason Aamodt told Osage News “This is the first time in a century the United States has been ordered to account to the members of the Osage tribe.”
By ruling the United States is ordered to go back to the first payment quarter of 2002 and span to the most recent payment quarter of this year. The accounting will then need to be presented, in a manageable form, to the Osage Tribal Trust.
Read more about the Ruling at www.OsageNews.org
The North Pole project began in 2003 by the late, retired Tulsa Police officer, Glenn DeWeese. The program has provided computers for more than 1,000 families since its establishment. This year 150 children received computers for Christmas including five families in Osage County.
Mike Anderson, an Investigator for the Osage Nation Police Department, has participated in a program for the past four years. The program distributes refurbished computers to needing families during the Christmas season.
Anderson was one of many officers who delivered the computers to in need families on Monday, December 21. The recipients from Osage County were: Zachary Elsberry and his 10-year-old son from Fairfax, Leah Bighorse and her four children and niece and nephew from Pawuska, Mary Hynes and her 11-year old granddaughter from Hominy, Mary Evans and her two sons from Skaitook, Richard Raper and his son and daughter from Pawhuska.
For more information read the whole story on www.OsageNews.org, and visit www.TulsaPCPower.org for more information about The North Pole Computer Project and PC power.
Photo Courtesy Tara Madden Osage News
Osage County Assessor's Ugly Sweater
Monday morning, in Holiday fashion, the Osage County Assessor's Office held an Ugly Sweater Contest. The entire Assessor's office took place in the contest but several stood out from the rest.
Participants included, Osage County Assessor Gail Hedgecoth, Kay Wilson, Rebecca Soutter, Laurie Lasarge, Denise Stanford, Jimmi Letzkus, Bill Caughman, Wendy Brown, Donna Kastning, Lisa Traylor, and Natasha Yancey.
The prizes for the contest came in the way of bragging rights as well as small holiday decorations which could feasibly be added to the contestants wardrobes. However, there had to be a winner and after much deliberation the judges presented the Top 4, in the Ugly Sweater Contest.
Fourth Place: Bill Caughman
Third Place: Jimmi Letzkus
Second Place: Rebecca Soutter
First Place: Gail Hedgecoth
Gail Hedgecoth, was chosen for first place however, the judges did not feel it would be fair to award the Assessor a prize.
Commissioners Approve Bid Contracts
This week at the meeting of the Osage County Board of County Commissioners, the commissioners signed bid contracts and approved several standard maintenance items. Verdigris Valley Electric submitted a request to move a power pole in District 2 the item was approved without discussion. The Commissioners signed an agreement to winterize the Kennedy Building in Pawhuska, the agreement was signed with Carl Jensen plumbing and Hayes Heating & Air. Also approved, were the appraisals for the Kennedy Building which were discussed at the meeting last week. The final item on the agenda was the signing of bid contracts for the Osage County Nutrition Program, the commissioners signed bids from U.S. Foods, Menu Makers Inc, Hiland Dairy, and Central Poly. The Osage County Commissioners will meet again next Monday December 28, at 10am at the Osage County Courthouse.
Principal Chief Vetoes Spending Bills
Earlier this month, the Osage Nation Congress passed several bills in efforts to reduce the Nation's spending. The bills would reduce spending by more than $250,000 in 2016. However, Osage Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear had stated that if the bills passed, he would veto the spending cuts.
Thursday, December 17, Chief Standing Bear fulfilled his promise, vetoing bills ONCA 16-10, 16-11, 16-12, 16-13, and 16-14. In an open letter to the Congress, Chief Standing Bear stated he did not agree with the amount of money to be cut from each of the departments and recommended Congress wait until the Treasurer could come to a finalized decision on an appropriate amount. Chief Standing Bear also cited a pending lawsuit between the Principal Chief and the Congress, stating that Congress was taking action on the Fiscal Year's Financials under the assumption they would win the lawsuit.
The Osage Nation Congress met Friday morning December 18, to make a determination on the vetoed bills. The Congress would need a 9-0 vote to bypass the Principal Chief's vetoes, which they were able to get on five of the six proposed bills, ONCA 16-10 remains vetoed. Read more about the spending cuts and the passed bills at OsageNews.org.
Earlier this month the Osage Nation issued 27 notifications of disenrollment through the Osage Nation Membership Department, and the action caused quite the debate between the Osage Nation Congress and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear.
