KOSU, an Oklahoma public radio station, has an extensive report on a Quapaw Nation audit of spending by previous tribe leader John Berrey, including past spending on the development of the tribe’s Saracen casino in Pine Bluff.

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Berrey was defeated in a bid for re-election as chairman in July by Joseph Byrd. Since then, an audit has questioned some $34 million in spending during Berrey’s more than 20 years of leadership, including more than $4 million paid to former football coach Barry Switzer to promote the Quapaw Downstream Development Authority casino project in Pine Bluff. The authority also has an Oklahoma casino.

The forensic audit alleges that Berrey personally received more than $17 million dollars in bonuses and pay raises and funneled another $2 million to three people on the DDA. An additional $10 million in donations were made in violation of the tribal nation’s laws. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were donated to the University of Arkansas’ Razorback Foundation, Berrey’s alma mater, including $25,000 per year to redo the University’s baseball dugouts.

The audit found all of this was done in violation of tribe’s legal code, which requires compensation and bonuses be approved by the business committee.

Berrey counters that any pay raises he received were all done with approval.

“The meeting made several allegations that are totally untrue,” Berrey said in an emailed response. “Salaries, bonuses and donations all were approved using the exact same methodology from 2008 to my departure.”

Other allegations in the audit include abuse of credit cards and compensation, including a $8,000 spa visit for a DDA member’s friends and family and tickets to University of Arkansas baseball games in an exclusive skybox arrangement worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Switzer said his contract to promote the Saracen casino was above board and he’d done so through speaking engagements for 13 years.

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Much of the report concerns tribal politics and a reorganization that has followed the change in leadership. Apart from past marketing, the report does not raise questions about current Pine Bluff casino operations. A full-scale casino opened there in October following the 2019 opening of an annex. Monthly reports to state regulators suggest it has been a profitable venture. Saracen has been reporting house winnings comparable to those of the Oaklawn casino in Hot Springs.

Berrey, Switzer and others named in the audit are fighting back. They’ve filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma state court alleging slander and libel. It was filed against Byrd, another citizen of the Quapaw nation and an official of the firm that conducted the audit.

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