Editorial: Swimmer's slap on the wrist at OST
When John Berrey questions your ethics, you know you are in trouble. After all, the chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma was more than willing to stand up for Steve Griles, whose train wreck of a tenure at the Interior Department landed him in prison.

So it's not terribly surprising that the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians is again under fire for the ethical lapses of its top officials. This time, Inspector General Earl E. Devaney -- who warned of Griles' downfall long before most others -- is so worried about the situation that he's asking Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to take "corrective action" rather than keep on hammering the trust reform agency.

But will anyone listen? It's doubtful.

Under the leadership of Ross Swimmer, OST has turned into a bureaucracy so mammoth that no one in Indian Country really knows what is going on there -- except that a lot of money is being spent to fix a system the Bush administration insists isn't really broken.

When the first report about OST's ethical problems came out in May 2006, Swimmer didn't do much except order three senior managers to undergo ethics training. A "reprimand" was placed in their files, but only for a year.

Basically, the offenders got off with a slap on the wrist and kept the hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses they earned for failing to fix the unbroken system.

And when a television reporter came snooping around a year after the first report, Swimmer boasted that he "firmly" believed OST "put this issue behind us."

The new Inspector General reports show that was all wrong. One of the offenders kept on offending and even got a promotion to serve as one of Swimmer's main deputies.

How's that for trust reform?

So now we have word that Swimmer is considering "an appropriate course of action" in response to the latest investigation. We can only imagine that means the main offender, deputy special trustee Jeff Lords, will end up with a brand new house, a huge aquarium and a personal golf course, funded by a contract with a close friend of course.

Whatever the outcome, don't expect anything at OST to change. It's too late for that in this administration.

Inspector General Reports:
Investigative Report: Chavarria, Dunne & Lamey (July 2008) | Audit Report: Chavarria, Dunne & Lamey (July 2008) | Management Advisory: Chavarria, Dunne & Lamey (July 2008) | Allegations Concerning Senior Officials of the Office of Special Trustee for American Indians (May 2006)

Ross Swimmer Memo:
KRQE Investigation (June 22, 2007)

Related Stories:
Swimmer reviewing latest reports on OST ethics (7/11)
OST officials slammed in investigation -- again (7/10)
Swimmer admits 'mistakes' by top OST officials (7/31)
Ethics issue behind us, Swimmer tells OST (06/27)
OST one of worst places to work in government (5/1)
OST officials rewarded despite questionable record (1/17)
OST pressed on timetable to complete trust reform (01/09)
Accounting firm defends social relations with OST (07/27)
OST contract tied to favors to top officials (7/25)
OST officials awarded $6.6M contract to friends (7/24)