Freedom Of Information Act was first in Indian Country

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
06/12/2014 10:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation enacted its Freedom of Information and Rights of Privacy Act in 2001, becoming the first Federally recognized tribe to allow citizens access to public records of a public body. Governmental bodies in the United States, including some tribes, have similar laws governing the availability of information contained in public records.

“Native Americans have as much right as anybody else to get information from their government,” Kevin R. Kemper, former journalist and University of Arizona assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences, said. “When a tribe doesn’t have a freedom of information law, it’s extremely tough for journalists and the public.”

Kemper, who also serves as a Native American Journalists Association Legal Hotline intake liaison, said he believes strongly in freedom of information and tribal sovereignty.

“Each tribe needs to have the opportunity to have a freedom of information act, incorporate freedom of information as a way of helping the people,” he said.

According to the CN FOIA, a public record includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body.

“The requirements under FOIA are that (a request) be in writing to the department with a specific request for the document you are requesting,” CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said. “The department will take it, the process is to have it reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office to see if it meets the requirements of FOIA, and we handle it according to process.”

However, Hembree said there are documents, such as meeting minutes of a public body, that don’t need a formal request.

Each department of the tribe’s executive and legislative branches, after receiving a records request, has 15 business days to fulfill the request. According to the act, if written notification of the response is neither mailed nor personally delivered to the person requesting the documents within the 15 days, the request must be considered denied and the requestor may appeal the denial.

After reviewing the CN FOIA, Joey Senat, Oklahoma State University School of Media & Strategic Communications associate professor, said if a record is obviously public information then the person handling it should know that.

“Anyone should be able to walk up and make a request right there,” Senat, who served on the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Committee, said. “If the law was written so it was effective, it would allow anyone in the tribe to walk up to a public agency and make a request for a record that’s with that agency or with that official.

“If the record is right there and it can be made a copy, it should be provided on the spot, under the ways our law is written,” he added. “Having a 15-day delay wouldn’t be acceptable under (Oklahoma) state law.”

Hembree said he hasn’t received any complaints about the current process so he assumes it’s working fine. However, he said his staff has been overwhelmed by an increase of requests that come from a select group of people.

“The purpose of the act ¬– and it’s a great purpose – is to make sure that citizens know how their government is run, know how their money is made, know how their money is spent and the system has worked greatly up until October 2011, at which time there had been a dramatic increase in the amount of FIOA (requests),” he said. “That’s always been my number one goal, people will have that right and I, for one, will never stand in the way of that right.”

But Senat said because the CN FOIA gives tribal citizens the right to know what their government does the costs and number of requests shouldn’t matter.

“God forbid that the citizens know what their government is doing and that they want to find out,” he said. “It costs too much and there’s an increase? Well God forbid that the public actually put into effect the statute that says they have a right to know. That’s the purpose of these statutes and people should put them into effect and make requests. That’s why they’re there.”

Senat added that a list of all record requests should also be a public record and anyone should be able to ask for it.

“It’s a way to provide a paper trail so that the public can judge how well their government is responding to records requests,” he said. “Every time they have gotten a request, that’s a record.”

What records are public?

Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered exempt or confidential. Under the CN FOIA, certain categories are specifically made public information, however the use of the information for commercial solicitation is prohibited.

Public information includes the names; sex; race; title and dates of employment of all employees of public bodies; administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public; final opinions; documents identifying persons confined in any jail, detention center or prison; statements and interpretations of policy; statute and the Constitution; written planning policies and goals and final planning decisions; final CN audits and of its subsidiaries; information in or taken from any account; voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds by public bodies; the minutes and votes of all proceedings of all public bodies; and reports that disclose the nature, substance and location of any crime or alleged crime reported as having been committed.

“Tribal people expect transparency and accountability from their leaders, and there are a lot of great leaders throughout Indian Country,” Kemper said. “The best leaders tend to recognize transparency.”

The Nation’s FOIA states that any person has a right to inspect and/or copy public records.

“That’s one of the problems with how it is written now,” Senat said of the tribal law. “It should say ‘have the right to inspect and copy.’ It shouldn’t say ‘or.’ You should have the right to inspect a record and make your own copy if it means with a pencil and paper, to write down what you’re reading. Even with technology today, with a cell phone, the simplest thing is to take a photograph of a document.”

