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:
Native Sun News: Tribal college student overcomes challenges (4/29)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Ancestors are gone but language lives on (4/29)
Harlan McKosato: White privilege fuels Donald Trump's fanbase (4/29)
Indian Health Service faulted for lengthy waits for patient care (4/29)
Measure to declare bison as official mammal ready for Obama (4/29)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe sues Indian Health Service over shutdown (4/28)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee approves eight bills at meeting (4/28)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe to debut justice center (4/28)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne official fired from tribal job (4/28)
Native Sun News: Comments sought on Black Hills mine cleanup (4/28)
Editorial: Native Sun News endorses Hillary Clinton for president (4/28)
Cronkite News: EPA slammed for response to Gold King Mine spill (4/28)
Steve Russell: Donald Trump advisor accuses tribes of terror plot (4/28)
Alex Jacobs: Hillary Clinton must answer to role in Honduras coup (4/28)
Northwest tribes inch closer to reburial of Kennewick Man remains (4/28)
Santee Sioux Tribe hosts task force to address substance abuse (4/28)
Huge crowds flock to New Mexico for annual Gathering of Nations (4/28)
Muckleshoot Tribe to host $50K 'Gold Cup' for Indian relay racing (4/28)
Member of Puyallup Tribe develops 'Teepee' tribal directory app (4/28)
Man in long fight with Shingle Springs Band faces longer sentence (4/28)
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe enters gaming agreement with Mohegan Tribe (4/28)
Timbisha Shoshone Tribe sees casino as a path to self-sufficiency (4/28)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe announces another hire at casino (4/28)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe welcomes rejection of rival casino bid (4/28)
Senate passes measure to include Indian Country in tourism plans (4/27)
Amanda Blackhorse to deliver commencement speech at Haskell (4/27)
Native Sun News: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe aims to stop pipeline (4/27)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge artist gains national recognition (4/27)
Brandon Ecoffey: 'Bull Dawg' represents the Oglala Lakota Nation (4/27)
Mark Trahant: Tribes endorse Native candidates for US Congress (4/27)
John Thune: Tribal citizens suffer with Indian Health Service care (4/27)
Cronkite News: Tribes support more protections at Grand Canyon (4/27)
Gabe Galanda: A moral responsibility to stop tribal disenrollment (4/27)
Vernice Moncooyea Willis: Bernie Sanders deserves our support (4/27)
Jennifer Denetdale: University must stop celebrating genocide (4/27)
Eastern Cherokee group hails Tribal Marijuana Sovereignty Act (4/27)
Leader of Fort Peck Tribes blames baby's death on drug abuse (4/27)
Chippewa Cree Tribe and FBI investigate theft of drugs at clinic (4/27)
Former comptroller of Crow Tribe accused of embezzling $28K (4/27)
Congress set to pass bill to declare bison as national mammal (4/27)
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moving closer to nominations (4/27)
Fond du Lac Band won't confirm plan for site adjacent to casino (4/27)
Graton Rancheria on track to complete $175M casino expansion (4/27)
Pokagon Band to debut casino expansion project by end of year (4/27)
Connecticut tribes delay decision on potential casino until 2017 (4/27)
Oregon Lottery official fired as Lewis and Clark ads come down (4/27)
Still no answer from US Supreme Court in tribal jurisdiction case (4/26)
Pine Ridge man sentenced for burning down ex-partner's trailer (4/26)
Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative secures $190K grant (4/26)
Native Sun News: Bar seeks to build closer to sacred Bear Butte (4/26)
Lakota Country Times: Sacred site in limbo due to state appeal (4/26)
Vi Waln: Alcohol and drugs bring pain and suffering to children (4/26)
Ruth Hopkins: Kardashians glorify stereotypes of Native women (4/26)
Vernon Masayesva: Peabody can't leave Hopi Tribe with big mess (4/26)
Peter d'Errico: UN forum can't forget about Doctrine of Discovery (4/26)
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.