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
Native American Bank - Native people investing in Native communities
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:
Tribes mount another fight after Trump approves another pipeline (3/24)
Native Sun News Today: Navajo elders continue long fight on land (3/24)
Editorial: Just another day of trying to keep up with the Trumps (3/24)
Elizabeth LaPensée: Video games encourage indigenous culture (3/24)
Mary Annette Pember: Native women work with youth offenders (3/24)
Tiffany Midge: Trump continues to conjure hero Andrew Jackson (3/24)
John Kane: Seneca Nation money train coming to end in New York (3/24)
Grand Ronde Tribes secure approval of school mascot agreement (3/24)
Editorial: Federal recognition for tribes in Virginia is long overdue (3/24)
Seneca Nation ends casino payments after sending $1.4B to state (3/24)
Appeals court hears slew of Indian cases amid focus on nominee (3/23)
Internal tribal disputes continue to trip up federal court system (3/23)
Mark Trahant: Indian health care gains ignored in political debate (3/23)
Native Sun News Today: Young fighters maintain Lakota tradition (3/23)
Ivan Star Comes Out: America loses its self-respect and humanity (3/23)
Rosalyn LaPier: Why water remains sacred to indigenous peoples (3/23)
Winona LaDuke: North Dakota spreads filth about water protectors (3/23)
Harold Monteau: Tribal governments are abusing their own people (3/23)
Alex Jacobs: Donald Trump in middle of the 'deep state civil war' (3/23)
Secretary Zinke announces 'doggy days' for Interior Department (3/23)
Keystone XL Pipeline route crosses Ponca Tribe's forced removal (3/23)
Indian lawmaker resigns after being charged for child prostitution (3/23)
Pinoleville Pomo Nation buys site of long-delayed casino project (3/23)
High court pick acknowledges poor treatment of 'sovereign' tribes (3/22)
Dakota Access submits another status update entirely under seal (3/22)
Court allows claim for alleged underpayment in Cobell settlement (3/22)
South Dakota tribes continue to extend Class III gaming compacts (3/22)
Cowlitz Tribe secures approval to offer liquor as casino debut nears (3/22)
Native Sun News Today: Community project continues at Pine Ridge (3/22)
Cronkite News: Copper mine on sacred site complains about delays (3/22)
Mary Annette Pember: Awareness for missing and murdered sisters (3/22)
Stacy Pratt: Visiting the gravesite of Andrew Jackson in Tennessee (3/22)
Murder charge filed for fatal shooting of Navajo Nation police officer (3/22)
Muckleshoot Tribe still seeking answers for fatal shooting by officer (3/22)
Hopland Band submits claim for county raid of marijuana operation (3/22)
Chukchansi Tribe sued for $21M by gaming development company (3/22)
Seminole Tribe accused of breaking contract with outlet at casino (3/22)
Indian Child Welfare Act survives attack from conservative groups (3/21)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules hearing on diabetes (3/21)
Ponca Tribe hosts 282-mile walk to retrace trail of forced removal (3/21)
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.