Some record copying may require a fee

According to the act, a public body – which is any CN board, commission, agency, authority, any public or governmental body or political subdivision of the Nation, including any organization or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds – may establish and collect fees that do not exceed the actual cost of searching for or making copies of records.

However, records must be furnished at the lowest possible cost and be provided in a form that is both convenient and practical for use by the person requesting copies of the records concerned. Fees may not be charged for examination and review to determine if the documents are subject to disclosure.

Open meetings and their rules

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, an executive session is a meeting or portion of a meeting that is convened in private. Only members of the governing body are entitled to attend but they may invite others to stay at the pleasure of that board, council, committee or commission. A motion is required to go into executive session and a majority must approve it. Those present must maintain the confidentiality of the discussion.

The regular meeting minutes should indicate when the board went into an executive session, what the primary reason was, any formal decisions that were made in executive session and when the board, council, committee or commission came out of executive session.

Investments or other financial matters may be in executive session if disclosure of the deliberations or decisions would jeopardize the ability to implement a decision or to achieve investment objectives.

A record of the board or of its fiduciary agents that discloses deliberations about or a tentative or final decision on, investments or other financial matters is exempt from disclosure as long as its disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement an investment decision or program or to achieve investment objectives.

The panel may discuss, deliberate on and make decisions on a portion of the annual investment plan or other related financial or investment matters in executive session if disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement that portion of the plan or achieve investment objectives.

A record of the panel that discloses discussions, deliberations or decisions on portions of the annual investment plan or other related financial or investment matters is not a public record to the extent and so long as its disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement that portion of the plan or achieve investment objectives.

Matters exempt from disclosure

A public body may, but is not required to, exempt from disclosure information of a personal nature that would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy, trade secrets, records of law enforcement under investigation and documents to proposed contractual arrangements and proposed sales or purchase of property.

Specific, individual salaries are also exempt from disclosure but annual budgets contain position listings without names.

Senat said omitting salaries from the public eye is “fodder for corruption.”

“You can go down to OSU and you can ask to see what I get paid as a state employee,” he said. “There’s no way to figure out who’s getting paid what? The public is the employer. The tribal citizens are the employer. They’re the ones paying the bill. They should be entitled to know who’s being paid what specifically. It should be open because that’s one way to fight corruption. That opens it up to favoritism, political patronage, basic corruption.”

Information that would violate attorney-client relationships, the identity of the maker of a gift to a public body if the maker requests to be anonymous and the identity of an individual who makes a complaint, which alleges a violation or potential violation of law or regulation also may be exempt from disclosure.

Memoranda, correspondence and working papers in the possession of individual members of the executive and legislative branches or their immediate staff are exempt. However, nothing may be construed as limiting or restricting public access to source documents or records, factual data or summaries of factual data, papers, minutes or reports.

Other memoranda, correspondence, documents and working papers relative to efforts to attract business or industry to invest within the CN may be exempt from disclosure. However, any record that is requested and is exempt and not disclosed or is disclosed and marked confidential should have a statement explaining the reasons for that determination.

“It does has a lot of common exemptions,” Senat said. “This is a strength under the law where it says that if they’re going to deny it they have to explain why something is exempt. These statutes can be very strong, but if they’re not enforced they’re worthless.”

Photographs, signatures, addresses, race, weight, height, Social Security number and digitized images from a driver’s license or personal identification cards are also not considered public records.

“Some leaders keep things secret and that could violate the right of the people,” Kemper said. “You see a lot of that throughout Indian Country and the tribe will have to sort that out.”

Kemper added that he believes there are some understandable exceptions such as sacred knowledge.

“Every tribe’s culture is different, that’s why it’s important to create freedom of information that’s a cultural match,” he said.

Penalties for not providing records

Any CN citizen may look to the District Court for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in FOIA cases as long as the application is made not later than one year following the date on which the alleged violation occurs or one year after a public vote in public session.

The court may order equitable relief as it considers appropriate and a violation must be considered to be an irreparable injury for which no adequate remedy at law exists.

