Tribal leaders from the Absentee-Shawnee Tribe, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma and the Sac and Fox Nation sent a letter to Shawnee city officials responding to accusations of withholding sales tax dollars from the city of Shawnee.

Tribal leaders from the Absentee-Shawnee Tribe, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma and the Sac and Fox Nation sent a letter to Shawnee city officials responding to accusations of withholding sales tax dollars from the city of Shawnee.

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation has offered to host a meeting on March 24 at 10 a.m. at the Cultural Heritage Center in Shawnee to discuss the concerns of the city.

The letter addressed to Mayor Wes Mainord states, “At first glance, your letter appears to be based on a number of incorrect premises, both factual and legal, that will need to be reviewed more thoroughly before we can meet to discuss your concerns.

“Unfortunately, your proposal does not allow for sufficient time for analysis. Therefore, we propose that you, your staff, tribal leaders of the four tribes, and their staff, meet on March 24 to discuss your concerns.”

The tribal leaders addressed certain issues in the letter they request city officials have prepared prior to March 10. Those include:

• Data used to support the premise that City of Shawnee sales tax revenues are declining;

• Data used to support the premise tribal economic development is directly responsible for any declining City sales tax revenues;

• Tax incentives and/or rebates offered or provided over the last five years to non-tribal enterprises by the City of Shawnee or by the State for development or preservation of businesses within Shawnee;

• Donations, contributions, payments in lieu of taxes, and similar assistance provided over the last five years by the aforementioned Tribes to the City of Shawnee.

Shawnee City Manager Brian McDougal said he read the letter Tuesday. McDougal said the city asked for a response by Feb. 14 to schedule a meeting and the letter sent by tribal leaders is dated February 13, but McDougal said he’s not sure when the city received the letter.

He said he’s glad city officials and tribal leaders are meeting but added he’s disappointed the meeting isn’t scheduled sooner.

“We may try to meet sooner but that hasn’t been discussed,” he said.

Mainord said earlier in the month he would like to hold a meeting the week of Feb. 24.

McDougal said city officials would be present at the meeting to respond to questions from the tribal leaders.

“We haven’t decided who’s going to be there,” he said.

Mainord said he’s ready to get things worked out.

“I’m looking forward to sitting down and negotiating,” he said.

It has not been confirmed whether or not the meeting on March 24 will be private or open to the public.

The letter to Shawnee city officials comes as a response to a letter the city sent tribal leaders earlier this month to pursue an agreement to begin collecting and remitting the city’s 3 percent sales tax for sales made to non-tribal members.

According to the city’s letter, Shawnee has seen its sales tax revenues decrease with the increase in Tribal enterprises selling commercial goods and services within the city limits.

According to the city’s letter, Tribal Nations are not exempt from collecting state and municipal sales taxes from sales to “non-Indians and non-members,” so the mayor proposes that the city reach an agreement with all four Tribal Nations for collection and payments to the city of Shawnee for the city sales tax of 3 percent on sales by tribal enterprises to “non-members and non-Indians.”

McDougal said sales tax revenues provide emergency, fire and police services, as well as road maintenance and repair, so city commissioners decided to contact the tribal leaders through the letter.

CPN Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett, in a written statement to the News-Star following the letter written from the city to tribal leaders, confirmed that CPN received what he referred to as a “threatening letter” from the city as he noted that none of that tribe’s business entities are located in the city limits of Shawnee.

“We bought this land in 1867. Federal law says it is not in the city. The Oklahoma constitution exempts our land from taxation,” Barrett wrote.

“In this letter, it is like they want to tax the City of Tecumseh if someone from Shawnee buys something in Tecumseh. This is taking away the individual rights of the people of Shawnee to shop where they want to shop,” he added.

Barrett further noted that CPN provides 2,200 jobs in Pottawatomie County and has about a $522 million-impact on the economy.

“Much of the rest of the sales taxes Shawnee collects is derived from the turn over of our payroll in the economy of Shawnee. We buy in Shawnee. We donate to local charities, local law enforcement, churches, and send every penny of our license tag collections back directly to the schools,” Barrett stated.

“We do not use Shawnee’s water, sewer, or police. If we ask for help, we pay for it,” he concluded.

The city’s letter shows that federal law requires tribal enterprises to collect the applicable sales tax on sales made to non-members within the city limits, for a total of 8.5 percent, which reflects a 3-cent city of Shawnee sales tax, a 1-cent county tax and the 4.5 percent state sales tax to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

“The OTC apparently is not demanding you collect and remit sales tax from your Tribal enterprises. The city, however, is prepared to take action to enforce the sales tax, or at a minimum, the collection of the city sales tax,” the city’s letter read.

The city has multiple options for enforcing the collection, including requesting enforcement action by or on behalf of the OTC and filing a lawsuit in federal court, the letter further reads.

But the mayor writes that he hopes the city can come to an agreement with the tribes and establish a monthly payment-in-lieu-of-taxes.

“The city values its relationship with your Tribal Nations and appreciates the many contributions you have made to the development of the area’s economy and standard of living,” the letter continues. “The fact remains, however, that Shawnee is hindered in providing services to all citizens, including your members. The city would like to avoid litigation over this issue and thus requests that you seriously consider this offer…”