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
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
Swimmer takes stand in Indian trust fund trial
THURSDAY, JUNE 26, 2003

The federal judge overseeing the Indian trust on Wednesday expressed skepticism about failed efforts to fix the broken system, challenging special trustee Ross Swimmer to explain why the Bush administration's plans won't suffer the same fate.

"See, I'm very pessimistic," U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said in Washington, D.C, citing years of broken promises made to his court.

"Sitting there right in that same chair four years ago this summer, a witness told me exactly what you just said," he later told Swimmer. "Has anything been accomplished in four years?"

"I will be sitting here four years from now asking that," he added.

Swimmer, charged by Congress to oversee reform of the century-old trust, defended the Department of Interior's latest efforts, which include a reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and an expansion of the Office of Special Trustee. He said top officials are committed to fixing the system, have developed a "comprehensive" strategy to address long-standing problems and have secured historic funding in the coming year.

"I think we will have to fight for change," he acknowledged at one point. "It is extremely difficult to change the culture ... to a fiduciary trust responsibility."

"Change is coming," the former assistant secretary and former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation also said, "like it or not."

Lamberth pressed Swimmer to explain why he should believe the government, saying he was burned for giving former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt "the benefit of the doubt" when it came to a $40 million computer software project that was supposed to modernize the trust. Even Swimmer called the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System (TAAMS) a "debacle" but said some of the work could be salvaged and that the department was on a mission to "re-engineer" its duties.

"Four years later, we don't have TAAMS, we don't have the automated system online," Lamberth observed. "You're still telling me the same thing."

"I am telling you the same thing," Swimmer told the judge.

Lamberth gave credit to the Bush administration for seeking more funding to carry out reform, noting that "money makes a difference." But he was concerned about the lack of clear time-frames in the latest plans.

For example, Swimmer said the re-engineering effort, known in Indian Country circles as the "to-be" project, won't be complete until March or April of 2004. Even then, it won't be implemented for at least another year, he added.

Lamberth said that could end up passing the buck to a new set of government officials. "So by the end of this administration, they'll be ready?" he asked of the new plans.

"Well, let's hope not, your honor," Swimmer responded, chuckling a bit.

Lamberth also said he was "disappointed" to learn about a movement underway in Congress to strip the Bush administration's historical funding request from $130 million to $75 million. The House Appropriations Committee yesterday adopted language that would instead direct Secretary Gale Norton to develop a settlement program.

"I don't know what's in the appropriations," Swimmer said.

Swimmer, confirmed to his post in April after serving in another Interior capacity since November 2001, was on the stand yesterday for about two and one-half hours. He is the Department of Justice's last witness in the ongoing trial, which started May 1 and is going to wrap up within the next week or so.

Keith Harper, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund and a Cherokee tribal member, will start his cross-examination of Swimmer this morning. Testimony is expected to run into early next week, attorneys for the plaintiffs said yesterday.

After Swimmer is off the stand, the plaintiffs plan to call three or four rebuttal witnesses, including an aide to the late former U.S. Congressman Mike Synar, the Democrat from Oklahoma whose "Misplaced Trust" report highlighted some of the controversy during Swimmer's Reagan-era tenure of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Relevant Links:
Office of Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov
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:
Swimmer expected to take stand in Cobell trial (6/25)
Griles gets Cobell wish list from House (6/26)
Taxpayers fund private attorneys to tune of $3M (6/25)
Swimmer testimony to come at end of Cobell trial (06/05)
Cason to take stand in Indian trust fund trial (6/4)
Indian trust standards debated (6/3)
Suit aims to halt reorganization (6/3)
Norton starts defense in trust fund trial (6/2)
Tribes stress unity on trust reform solutions (6/2)
Cobell welcomes a settlement to trust case (5/29)
Lamberth criticizes interference with trust fund case (05/22)
Tribes oppose OST expansion into Indian County (5/22)
Swimmer: Don't fear changes at Interior (5/22)
On trust, Swimmer turns to private sector (5/14)
Trial in Cobell trust fund case kicks off (05/02)
Bush reform plans debated in trust fund trial (05/02)
Cobell v. Norton Recap: Day 1 of Trial 1.5 (05/02)
Court tackles trust accounting and reform plans (05/01)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Tribes discuss water concerns at conference (8/1)
House committee passes bill to protect Gun Lake Tribe's casino (8/1)
Native Sun News: Lawmakers seek distribution of Cobell checks (7/31)
2nd Circuit protects Cayuga Nation from foreclosure proceeding (7/31)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee passes seven bills at meeting (7/31)
David Wilkins: Finding some common ground on disenrollments (7/31)
Erik Stegman: Racist mascots continue to hurt our Native youth (7/31)
Tribes participate in 400-mile journey from Colorado to Arizona (7/31)
Sen. Tester questions void in leadership at IHS regional offices (7/31)
Matika Wilbur continues photo trip throughout Indian Country (7/31)
Proposed bill targets 'halfbreed' and 'breed' names in Montana (7/31)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe records high levels of bacteria in river (7/31)
KUOW: Tightening the screws on tribal payday loan operations (7/31)
Notah Begay to be inducted into Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame (7/31)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe fires police chief following investigation (7/31)
Opinion: Native Americans shackled in poverty by federal policy (7/31)
Fact Checker: Three Pinocchios for Washington team's new site (7/31)
Column: Revisiting Johnny Cash's classic Indian rights recording (7/31)
Column: Sen. McCain breaks promise on Tohono O'odham casino (7/31)
Survey shows support for smoke-free tribal casinos in Wisconsin (7/31)
Prairie Island Tribe arrests woman for possessing meth at casino (7/31)
Chumash Tribe hosts public meeting on $160M casino expansion (7/31)
Crews stop spread of fires that came near Barona Band's casino (7/31)
Native Sun News: Website tracks missing and murdered women (7/30)
Native Sun News: AmeriCorps expands efforts in Indian Country (7/30)
House Natural Resources Committee markup on four tribal bills (7/30)
Mark Begich: A permanent fix for tribal contract support costs (7/30)
Paul Moorehead: Let's get back to promoting self-government (7/30)
Tanya Lee: Violence against Native women a national disgrace (7/30)
Rep. Markwayne Mullin named one of 50 Most Beautiful on Hill (7/30)
Tribes criticize veto provisions in BIA federal recognition rule (7/30)
Great Plains tribes hold conference to safeguard water rights (7/30)
Yurok Tribe wraps up marijuana raids with nearly 13K plants (7/30)
Law Article: Tribal lenders fight federal agency investigation (7/30)
Editorial: Muscogee Nation paves the way for college's future (7/30)
NPR: Relying on social media to keep Native languages alive (7/30)
Opinion: EPA exploits tribes by recognizing their sovereignty (7/30)
Mescalero Apache Nation man sentenced for meth trafficking (7/30)
BIA won't commit to timeline on Mashpee Wampanoag casino (7/30)
Employees at Graton Rancheria casino to negotiate labor deal (7/30)
Tohono O'odham Nation blasts bill to bar off-reservation casino (7/30)
Opposition group sues to block gaming referendum in Nebraska (7/30)
Native Sun News: Native nations unite on uranium mine cleanup (7/29)
Audio from House subcommittee hearing on five tribal measures (7/29)
House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs hearing (7/29)
Witness List: SCIA hearing on natural disasters in Indian Country (7/29)
Gyasi Ross: Tribes put principle over profit in banning Ted Nugent (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.