On Monday Chief Standing Bear and the Nation Congress came to a resolution about policy change for enrollment and disenrollment from the Osage Nation. The bill, ONCA 16-16, sponsored by Congresswoman Shannon Edwards, is an amendment to the original Membership Law and a restatement of Congressional authority of the membership roll.
Changes made from the original Membership Law included, temporary membership for newborns, exclusive jurisdiction to the Osage Nation Attorney General and the Osage Nation Trial Court over membership disputes, an updated process for relinquishment of membership, increased penalties and fines for fraudulent enrollment, an updated process for disenrollment, the bill verified the role and authority of the Membership Office, and a method of checks and balances for Membership Office director and staff.
Read more about the new bill on the Osage News website OsageNews.org
Courthouse Renovation Committee Brief
This week, the Osage County Board of County Commissioner's appointed Courthouse Renovation Committee spoke to the Commissioners regarding progress and requesting direction from the Board. The Committee is composed of 7 members of the community; Judge John Kane, Mike Tolson, Mike Fischer, Cathy Ross, Jerry Loftis, Berry Keeler, and Undersheriff Lou Ann Brown.
The Committee has held a couple meeting and went before the board Monday to present their proposed “Mission Statement.' One of the top priorities of the committee is their availability to the public, while the committee's meetings are not required to abide by the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act policies they have chosen to do so. The committee has posted the dates for their meetings, which are open to the public. at the Osage County Courthouse in Pawhuska and will make changes or updates as necessary.
Another priority for the committee was direction from the Commissioners, or as committee member Mike Tolson stated “marching orders.” The committee has asked if they should focus on the renovation or rehabilitation of the existing Courthouse or look into utilizing other County buildings within the County Seat, Pawhuska. Of special interest was the Kennedy Building in downtown Pawhuska, which was also on the Agenda for the Commissioner's meeting this week.
The Commissioners currently plan to sell the Kennedy building, however the committee has asked that they put the sale on temporary hold until the committee has looked at “all of the options.” The commissioners agreed and will hold off on the sale. The committee will report back to the commissioners in two weeks at the December 28th meeting.
Commissioners Receive Quarterly Reports
This week at the meeting of the Osage County Board of County Commissioners, the commissioners awarded bids, received quarterly reports from several County offices, approved financial reports. They also heard from the appointed Committee for the Renovation of the Courthouse and had discussions regarding the Kennedy building in Pawhuska.
Kay Kelly from E911 presented a report to the commissioners Monday, highlighting progress that has been made regarding Eagle Medical Transport. Eagle Medical began the process of moving into Osage County several months ago and now has a home in Barnsdall. The ambulance service is now licensed and will begin operating in Osage County after the first of the year.
Additionally, Jake Bruno from Planning and Zoning, and Jerry Roberts from Emergency Management presented reports Monday morning. Roberts highlighted that during the Veterans Day fire, that engulfed much of North Eastern Oklahoma, 985 acres of Osage County burned, however there was no loss of life, no animal loss, no structures, homes, or hay lost in the blaze. Roberts also mentioned that the Black Dog Fire District donated a large capacity tanker to the City of Barnsdall.
The commissioners also received updates from the appointed Committee for the Renovation of the Courthouse and came to a decision about the Kennedy building, the story is posted on bartlesvilleradio.com. The Osage County Board of County Commissioners will meet again next Monday at 10am at the Osage County Courthouse.
Commissioners Decide to Sell
This week at the meeting of the Osage County Commissioners the Commissioners opened bids for tires, food, dairy products, and paper and cleaning products. They also awarded bids from last weeks meeting including, Road and Bridge Items, Grader Blades, Rock, Oil, Asphalt, Sand, and Concrete. The Commissioners also heard from Skiatook City Manager Dan Yancey.
Yancey addressed the board regarding the progress of moving out of the Senior Citizens Building in Skiatook, located at HWY 20 and Javine Hill Road. There has been discussion of building or establishing a County Annex in Skiatook for some time and the Skiatook City Council has had discussions about leasing the building to the County once it is vacant. The commissioners agreed with Yancey and the City of Skiatook, but will need to await the decisions of the recently formed committee before taking any action.
The commissioners also agreed to have the South steps repaired by local contractor David Scott Concrete, but due to the cost of the repair and possibility of additional damage to the Courthouse property the commissioners will need to hold a Special Meeting on Wednesday at 11am to declare an Emergency and make additional funds available.
The commissioners ended the meeting this week by holding an executive session regarding the Kennedy building in Pawhuska. The commissioners came out of the session with the decision to sell the Kennedy Building. The building will be sold in public auction at a meeting in the future.