Tribes file suits against Oklahoma governor

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP) 3-08

Lawsuits claiming improper termination of tobacco compacts by the office of Gov. Brad Henry have been filed by the Kaw Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe.

The tribes allege in the lawsuits filed during March that the governor’s office wants to obtain a higher cut from the tribes’ cigarette sales.

The governor’s office would not comment pending a review of the suits.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, the suits say the tribes received notice of the compact termination a few days later than required. The 10-year compacts were signed in 1998 and require either side to give at least six months’ notice of termination.

Each tribe’s compacts gave the state 25 percent of all applicable taxes, but Gerald Adams, Henry’s chief of staff, terminated the contracts in order to renegotiate a higher percentage, according to the suits.

According to the lawsuits, only the governor can terminate the compacts and Adams did not have that authority.

Attorney Ken Bellmard, representing both tribes, said the state Tax Commission contacted the tribes’ tobacco suppliers and informed them Thursday that the compacts had expired.

That action was an effort to “choke off” the tribes’ supplies of tobacco “in a brazen attempt to cut off a vital revenue stream and force the tribe to agree to pay the state an unreasonable amount in new tobacco compact,” the lawsuits allege.

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe has smoke shops in Noble County, while the Kaw Nation operates in Kay County.