Education | National

Investigation faults former BIE officials over handling of contract

Brian Drapeaux, left, and Keith Moore. Photo from National Indian Education Association

The former head of the Bureau of Indian Education and his top aide steered a contract to a company run by one of their friends, according to an investigation released last week.

The Inspector General at the Interior Department said former BIE director Keith Moore and his chief of staff Brian Drapeaux appear to have violated federal ethics regulations in the awarding of an $840,000 contract to PerGroup of South Dakota. Drapeaux worked for the firm as its vice president up until the same month Moore hired him to come to Washington, D.C.

Normally, a federal official can't take action on matters that might benefit a prior employee during a year-long "cooling-off" period. But Drapeaux advised an evaluation panel for the contract and helped write the statement of work upon his arrival to DC, according to the report.

"We explained to Drapeaux that his previous employment and his new role at BIE not only created concerns about an actual conflict of interest, but also created appearance issues," the report stated.

Moore, who acknowledged his friendship with PerGroup's president, knew of the potential conflict, according to the report. In fact, he asked the BIA to wait to issue the contract until Drapeaux’s "cooling-off" period" ended, the OIG said.

"During our investigation, we found that Drapeaux had worked for PerGroup within 12 months of his BIE employment," the report stated. "We also found that this situation created a conflict of interest once Drapeaux became closely involved in the procurement process because PerGroup competed for and received the contract award."

A contract specialist at the BIE who was aware of the conflict ended up canceling the contract, according to the OIG. The employee, who was not named in the report, then tried to get Moore and Drapeaux to sign a "procurement integrity certification" to prevent the PerGroup from participating in the future, either as a contractor or a subcontractor.

But Moore and Drapeaux refused to sign the certification, according to the report, and the specialist was removed from handling the contract. The matter was then assigned to another employee who acknowledged he was not as experienced as the specialist, the OIG said.

"These senior BIE officials appear to have acted in violation of federal ethics regulations governing impartiality and the use of public office for private gain," the report stated. "Finally, other BIE officials who knew of these conflicts of interest chose to ignore them during the procurement process."

In the end, PerGroup ended up as a subcontractor when the contract was issued to All Native Inc, a subsidiary of Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development corporation of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Tribal executives said they were told by PerGroup that Drapeaux wasn't involved in the process.

"We asked about the conflict and [Drapeaux] wasn't truthful to us," Lance Morgan, the CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., told Indianz.Com. Ho-Chunk Inc owns Indianz.Com but the website does not participate in any of the company's business contracts.

Moore is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He left the BIE in June 2012 to work for the South Dakota Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Drapeaux is a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. After Moore's departure, he served as acting director at the BIE but he now works at the Grand Canyon National Park as a deputy superintendent.

The president of PerGroup is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. "The PerGroup president acknowledged to investigators that his ties to Moore and Drapeaux might suggest to outsiders that PerGroup was favored for the contract," the OIG report stated.

The OIG referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia but the office declined to prosecute.

Get the Story:
Watchdog: Indian schools appear to violate rules (AP 12/6)

Office of Inspector General Report:
Investigative Report of Brian Drapeaux (December 2014)

White House Report:
2014 Native Youth Report (December 2014)

Government Accountability Office Report:
Bureau of Indian Education Needs to Improve Oversight of School Spending (November 13, 2014)

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