If a person or entity seeking such relief prevails, they may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and other costs of litigation. If they prevail in part, the court may award them reasonable attorney fees or an appropriate portion.

According to the act, any person or group of persons who willfully and maliciously violates the provisions of the FOIA may be found guilty of a crime and upon conviction shall be fine not more than $100 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days for the first offense. For the second offense, the fine shall not be more than $200 or imprisoned for not more than 60 days and shall not be fine more than $300 or imprisoned for not more than 90 days.

News

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
07/29/2016 04:54 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After a two-year investigation, the Cherokee Nation attorney general’s office filed criminal charges on July 28 against former Cherokee Nation Foundation Executive Director Kimberlie Gilliland alleging embezzlement and fraud. The case is one of two filed against Gilliland, a CN citizen, in the tribe’s District Court. A day earlier, CNF attorney Ralph Keen II filed a civil suit asking for more than $1 million. The tribe’s case outlines nine counts against Gilliland and seeks jail time and fines. Former CN Attorney General Diane Hammons has been appointed as a special prosecutor. “It is the duty of the attorney general to safeguard the assets of the Cherokee Nation,” Attorney General Todd Hembree said. “During this investigation, we uncovered fraud and corruption that cannot, and will not, be tolerated in our organization.” The CNF, or Cherokee Nation Education Corporation, is a nonprofit created to provide Cherokee students with scholarship opportunities, ACT preparation and programs encouraging higher learning. Gilliland served as CNF executive director from Oct. 9, 2009, to July 12, 2013. The counts allege irregularities in Gilliland’s travel and spending, as well as equipment. Count 1 alleges that Gilliland used CNF funds for her own and her family’s use to pay for a trip to California for her husband, Andrew Sikora, and their two minor children. It alleges she used CNF funds to pay for airline tickets and fees, parking fees, car rental fees, hotel rooms, fuel and meals. Count 2 alleges Gilliland used CNF funds to pay for hotel rooms for the benefit of her daughter and a CNF employee’s daughter in Addison, Texas. Count 3 alleges she used CNF funds to pay for a trip to California for herself and her husband. It alleges Gilliland used CNF funds to pay for airline tickets, parking fees and a car wash, meals, lodging on a ship, rental car fees, miscellaneous items, fuel and hotel rooms. Count 4 alleges she used CNF funds to buy airline tickets for herself and her husband for a trip from Portland, Oregon, to Tulsa. Count 5 alleges Gilliland used CNF funds to buy items from the Pendleton Woolen Mills Employee Sales Room in Portland. Count 6 alleges she used CNF funds to pay a parking ticket from the city of Tulsa that was issued to her personal vehicle. Count 7 alleges Gilliland used CNF funds to pay for North Park University’s online master’s degree courses for herself for a total of $21,100. Count 8 alleges she “unilaterally removed a large Hewlett-Packard” photo printer and software disks, in excess of $5,000, from the CNF corporate office to an unknown location. Count 9 alleges she used CNF funds to buy and take possession of more than $10,000 of computer equipment. It also states a substantial portion of the equipment never appeared for use in the CNF offices and the equipment’s whereabouts is unknown. If convicted, Gilliland could face a year in jail or a $5,000 fine or both and any civil remedies as provided by tribal law for each separate conviction. In a July 28 statement to the Cherokee Phoenix, Gilliland called the court filings “baseless” and said the tribe should expect a countersuit. “I was shocked when I found out about the baseless recent court filings by the Cherokee Nation. I am proud of my work during my time at the Cherokee Nation Foundation, helping promote our language and provide scholarships for my fellow Cherokees,” Gilliland wrote. “I can only assume that because these actions were filed in tribal court that the FBI and federal investigators have rejected these claims for what they are, which is a frivolous attack on a private citizen who has done nothing wrong. The only basis for this action by the Cherokee Nation is because I supported a candidate other than Bill John Baker in past elections. By maliciously slandering me in this way, the Cherokee Nation has crossed a line and should expect a vigorous countersuit in the weeks to come.” Hembree said the case was filed in tribal court because his office “respects the sovereignty of the tribal courts,” and a CN citizen allegedly committed the crimes within the tribe’s jurisdiction. In response to Gilliland’s statement about the FBI or federal investigators rejecting the case, Hembree said the tribe has jurisdiction in the case and that is why his office is prosecuting it. “The appropriate place would be the Cherokee Nation District Court,” he said. “We knew there would be political allegations in this case when it was filed. We were cognizant of that. So to eliminate any semblance of politicalization of this matter, we appointed a special prosecutor, one that is outside of this office, one who is beyond reproach, who is the former attorney general of the Cherokee Nation appointed by the previous administration that has impeccable qualifications.” Hammons said she was limited on what she could say but believes the evidence supports the charges. “Absolutely. I don’t have any equivocation about that at all,” she said. An arraignment hearing has been set for 11 a.m. on Aug. 12. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2016/7/10496_CNvGilliland(Criminal).pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a>the complaint document.
