In Latest Rebuke Of Stitt, State AG Tells Feds Governor Out Of Line On Tribal Compacts

May 5, 2020

This story was updated at 4:48 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5th, to include a new response from Baylee Lakey, communications director for the governor.

In an opinion released at the request of the Oklahoma legislature's two most senior Republicans and a separate letter to a federal cabinet secretary, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Tuesday dug in deeper on his charge that Governor Kevin Stitt, a fellow Republican, acted unlawfully last month in signing gaming compacts between the state and two Indian governments.

“Because the Governor lacks authority to “enter into” the agreements he has sent to you, those agreements fail to meet the requirements of [the 1988 federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act] to constitute a valid gaming compact under federal law,” reads Hunter's letter to David Bernhardt, the head of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees state-tribal gaming compacts.

Hunter's letter says that Stitt's actions were extremely harmful to diplomatic relations between the state of Oklahoma and Indian Country, asserting that state officials should only make promises within their authority to keep.

"To do otherwise undermines the credibility and honor of the State when engaging in these sensitive inter-sovereign relations," the letter reads. "Unfortunately, I fear the agreements sent recently to you by the Governor will only have the effect of damaging the relationship between the State and these two tribes."

State Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) and House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) had previously asserted that Stitt's moves were out of line, and the two leaders had requested a legal opinion from the attorney general's office.

In a joint statement Tuesday, the governments of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation accused Hunter of using them as pawns in a political game.

"Our compacts are legal and were negotiated in good faith," said the statement, attributed to Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson Sr. and Otoe-Missouria Tribe Chairman John R. Shotton. "The political fight between the governor and the attorney general over sports betting is not our concern and does not impact the legality of the compacts."

In a statement, Baylee Lakey, Stitt's communications director, said: "These compacts are unquestionably legal and deliver unprecedented guarantees of clarity, stability, and transparency for all Sovereign parties, and for the benefit of all 4 million Oklahomans."

Today's statements come after Hunter last week requested an investigation into the Stitt administration's health department, a move the governor called "disappointing."