Drummond touts working with tribes on law enforcement

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said he continues to work with tribes to resolve law enforcement issues resulting from the McGirt decision.

“I spent about 160 hours of negotiations with the tribes, and there’s a lot of areas of commonality; we should start rolling out agreements as soon as possible,” Drummond said during a Monday morning visit at the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce.

The attorney general also discussed safeguarding water quality, curbing foreign ownership of marijuana farms, and improving accountability in state government.

Drummond said there is a “disconnect” in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system when it comes to tribal relations.

“We, as a state, are not putting forth our best effort to collaborate with the tribes; the tribes are willing and ready partners in criminal justice,” he said.

In the 2020 McGirt v. Oklahoma decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that historic tribal boundaries in eastern Oklahoma remain intact, meaning state prosecutors lack jurisdictional authority to prosecute tribal members accused of certain crimes committed on reservation land.

Drummond said the tribes and the state are working out ramifications of the decision.

“They’ve had McGirt for three years; it’s brand-new,” Drummond said. “We’re looking for an opportunity to collaborate with state of Oklahoma and I’m 100 percent committed to finding these areas to which they can exercise sovereignty and we get to collaborate with them on criminal justice cases so the rights of Native Americans are upheld and protected – all people are protected – from bad people and bad people are prosecuted.”

Drummond talked about several other issues at the meeting.

Eric Anderson, president of Anderson Injectors, asked Drummond to comment on a recent ruling about “pollution in the scenic rivers.”

In January, a federal judge found that Tyson Foods and other poultry producers were guilty of polluting the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller. The case dates to 2005, when Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed suit against the farms.

Drummond the ruling “was a pretty damning order to poultry.”

“The judge has very little tolerance in the continuation of pollution,” he said. “As an elected official who has competing interests, I value clean water. I believe I am a steward of my land. Juxtapose that with the poultry industry along the eastern part of the state that is very important and impactful to Oklahoma.”

Drummond said his objective was “not to destroy poultry, but to find a path through which poultry could help us clean our water, not today, but over the course of time.”

He said the state will start negotiating in September with a retired federal judge who has awareness of environmental issues.

“I think that if poultry comes to the table in good faith, we’ll find a resolution,” Drummond said.

On foreign ownership of land, Drummond said the state should be able to civilly forfeit land owned by Chinese groups.

“There are 200,000 acres in Oklahoma that is owned by Chinese and I am dead serious about finding those people and taking the land back through replevin, civil forfeiture,” he said. “If you have owned your land for more than three years and want to grow marijuana, we’re happy for you. But if you just come in and bought the land, you’re probably not local, so we’re going to make you post a $50,000 bond, so if I shut you down because you’re illegal, then we’ll have $50,000 to restore the property.”

He called foreign ownership a “blight on our state.”

“Drive by anywhere in Oklahoma, and you see the abandoned marijuana shacks and have all sorts of pollutants in that ground; it’s owned by a foreign national,” he said. “We produce 28 million pounds of marijuana in Oklahoma, but taxes are only paid on 6 million pounds; that’s 22 million pounds are grown without taxes being paid.”

He said Chinese operators produce fentanyl in liquid form and take it to Mexico, then cartels bring it across the border to process it in Oklahoma.

“We busted a plant down in Ada and found gallons and gallons and gallons of liquid fentanyl,” he said.

Drummond also stressed the importance of transparency and accountability to the taxpayers.

“There has been a cowboy mentality with tax dollars and state leadership over the last several years,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of investigation in the attorney general’s office in regard to the GEER funding.”

Recent audits have sharply criticized how the state spent $40 million COVID-19 relief funding for education, called the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief, or GEER.

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