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
07/29/2016 08:15 AM
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An Arkansas group trying to get a casino initiative on the state’s November ballot has officially gotten approval for extra time to collect voter signatures. On July 28, the Arkansas secretary of state confirmed that Arkansas Wins in 2016 collected 63,725 verified signatures, earning the group 30 extra days to get enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 general election ballot that would expand commercial gaming operations to Washington, Boone and Miller counties. Should the measure pass, Cherokee Nation Entertainment has an agreement in place to own a casino, hotel and entertainment venue in Washington County, the state’s third-most populous county and home to the University of Arkansas’ flagship campus in Fayetteville. As per state statute, the group has to get signatures from 84,859 registered Arkansas voters from at least 15 different counties. However, if a proposed initiative gets at least 75 percent of the required signatures by the initial canvassing deadline, organizers can receive extra time to collect more signatures. The deadline for the Arkansas secretary of state to certify ballot questions for the Nov. 8 election is Aug. 26. On July 27, CNE Chief Operating Officer Mark Fulton told the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors at its July meeting in Catoosa, Oklahoma, that organizers expected to know the exact number of signatures still needed before the end of July. More than 92,000 signatures were collected during the initial window and unofficial testing came back with a validation rate in the mid-70 percent range, he said. “We would have loved to have had 85,000 signatures by that first deadline, but they (Arkansas Wins in 2016) are moving along great,” Fulton said. In a statement, Arkansas Wins in 2016 spokesman Robert Coon said he was upbeat about the group’s chances at getting enough valid signatures during the extra timeframe. “Our campaign has covered significant ground in a short period of time because voters across the state understand the positive impact this proposal will have in the form of jobs, economic growth, tourism and tax revenue,” he said. “We’re pleased with the results of the secretary of state’s validation process, and we remain confident in our ability to obtain the number of signatures necessary over the next several weeks to place this amendment on the ballot this November.” Currently, gaming options in Arkansas are restricted to a statewide lottery, a horse race facility with video poker in Hot Springs and a dog racing track in West Memphis. Arkansas law only allows casinos at facilities with parimutuel betting. In a June interview with the Tulsa World, CNB officials said the Cherokee Nation’s business entity would not help gather signatures and would only help with campaigning if the measure gets on the ballot. Fulton repeated the no-canvassing stance on July 27 before the CNB board. According to financial reports filed July 15 with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, CNB donated $1 million to Arkansas Winning Initiative Inc., a separate nonprofit entity with the same stated goal and officers as Arkansas Wins in 2016. Neither CNB nor CNE is listed on any financial statements submitted by Arkansas Wins in 2016. The Cherokee Phoenix filed a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of any agreements between CNB and Arkansas Wins in 2016 regarding CNB’s involvement in the Arkansas ballot initiative and the terms of the potential casino construction. Citing confidentiality clauses and proprietary information listed within the agreement, the request was denied on July 26, but in the rejection letter FOIA Officer Gwen Terrapin wrote that CNB and CNE are parties to a contribution agreement with Arkansas Winning Initiative Inc.