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

Printer friendly version
Bush reform plans debated in trust fund trial
FRIDAY, MAY 2, 2003

A former Department of Interior official gave the Bush administration's trust reform plans a "flunking grade" on Thursday and said they would not fulfill the federal government's obligations to Indian beneficiaries.

Paul Homan, who served as special trustee during the Clinton administration, testified on the opening day of the next phase of the long-running trust fund case. He repeatedly criticized two proposals Secretary of Interior unveiled earlier this year to considerable opposition in Indian Country.

In one, the government estimates that it can account for the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust through a statistical sampling and a transaction-by-transaction analysis. The effort is expected to cost $335 million and take five years.

But Homan said the plan will not account for "all funds" in the trust, as required by federal law and common law trust standards. An expert hired by the government was only able to verify 90 percent of transactions in a limited sample, he noted.

"When the commercial standard is 100 percent," he testified, "it is a flunking grade."

Homan also said another government initiative that reorganizes the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Office of Special Trustee (OST) was inadequate because it fails to address systemic management problems. Tribes are also opposing the changes, which are being implemented over the coming months.

"The department does not have enough critical mass to manage this properly," he told the court.

A banking executive with more than 30 years of government and private experience, Homan is considered by the plaintiffs to be a key witness. Lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, attended the proceedings and felt confident with his testimony.

The Department of Justice sought to disqualify him as an expert but U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who has presided over the case since 1996, rejected the request yesterday morning.

Homan's time on the stand, which is expected to stretch into early next week, followed opening arguments in the trial. Dennis Gingold, an attorney for the Indian beneficiaries, said Lamberth has shown "extraordinary restraint" over the years.

"It's time for that restraint to end," he told Lamberth, urging him to set a trial date to determine accurate balances for more than 500,000 IIM accounts that have been created since 1887. He said the plaintiffs will be ready as early as July to start the correction phase, the final phase, of the case.

John Stemplewicz, a Department of Justice attorney, presented the government's arguments. He criticized the plaintiffs' proposals as overly vague and impossible to implement, saying they go outside the bounds of current law.

"We believe that adopting it would be wrong," he said of the plaintiffs' accounting plan.

He also said changes in the plaintiffs' reform plan would be better addressed by Congress. "Plaintiffs are proposing a quick fix to a very complex problem," he argued.

Homan was the first person to hold the title of Special Trustee for American Indians, a post created by Congress in the wake of reports and investigations that documented widespread trust management failures at the Interior. But he faced opposition from then-Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who provided limited funding and did not give him any authority to make change.

Some tribal leaders didn't warm up to Homan because he proposed radical changes in the trust. They also said he created a strategic plan without their input. Babbitt ended up modifying the plan on the guises that he was doing it on behalf of tribes.

Homan ended up resigning in January 1999 because Babbitt, on the eve of the Clinton administration's contempt trial, reorganized OST.

After Homan, the plaintiffs plan to call Dick Fitzgerald, an OST official, Treasury employees, several experts and other witnesses.

The government plans to call Deputy Secretary Jim Cason and Special Trustee Ross Swimmer in addition to several expert witnesses.

The trial resumes today at 2 p.m.

Relevant Documents:
DOI: Historical Accounting Plan | DOI: Fiduciary Obligations Compliance Plan | Plaintiffs: Remedial Plan | Plaintiffs: Reform Order

