Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt Costs State $1.5M Contesting Tribal Gaming Compacts

Posted on: July 27, 2020, 11:34h. 

Last updated on: July 29, 2020, 12:07h.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) has run up more than $1.5 million in legal costs in relation to his signing of new gaming compacts with four Native American tribes.

Oklahoma Kevin Stitt tribal gaming compact
The legal fees to defend Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s actions regarding tribal gaming compacts have been unmasked. (Image: Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Information disclosed by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services reveals the Governor’s office has been billed $1,284,483.59 by four different law firms. Ryan Whaley Coldiron Jantzen Peters & Webber was paid  $746,345.92. The law firm assisted the Governor in litigation preparation, multiparty litigation management, mediation, and compact negotiations.

Other payments include Lytle Soule & Felty, who received $275,548.30 for litigation prep and compact negotiations, $252,614.37 to Revelation Consulting for mediation and compact negotiations, and $9,975 to Perkins Coie for compact negotiations. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office adds that it paid Dykema Gossett $216,816.12 for work related to the legal disputes, bringing the grand total to $1,501,299.71.

Stitt argues that the Class III gaming compacts for the state’s 35 federally recognized tribes that operate casinos with slot machines and house-banked table games expired January 1. The majority of the tribes contend their compacts automatically renewed for a new 15-year term.

Stitt reached new casino terms with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation. But the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-1 last week that the governor overstepped his authority and that the compacts have been rendered invalid.

State Not Defending Stitt

The Governor had to seek outside counsel to defend his tribal gaming agreements after Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter reportedly refused to represent Stitt.

In each instance, Gov. Stitt was sued by other parties and was forced to hire outside counsel because the Attorney General’s office, which would normally represent the State in such a case, declined to represent the Governor and the state in the tribal litigation in state and federal court,” said Stitt spokesperson Baylee Lakey.

Hunter’s office rejected that claim.

“Had the Governor allowed the attorney general to finish his work, the state could have avoided court altogether and the million-dollar-plus and climbing price tag the Governor has now burdened the state with,” declared Oklahoma AG Communications Director Alex Gerszewski.

More Bills Coming

The more than $1.5 million in legal fees will only increase in the coming weeks and months. Stitt has been sued in two lawsuits brought by legislative leaders.

Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall — both Republicans — have filed cases with the state Supreme Court challenging Stitt’s authority in signing new compacts with tribes.

The high court has already ruled against the Governor in the first suit. The majority of the judges said Stitt cannot authorize new forms of gaming, which he did in the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche compacts by approving them to operate sports betting.

The Supreme Court said until the legislature enacts laws to expand Class III gaming, and, in turn, allows the Governor to negotiate additional revenue from their casino operations, the compacts are invalid.

The two lawmakers are additionally challenging the compacts Stitt reached with the Kialegee Tribal Town and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, two tribes that currently do not have casinos.