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/28/2016 03:13 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation attorney general’s office and Cherokee Nation Foundation filed separate cases in the tribe’s District Court against former CNF Executive Director Kimberlie Gilliland for alleged embezzlement and fraud. The attorney general’s case lays out criminal charges against Gilliland, seeking jail time and fines. Former Attorney General Diane Hammons has been appointed as a special prosecutor for the case, according to CN Communications. The CNF, represented by attorney Ralph Keen Jr., filed a civil case in District Court, seeking a repayment by Gilliland of $232,000 in funds in addition to more than $900,000 in punitive damages.” Attorney General Todd Hembree said it’s the duty of the attorney general to safeguard assets of the CN. “During this investigation, we uncovered fraud and corruption that cannot, and will not, be tolerated in our organization,” he said. According to the release, the charges stem from a more-than-two-year investigation involving irregularities in Gilliland’s salary, travel, spending and awarding of CNF scholarships. Gilliland was appointed to serve as executive director in 2009 and served until 2013. “The primary mission of the Cherokee Nation Foundation is to provide higher education opportunities to qualifying Cherokee students as a means of reaching their full academic potential,” Keen Jr. said. “Significant assets have been wrongfully embezzled and converted to the detriment of those deserving students. It is my client’s solemn duty and obligation to utilize the full extent of civil law to recover those assets and return them to the mission for which they were intended and entrusted.” An arraignment hearing has been set for 11 a.m. on Aug. 12 at the District Court, according to a court document. For more information, visit http://www.cherokee.org/attorneygeneral/Home.aspx. Check back with the Cherokee Phoenix for further developments.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/27/2016 05:00 PM
OOLOGAH, Okla. – The annual Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In will be held Aug. 13 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch. The event commemorates the Aug. 15, 1935, deaths of Rogers, a Cherokee humorist, and Post, a pilot, in Point Barrow, Alaska, 81 years ago. Pilots from throughout the area will land small planes on a 2,000-foot grass airstrip at the ranch. Some of the visiting planes are vintage warplanes from World War II and other eras. The fly-in provides an opportunity for the public to get a close-up look at airplanes and meet the pilots. Pilots are also able to meet fellow aviators and people who appreciate their planes. Called the “crash heard around the world,” newspapers all over the world reported the deaths of Rogers and Post. The two were in search of a mail and passenger air route from the West Coast of the United States to Russia. Pilots start landing shortly after daybreak and spend the morning showcasing their antique and classic planes. The fly-in started with a simple program in the shade of the house where Rogers was born on Nov. 4, 1879. It grew from a dozen or so planes to 50 planes in 2004 to a record number in 2015 of more than 130 pilots and their planes. The event outgrew the parking and a part of the ranch pasture is now parking. The “2016 National Day of Remembrance ” will be celebrated for the second year to honor any pilot and passengers who have died in a small plane crash. A lapel pin, with a picture of Rogers in a flight jacket has been designed to pay tribute to flyers. A gold circle surrounds Rogers’ photo with his quote, “She’s a beautiful day and we are flying high.” It will be presented to a family member of a deceased pilot or passenger. Additional pins are $5 each. Names of deceased pilots or passengers will be honored on the website willrogers.com, if requested. Rogers and Post are enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Hall of Fame. The major airport in Oklahoma City is the Will Rogers World Airport. Wiley Post airport, a feeder airport, is just a few miles away. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Gates will open at 7 a.m. and people are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. There will be classic cars and motorcycles on display, activities for children and food vendors. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.willrogers.com" target="_blank">www.willrogers.com</a>.
BY CHRIS CASTEEL
The Oklahoman © 2016
07/27/2016 01:00 PM
PHILADELPHIA – Four years ago, at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker called President Barack Obama “the best president for Indian Country in the history of the United States.” Baker is here this week hoping Hillary Clinton succeeds Obama in office next year. “I truly believe that Hillary gets the issues of sovereign nations,” Baker said on Monday. Baker recalled her talking to tribal officials in the mid-1990s, when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president. That discussion was soon followed by an executive order that cut through red tape and allowed tribes to deal directly with government agencies, rather than working through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, he said. “I'm proud to support Hillary Clinton,” Baker said. “I think she will make a wonderful president.” The Cherokee Nation, based in Tahlequah, is hosting delegates and visitors this week in a tent on the grounds of the Wells Fargo Center, where the Democratic National Convention is being held. The tribe has speakers scheduled throughout the week, including U.S. senators. Monday's speaker was former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris, who represented Oklahoma from 1964 to 1973, served as national Democratic Party chairman and ran for president. His