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
Indian Law Online Master Degree
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
Interior's number two takes lead on trust reform
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2001

With a showdown looming in federal court, the Department of Interior is in a rushed but concerted effort to prove to a skeptical judge that the government is in charge of trust reform.

By all accounts, it is a tough task for Secretary Gale Norton, her aides and her top officials. In just a little over a week, her defense team -- which has already faced criticism from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth -- must submit a response showing why she shouldn't be held in contempt for her handling of the assets of an estimated 300,000 American Indians.

But Norton must also argue why Lamberth shouldn't place the system into the hands of a receiver, or outside caretaker. The government has so far resisted the notion and although Norton's new attorneys could change course, it is unlikely the Justice Department would make such a drastic move.

To that end, Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles has quickly inserted himself into the debacle over the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust since being sworn in to his post in July. As number two in command at the Interior, Griles has taken the lead to reform -- for lack of a better term -- trust reform.

By at least one public and embarrassing incident, the effort hasn't been a bursting success. A mass mailing Griles sent to 11,000 Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Office of Special Trustee (OST) employees in response to special master Alan Balaran's recommendation of contempt caused a stir over anthrax in the Southwest as employees were sent home and told to burn a court order.

Still, officials and senior management have noted potential breakthroughs. Mindful of a November 30 court hearing with Lamberth that could serve as the start of a criminal and civil sanctions trial, Griles will be looking to have the Interior speak in "one voice" and avoid a collision course with contempt, they said.

"He has taken the lead in a very determined fashion," said one official in close contact with Griles.

A key component of Griles' effort is an independent assessment of the government's High Level Implementation Plan (HLIP) -- the blueprint to trust reform -- by EDS Corporation, a management consulting firm. Last Wednesday, top officials received an oral briefing from EDS, which is making a dozen or so specific recommendations covering everything from a $40 million software system widely seen as a failure to the cleanup of records dating back to 1887, when the IIM trust was initiated.

According to officials familiar with the private briefing, none of the recommendations are a surprise to the government and are similar to concerns Congressional investigators have recently relayed to the Interior. The recommendations also follow steps Special Trustee Tom Slonaker has been taking since Norton in July issued a secretarial order to "streamline" trust reform, they said.

Having cost the government $3 million, the review will include a "road map" that Norton's lawyers are expected to file in court next week. All told, it is hoped that EDS will bring "quite a bit of credibility" to the government's case, according to one official.

Beyond Griles' undertakings, Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb has focused on reports by court monitor Joseph S. Kieffer III that have spelled out a particularly rocky relationship between the BIA and OST, which is overseen by Slonaker. To remedy problems that have festered over the years, McCaleb will be looking to make changes among his senior management team, which includes Deputy Commissioner Sharon Blackwell, that will demonstrate proof of leadership to Lamberth.

Whether these latest rumblings will have an impact is an open question. A former lobbyist for the mining industry, Griles was a member of the Reagan administration, serving at the Interior -- along with Norton, incidentally -- when Congressional reports in no easy terms began broadcasting the failures of the IIM trust.

Yet not much has changed since Griles was last in a position of leadership. Despite numerous investigations, acts of Congress, secretarial orders and court decisions, the government still can't provide any beneficiary with an accounting of his or her funds.

But within the coming weeks, Interior officials insist the government will demonstrate its dedication to the trust. Changes that are occurring are "the reaction to some of the criticism" the department has faced, said spokesperson Keith Parsky.

"The main message is: 'Yes, everyone takes this seriously,'" said Parsky.

The Interior, of course, faces serious credibility problems that leave little room for failure. Whatever response the Bush administration has will depend on something that has so far proven difficult for the government to show: commitment.

"We've got to follow through and do what we told the court we're going to do," said one official, acknowledging past failures.

