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
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
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:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Muscogee Nation activist dangled from bridge to stop oil ship (7/31)
Native Sun News: Rapid City mayor denies claim of retaliation (7/31)
Ernestine Chasing Hawk: Rapid City mayor's year of retaliation (7/31)
Brandon Ecoffey: Rapid City continues with tradition of racism (7/31)
Clara Caufield: Northern Cheyenne Tribe leaves people in dark (7/31)
Lakota Country Times: Group seeks to boost Pine Ridge tourism (7/31)
Federal murder charges laid for shooting on Crow Reservation (7/31)
Alex White Plume asks court for permission to plant hemp crop (7/31)
Isleta Pueblo welcomes Secretary Sally Jewell for school event (7/31)
Tribes caught off-guard with mandate from Affordable Care Act (7/31)
Commerce Blog: Secretary Pritzker meets with tribes and youth (7/31)
Tribes in Pacific Northwest 'very worried' about future of salmon (7/31)
Alaska to recognize tribal domestic violence protection orders (7/31)
Moapa Band enters $4.3M settlement for power plant pollution (7/31)
Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Indian Affairs holds first meeting (7/31)
Donald Trump not shy with invoking race when it comes to tribes (7/31)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe sees big future with Class II casino (7/31)
Catawba Nation still waiting for answer on casino land-into-trust (7/31)
Last defendant sentenced in theft case at Yakama Nation casino (7/31)
Senate committee examines costs of substance abuse on tribes (7/30)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee delays vote on land-into-trust (7/30)
BIA allows two more New Mexico gaming deals to go into effect (7/30)
Former workers at Choctaw Nation casino plead guilty to theft (7/30)
Inmate charged with murdering Mississippi Choctaw man in jail (7/30)
Native Sun News: Keystone XL Pipeline protest draws big crowd (7/30)
James Giago Davies: Don't judge anyone's depth of Lakotaness (7/30)
Tara Houska: DC rally puts focus on threats to sacred Oak Flat (7/30)
Sarah Sunshine Manning: Native mother left to die in a jail cell (7/30)
Julian Brave NoiseCat: Native issues you aren't hearing about (7/30)
Peter d'Errico: Seeking action after apology from Pope Francis (7/30)
Suspect in custody over deadly shooting on Crow Reservation (7/30)
Shooting highlights racial tensions on Wind River Reservation (7/30)
Pueblo man goes on trial for brutal murder of Navajo woman (7/30)
Another sentence in Chippewa Cree Tribe corruption scandal (7/30)
Oglala Sioux Tribe on track to complete $16.5M nursing home (7/30)
Quapaw Tribe hosts relatives for annual language conference (7/30)
Former police chief for Swinomish Tribe pleads guilty to theft (7/30)
Winnebago Tribe seeks more time to remove old bank building (7/30)
Opinion: Eastern Cherokee leaders kick reporter out of meeting (7/30)
Indian family in Washington still pursuing casino on trust land (7/30)
Red Lake Nation leader supports sales of liquor at two casinos (7/30)
Mohegan Tribe reports increase in profit from casino enterprise (7/30)
Sen. Barrasso introduces another version of land-into-trust fix (7/29)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe adopts banishment for drug dealers (7/29)
Native Sun News: Rapid City trial ends with no defense witnesses (7/29)
Lakota Country Times: Youth come to Pine Ridge for 'Exposures' (7/29)
Charles Trimble: Being mixed-race Indian and being proud of it (7/29)
Ivan Star: It's up to all of us to keep the Lakota language alive (7/29)
Congress fails to provide funds to help tribes comply with VAWA (7/29)
Suit alleges tribal leaders received kickbacks from lobbying firm (7/29)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe claims DOJ support for marijuana (7/29)
Community on Crow Reservation on lockdown due to shooting (7/29)
Former Chippewa Cree Tribe chair sentenced in corruption case (7/29)
Hillary Clinton refuses to answer questions about Keystone XL (7/29)
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.