former wife, LaDonna, was a prominent American Indian activist. The Chickasaw Nation is sponsoring meals in the Cherokee Nation tent. Kalyn Free, an Oklahoma delegate at the convention and an attorney for the Cherokee Nation, said Baker and his staff have dozens of meetings scheduled here this week with business leaders and members of Congress. “Our mission is to ensure tribal issues like education opportunities, improved health care access and job development that will spur economic growth in Indian County remain at the forefront of policymakers,” she said. Baker's chief of staff, Chuck Hoskin, was on the committee that wrote the platform. Muscogee Creek National Council Speaker Steve Bruner served on the rules committee. Baker's mother, Isabel Baker, a longtime Democratic activist in Oklahoma, is also a delegate here. Free said Obama “prioritized our issues like never before. He populated his staff with talented Native people, hosted tribal summits, reached settlements in the Cobell and Keepseagle cases, passed the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and signed the Violence Against Woman Act. … He has set the bar very high for his successor, and I know (Clinton) will raise it even higher.” Baker met with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in Washington earlier this year and said he doesn't understand why Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would refer to her as Pocahontas. “It makes no sense to me whatsoever,” Baker said. Warren, who was born in Oklahoma, was heavily criticized four years ago for claiming to be a Cherokee while on the faculty at Harvard University. The Cherokee Nation was not able to verify her ancestry, and Trump has chided her for it numerous times. Baker said Monday that Trump “is probably a shrewd businessman and probably a good father. “I just don't think his rhetoric is what America wants or needs.” – Reprinted with permission
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
07/26/2016 04:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Don’t bank on seeing Cherokee Nation or the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association officials playing fantasy football any time soon. Speaking to attendees on July 14 of the Reservation Economic Summit inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo, OIGA Executive Director Sheila Morago and OIGA Chairman Brian Foster said while they are not necessarily opposed to daily fantasy sports, that type of gaming constitutes a violation of the exclusivity provisions of Oklahoma’s current gaming compacts. Daily fantasy sports involves participants picking professional athletes to be a part of their fantasy teams for anywhere from a day to a year. Depending on those athletes’ real-life performances, a participant can win cash or other prizes. Sites such as DraftKings.com and FanDuel.com contend that fantasy sports is a game of skill rather than gambling because successful participants often research different athletes, playing conditions and other potential factors before forming their teams. However, none of the RES panelists are buying that argument. “We all know people who have no knowledge or skill of specific players who play fantasy football or whatever sport is in season,” Ross Nimmo said. “We’re (tribes) not necessarily against daily fantasy sports. We want to be involved with them. However, we have a legal right to administer and oversee certain types of gaming in this state, and it’s important that the tribes all be on the same page when it comes to this.” The current gaming compact used by the CN and more than 25 other tribes across the state provides for exclusivity for certain forms of gambling in Oklahoma in return for an annual fee. Prior to the 2016 state legislative session, a measure was introduced that would have allowed for daily fantasy sports leagues in Oklahoma. However, with the proposal viewed as a potential violation of the compact, the state’s tribes banded together to stop the proposal. “We killed that bill in seven hours,” Morago said, calling any legislative consideration of the state giving up exclusivity fees in exchange for $500,000 in commercial licensing fees “fuzzy math.” According to the OIGA, tribal gaming had a $4.2 billion economic impact statewide in 2014, the most recent year with available data. Since the implementation of Oklahoma’s Class III gaming compacts more than a decade ago, tribal casinos have contributed $1.3 billion just to the state’s education fund. “By far, gaming is the largest job creator in several counties,” Morago said. “The biggest misconception is that all Indians are rich because of gaming. It’s going to take more than 30 years (of gaming) to make that happen.” State-tribal gaming compacts, including the CN’s, are set to expire on Jan. 1, 2020. With Kansas and other states turning to commercial gaming to fill budget holes, all three panelists urged Oklahoma’s tribes to work together and present a united front in the pending negotiations. “If there are any changes, it is very important that the tribes are united on this,” Ross Nimmo said. “That way it’s a lot harder for the state to make extreme changes. If one tribe goes out on their own and strikes a deal, there’s not much leverage.”