Department of Interior Profile:
Deputy Secretary: J. Steven Griles (3/9)

Relevant Links:
Office of the Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov
Trust Management Improvement Project - http://www.doi.gov/bia/trust/tmip.htm
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com

Related Stories:
Norton's defense off to a 'bad start' (11/2)
Judge ready to hold Norton in contempt (10/31)
Interior promises trust fund defense (10/31)
Judge: Norton's actions 'contemptuous' (10/30)
Trust fund defense team scrapped (10/30)
Action on Norton urged 'on all fronts' (10/29)
Norton views broken trust fund system (10/29)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Film company aims to bring Native stories to life (9/2)
Mark Trahant: Alaska Native candidate joins rival in governor's race (9/2)
Walt Lamar: Tribes face problems dealing with legalized marijuana (9/2)
Jennie Stockle: Fans mock Cherokee people with Trail of Tears sign (9/2)
DaShanne Stokes: State-recognized tribes need eagle feathers too (9/2)
Indian studies professor denied position over remarks about Israel (9/2)
Alaska Natives excluded from secret military intelligence program (9/2)
Judge schedules hearing in Gun Lake Tribe's gaming land litigation (9/2)
Viejas Band looking to expand casino after reaching new compact (9/2)
California tribes are drawing large numbers of Filipinos to casinos (9/2)
Mohegan Tribe wants 'right-sized' commercial casino in New York (9/2)
Tim Giago: Oglala Sioux people aren't afraid to say no to easy cash (9/1)
Native Sun News: Release of secret uranium mining data ordered (9/1)
Mark Trahant: It's past time for tribal leaders to govern the nation (9/1)
Jennie Stockle: A safe space for opponents of offensive mascotry (9/1)
John Christian Hopkins: A big thank you to the friend I never met (9/1)
National Museum of the American Indian celebrates 10th birthday (9/1)
Mother arrested in connection with child's death on Navajo Nation (9/1)
Opinion: Energy development can help secure tribal independence (9/1)
Cherokee Nation announces $170M casino and retail development (9/1)
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe won't be sharing gaming revenues this quarter (9/1)
Seminole Tribe on track to see gaming revenues increase to $2.1B (9/1)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe to reopen gaming facility in February 2015 (9/1)
Editorial: Tohono O'odham Nation didn't play by 'rules' with casino (9/1)
Opinion: Gaming good for Eastern Cherokees but not for fellow tribe (9/1)
Opinion: Federal recognition only means more casinos in California (9/1)
Native Sun News: Tribes walk out of contract support cost meeting (8/29)
Clara Caufield: Northern Cheyenne Tribe spends $2.4M on property (8/29)
Mike Johanns: Retracing steps of great Ponca Chief Standing Bear (8/29)
Steven Newcomb: Racist mascot a sign of deeper problems in US (8/29)
Lauren Jones: Affordable Care Act benefits Native Americans too (8/29)
Gila River Indian Community to see $77.6M from Cobell buy-back (8/29)
Energy boom linked to rise in human trafficking in Indian Country (8/29)
Navajo man heads up Native American Homelessness Task Force (8/29)
9th Circuit hears case over Yakama Nation tobacco manufacturer (8/29)
WAER: ICWA matters handled in 'kangaroo courts' in South Dakota (8/29)
MPR: Red Lake Nation opposes liquor license near dry reservation (8/29)
Tule River Tribe helps remove marijuana operation on reservation (8/29)
Omaha Tribe signs agreement with EPA to improve utility services (8/29)
Las Vegas Paiute Tribe rejected 'gift' from NFL team's foundation (8/29)
KPLU: Spokane Tribe maintains close ties with baseball franchise (8/29)
Opinion: HUD loan program a small step to boost Indian housing (8/29)
DNA study finds distinct population of Native people in Arctic area (8/29)
Tribes closely watching Big Lagoon Rancheria casino land dispute (8/29)
Tohono O'odham Nation to build off-reservation casino in phases (8/29)
State questions Forest County Powatatomi Tribe's slot machines (8/29)
Quapaw Tribe eyes local support for commercial casino in Kansas (8/29)
Native Sun News: Police officers who shot Indian teen get medals (8/28)
Cara Cowan Watts: Laying the groundwork for college scholarship (8/28)
Rudolph Ryser: Indigenous nations need leverage to bring change (8/28)
DOI extends $100M in Cobell buy-back offers on two reservations (8/28)
Cobell buy-backs could return over 38K acres to tribe in Montana (8/28)
Five-year-old Navajo boy sent home from school for his long hair (8/28)
Three charged with murder for death of Mississippi Choctaw man (8/28)
Lummi Nation seeks cooperation after ruling in treaty rights case (8/28)
Artist Gregg Deal takes on Indian mascots for performance piece (8/28)
Sports announcer won't use Washington NFL team's name on air (8/28)
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.