indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Retaliation alleged in firing of trust fund manager
Thursday, September 18, 2003

A senior Department of Interior manager who objected to the way the federal government carries out its trust responsibilities was fired this week.

Kevin Gambrell served as director of the Farmington Indian Minerals Office (FIMO) in New Mexico since 1996. During that time, he received praise from Navajo landowners, who said he looked after their best interests, increased the return on their trust assets and kept them informed.

Gambrell did not always earn the same accolades from his superiors, who launched an investigation into his management of FIMO after placing him on administrative leave with pay in early May. In a confidential report issued a month later, a group of Interior employees accused him of destroying trust records while admitting no information was lost.

As a result of the report, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) a month ago said it would fire Gambrell. The termination was made official on Monday on the grounds that he violated policy and failed to follow orders.

But supporters in the Navajo Nation say that Gambrell was the victim of retaliation for speaking out on behalf of about 6,000 Navajos who land generates about $8 million in oil and gas royalties every year.

"They are using him as scapegoat," said Irvin Chavez, president of the Shii Shi Keyah Allottee Association, an organization of Navajo landowners. "Kevin has always and will continue to speak for the Navajo people out there."

Gambrell is also being backed by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a national organization. The group yesterday said it would file a complaint with the federal judge overseeing the Indian trust fund lawsuit, charging that the government violated a court order barring retaliation against employees who have contact with the court.

"Kevin Gambrell's career difficulties started the moment his phone records showing contact with the [court's] special master were discovered," said PEER's general counsel Dan Meyer, who is working on an appeal of the termination to the federal Merit Systems Protection Board.

In documents filed with the merit board, Gambrell says his conversations with special master Alan Balaran are directly linked to actions his superiors took against him. In the months leading to his suspension in May, he spoke with Balaran about the undervaluation of Navajo lands and other issues.

The contacts led to a highly critical report from Balaran, who found that Navajo allottees were not receiving fair market value for their land. Private landowners, and even other tribes, received up to 20 times more from oil and gas companies, the August report said.

As part of Balaran's investigation, a Bureau of Indian Affairs appraiser admitted destroying Navajo trust records, but no action was taken against him. The employee was transferred out of the Navajo region and now works in the Pacific Northwest.

A similar situation occurred when a Department of Interior inspector general investigation found that MMS auditors falsified data relating to a Navajo audit. One of the auditors was given a cash bonus for "creativity" but no one involved was terminated, unlike Gambrell.

FIMO is a unique entity within Interior's bureaucracy, whose trust management duties are divided among different agencies. Designed as a "one-stop" shop for Navajo beneficiaries, it houses employees from BIA, MMS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Gambrell was hired as FIMO's director in 1996 to resolve problems identified by a class action lawsuit that Chavez's organization brought against the government. FIMO records show that Gambrell, through audits and settlements with oil and gas companies, has been able to recover seven times the amount of royalties due to Navajo landowners.

Many of the Navajos served by FIMO are elderly and speak little English. Chavez said they have lost confidence in the office due to Interior's upper-level meddling and treatment of Gambrell.

"I think what they are wanting to put in place is more of of the 'yes-sir' people," he said. "Those are people I don't trust."

"You need more people like Kevin, who will really work for the customer -- that is us, the Navajo allottees," he added. "Kevin was doing an excellent job. They really dumped on him and that's the sad part of this."

Relevant Documents:
Kevin Gambrell: Statement of Facts (September 2003) | Special Master Site Report to Navajo Nation (August 2003) Confidential FIMO Report [Redacted] (June 2003) | Cover Letters (June 2003) |

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Navajo Nation - http://www.navajo.org
Office of Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov

Related Stories:
Court report finds undervaluation of Navajo lands (08/21)
Whistle-blower warned DOI on Navajo land use (08/21)
Court master releases report on Navajo appraisals (8/20)
Swimmer weighs consolidation of appraisals (8/15)
Norton admits Interior hid facts from Congress (7/24)
Navajo trust fund manager targeted in internal probe (07/15)
Indian employees challenging DOI reorganization (06/03)
Navajo leaders criticize upheaval at trust fund office (05/09)
Confusion detailed at Interior (10/16)

Copyright 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Senate committee to host roundtable on Tribal Law and Order Act (2/8)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee postpones field hearing into EPA (2/8)
Harold Monteau: Democrats stack the deck for only one candidate (2/8)
Apology offered to girls who were forced to change Navajo hairstyle (2/5)
Mark Trahant: Bernie Sanders campaign starts Indian policy group (2/5)
Charles Trimble: Taking responsibility for upkeep of our cemeteries (2/5)
Mary Annette Pember: Memorial to Indian genocide eyed in Russia (2/5)
Terese Marie Mailhot: I guess I'm just one of those 'crazy' Indians (2/5)
Judge weighs compromise for $380M in leftover Keepseagle funds (2/5)
Blackfeet Nation welcomes movement on water rights settlement (2/5)
Yakama Nation wins decision on cost of cleaning up contamination (2/5)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe confident of casino bid despite lawsuit (2/5)
Arizona sees 6.9 percent boost in gaming contributions from tribes (2/5)
Cowlitz Tribe close to reaching agreement with city for new casino (2/5)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation questions exclusion from casino process (2/5)
Tribal leaders question management changes at IHS in Great Plains (2/4)
IHS chief medical officer apologizes for comments about newborns (2/4)
Group sues IHS for records about water pollution on Yakama Nation (2/4)
Sen. McCain still bothered by failure to block Arizona tribe's casino (2/4)
Gun Lake Tribe announces retirement of longtime chair DK Sprague (2/4)
House Natural Resources Committee passes Indian bills at markup (2/4)
Samuel Winder: Indian defendants face harsher criminal penalties (2/4)
Charles Kader: Tribal burial grounds in Florida are being desecrated (2/4)
Roger Chelsey: Pamunkey Tribe clears last hurdle for federal status (2/4)
Reno Sparks Indian Colony mourns passing of leader William Coffey (2/4)
Native students convince school to name Indigenous People's Day (2/4)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe supports move to Indigenous People's Day (2/4)
Coquille Tribe donates $100K to help college with health programs (2/4)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes help inmates reintegrate (2/4)
Little River Band hails BIA movement on off-reservation casino bid (2/4)
Lac Vieux Desert Band reopens hotel after disease scare at casino (2/4)
Eastern Cherokee council revives plan for bowling alley at casino (2/4)
Mark Trahant: Self-determination should be on table for campaign (2/3)
Bernie Sanders won Democratic precinct on Meskwaki Reservation (2/3)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee passes two water bills at meeting (2/3)
House committee approves Lytton Band bill with casino limitation (2/3)
Wounded Warriors Family Support reaches out to tribal veterans (2/3)
James Giago Davies: Only one candidate can help Indian Country (2/3)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation creates opportunity with casino (2/3)
Laura Waterman Wittstock: Horrors at facility for 'insane' Indians (2/3)
Tim Evans: Menominee Nation loses contract support costs case (2/3)
Indian Health Service makes changes ahead of big SCIA hearing (2/3)
Native man from Canada charged over death of eagle in Nevada (2/3)
Choctaw Nation plans work on $219M headquarters next month (2/3)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.