Larry Echo Hawk: The U.S. Interior Secretary said a response to a proposed Broken Arrow tribal casino will take time.
WASHINGTON - A top Indian affairs official told Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. John Sullivan on Monday that he could not answer questions concerning a proposed tribal casino that continues to fuel controversy in Broken Arrow.
Coming three weeks after the two Oklahoma Republicans first asked, Assistant U.S. Interior Secretary Larry Echo Hawk's response prompted Sullivan to accuse his agency of dodging the issue triggered by the Kialegee Tribal Town's proposal.
"This is exactly why the American people are fed up with government," Sullivan said.
"Sen. Inhofe and I asked legitimate questions that deserve to be answered. Taxpayer-funded agencies are accountable to the people whether they like it or not."
Inhofe expressed disappointment.
"My office has been in contact with the BIA seeking answers to questions I believe are foundational to this issue, the legitimacy of the land's lease," Inhofe said.
"The request for information allowed two weeks to provide answers. It took an additional week just to get a response that contained no answers and no substance.
"It did not even address the items that could easily be answered."
Nedra Darling, spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior Indian Affairs, said Monday evening that "while the department may not have been able to respond to the congressmen's specific inquiries, the BIA Eastern Oklahoma Regional Office has been engaged in ascertaining the scope of the land use activities pursuant to departmental regulations."
Inhofe conceded that the complexity of some of the questions posed might require more time to address but added that the matter still deserves a timely response.
"Work is being done at the location," he said, adding that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed a suit to prevent the proposed casino from moving forward on the grounds of the questions about the lease.
"These questions are being asked on behalf of my constituents, and I hope that we can work together with the BIA going forward to be more responsive to the concerns and needs of voters," Inhofe said.
In letters to the two Oklahoma Republicans, Echo Hawk wrote that the issues raised in their Jan. 20 inquiry require a thorough review.
"We anticipate our review and subsequent response will take time as we look into these matters," Echo Hawk stated.
He did not address the Feb. 3 deadline set by Inhofe and Sullivan, nor did he provide an alternative timeline.
In another letter expected to be sent to Echo Hawk as early as Tuesday, Inhofe and Sullivan will request such a timeline on answering their questions.
"We expect to hear back from you about the timeline by the end of this week," they wrote.
Again, the two men expressed their frustration that he did not answer their questions.
"As Members of Congress, it would be easy to interpret such a response as a disregard for our responsibility to conduct oversight of your agency's operations," Inhofe and Sullivan wrote.
Jim Myers 202-484-1424
Original Print Headline: BA casino answers delayed
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