indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
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...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Homeless students find support in Rapid City (9/16)
NMAI hosts symposium on treaties to coincide with new exhibit (9/16)
Witnesses: Hearing on bill to bar Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/16)
Tim Giago: Standing tall for Native American Day in South Dakota (9/15)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne man beaten by BIA officer (9/15)
Mark Trahant: Ten reasons why every Native person should vote (9/15)
Jay Daniels: Still waiting on that final Cobell settlement payment (9/15)
Vote set on bill to protect Gun Lake Tribe's casino from litigation (9/15)
HUD settles complaint for couple on Turtle Mountain Reservation (9/15)
Bryan Brewer: Approve HR3043 to stop IRS harassment of tribes (9/15)
Maryann McGovran: Vote for North Fork Rancheria's gaming deal (9/15)
Donna Ennis: Tribal banishments are a form of cultural genocide (9/15)
Steven Newcomb: Political meanings restrict indigenous peoples (9/15)
Bruce Anderson: Washington team name preserves stereotypes (9/15)
Column: DC-area Native people oppose NFL team's racist mascot (9/15)
House set to vote on bill to transfer federal land to Te-Moak Tribe (9/15)
Paskenta Band holds election aimed at resolving council dispute (9/15)
Tribes in Oklahoma raise their minimum wage above federal level (9/15)
Blog: Taos Pueblo exerts sovereignty over health care programs (9/15)
Travel: Remote parks on Navajo Nation are an 'extraordinary find' (9/15)
Petitions submitted to put Tohono O'odham Nation casino to vote (9/15)
Dry Creek Rancheria struggling to see gaming revenues recover (9/15)
Poarch Creeks still open to Class III gaming compact discussion (9/15)
Editorial: Cherokee Nation brings jobs with project next to casino (9/15)
Native Sun News: Olympic medalist visits Pine Ridge Reservation (9/12)
Bryan Brewer: Bill for Native language immersion a high priority (9/12)
Sen. Tester applauds approval of final Cobell settlement payout (9/12)
Kenneth Deer: UN meeting an opportunity for indigenous peoples (9/12)
Judge won't issue injunction in Pojoaque Pueblo compact dispute (9/12)
Ex-manager for Shingle Springs Band's casino told to pay $2.4M (9/12)
Briefs filed in lawsuit over United Keetoowah Band's gaming site (9/12)
Quapaw Tribe expands agricultural program at casino restaurant (9/12)
Judge approves motion to distribute Cobell settlement payment (9/11)
Native Sun News: Final Cobell payment might 'almost' be ready (9/11)
Mark Trahant: Affordable Care Act is worthy of debate in election (9/11)
Gyasi Ross: Support Quechan skate park and self-determination (9/11)
Disaster declared after Moapa Paiute Reservation hit by flooding (9/11)
Brian Pierson: Recent federal court decisions affecting Indian law (9/11)
Navajo Nation presidential candidate a target over fluency issue (9/11)
Northern Arapaho Tribe withdraws from joint Wind River council (9/11)
Editorial: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe trying to make budget work (9/11)
University of Utah creates scholarships for students of Ute Tribe (9/11)
Nez Perce Tribe seeks update to historic trail from 1877 journey (9/11)
Miccosukee Tribe seeks removal of judge in dispute with lawyers (9/11)
Jessica Carro: Native people treated like foreigners in Argentina (9/11)
Peru investigates murders of four prominent indigenous leaders (9/11)
SCIA sets hearing on bill to block Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/11)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe and state in compact arbitration (9/11)
Choctaw Nation reduces height of casino hotel amid FAA concern (9/11)
Seminole Tribe wins ruling over state taxation at gaming facilities (9/11)
Maine tribes hopeful for casino as lawmakers examine new study (9/11)
Editorial: Mohegan Tribe's gaming plan is right for Massachusetts (9/11)
Native Sun News: Tribes worried about Black Hills uranium mines (9/10)
Native Sun News: DOJ report highlights activity in Indian Country (9/10)
Mark Trahant: Native voters bring element of surprise in election (9/10)
Audio from Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on irrigation (9/10)
Audio: House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs (9/10)
9th Circuit to broadcast arguments in Big Lagoon casino dispute (9/10)
Ruben Balderas: Tohono O'odham Nation casino breaks promise (9/10)
Jay Daniels: Return per cap if you oppose resource development (9/10)
Opinion: Decision signals shift on state taxation in Indian Country (9/10)
Julianne Jennings: Fear of witches and Indians in Massachusetts (9/10)
Cobell buy-back program includes base offer of $75 for interests (9/10)
Chippewa Cree Tribe only receives 4.5 percent of loan revenues (9/10)
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.