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust

Related Stories:
Cobell launches next phase of trust case (5/1)
Judge affirms full IIM accounting (4/29)
Court hears Norton's trust fund appeal (4/25)
Activity in Cobell case keeps everyone busy (4/23)
DOI concealed TAAMS problems from court (4/22)
On trust reform, BIA and OST battled till the end (4/22)
Norton gets another day in court (4/21)
Bush administration turns to Congress on trust (04/04)
Judge authorizes release of trust fund report (03/26)
Appropriators question historical accounting plan (03/13)
On accounting, Norton find her magic date (03/12)
Pressure stirs to settle trust fund lawsuit (02/27)
Spending bill keeps provisions affecting Cobell (02/14)
Norton's plan faces court scrutiny (1/27)
Tribes debate response to trust reform plans (01/13)
Trust programs see historic increase (2/4)
Standards guide reform effort (1/8)
What happened to all the land? (1/8)
Cobell trust reform plans filed (1/7)
Norton to fight IIM accounting (1/7)
Norton won't account for assets (1/6)
Lamberth slams claimed accounting (12/23)
Tribes opposing trust fund settlement bill (11/13)
Judge rejects Norton's 'absurd' accounting claim (09/23)
Funding battle underlies trust obligations (7/19)
Interior budget bill generates strong debate (7/17)
Opposition to trust fund bill mounts (7/15)
Norton delivers accounting plan (7/5)
House bill cuts trust fund accounting (6/28)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Agency weighs uranium mine near sacred site (9/30)
Jim Abourezk: South Dakota tribes can put Rick Weiland in office (9/30)
Cherokee chief participated in live pigeon shoot for Sen. Inhofe (9/30)
Navajo vice president returns home after near fatal spider bite (9/30)
North Dakota tribe sees big problems as energy industry grows (9/30)
Andre Cramblit: Another year brings challenges for our people (9/30)
Jack Duran: State's 'shocking' attack on Big Lagoon Rancheria (9/30)
Navajo Nation Council to select a new leader after resignation (9/30)
Editorial: Long delayed trust fund settlement for Navajo Nation (9/30)
Keepseagle plaintiffs oppose use of $380M to create foundation (9/30)
Opinion: Working with New Mexico tribes to protect sacred sites (9/30)
Pueblo man chosen as chair of VA minority advisory committee (9/30)
Woman sues over fall at Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe business (9/30)
Seminole Tribe makes another attempt to join banking business (9/30)
Mohegan Tribe purchases more wood pellet production facilities (9/30)
Ponca Tribe takes down old headquarters and readies new home (9/30)
Native Mob gang leader sentenced to 43 years in federal prison (9/30)
Three indicted for murder of man from Northern Arapaho Tribe (9/30)
Rivals funded DC trips to oppose Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/30)
American Gaming Association includes tribes in economic report (9/30)
Editorial: Vote yes to support North Fork Rancheria gaming deal (9/30)
Editorial: Florida shouldn't take a gamble with casino expansion (9/30)
Tim Giago: All Indian people ask is for America to honor treaties (9/29)
Native Sun News: Tribes take on IRS and win battle over taxation (9/29)
Mark Trahant: Indian vote could bring a surprise in South Dakota (9/29)
Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act signed into law by Obama (9/29)
Obama signs law for settlement with Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (9/29)
Chelsey Luger and Gyasi Ross: Transforming the spirit of suicide (9/29)
Migizi Pensoneau: Behind the scenes at a Washington NFL game (9/29)
Donna Ennis: Ancestor starting asking about trust fund in 1900s (9/29)
Steven Newcomb: Indigenous conference yields power to states (9/29)
Kyle Mays: Rejecting narrowminded views of indigenous studies (9/29)
Brian Pierson: Tribal preference ruling strengthens sovereignty (9/29)
Thousands missing out on share of Cobell settlement payments (9/29)
Navajo presidential candidate in doubt over fluency in language (9/29)
Oneida Nation repeats history with women in top leadership jobs (9/29)
Al Jazeera: Tribes working together to restore bison to their land (9/29)
Indian Time: Oklahoma Indian museum expected to be big draw (9/29)
Column: Washington team should be worried about FCC petition (9/29)
Opinion: NMAI exhibit finally puts federal-tribal dealings to light (9/29)
Gun Lake Tribe hails new law that protects casino from litigation (9/29)
Former mayor remains hopeful on Los Coyotes Band casino bid (9/29)
Chumash Tribe awards $112M contract as part of casino project (9/29)
Documents show Seminole Tribe was close to new gaming deal (9/29)
Column: Taking a gamble in Louisiana - What's legal and illegal? (9/29)
Native Sun News: Tex Hall ousted in North Dakota tribal primary (9/26)
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.