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In The Hoop

Welcome to In The Hoop, Indianz.Com's occasional column about assorted Indian issues.

bLiNG, BLiNg!
Guess who has been seen driving around Washington, D.C., in a flashy new (and very expensive) car?

We'll give you a hint. It's not former Bureau of Indian Affairs Chief Information Officer and current National Park Service Chief Information Officer Dom Nessi. He prefers the Concorde.

Anyway, Beltway sources tell In The Hoop a person very close to the Cobell litigation and the Department of Interior has earned himself a hefty tiding for his involvement in the ongoing debacle. According to court records we checked out, that would certainly be the case.

The taxpayer funds involved lead one to wonder why Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and her attorneys even bother to fight the case. But fight it, they must!

Fun with Judge Royce Lamberth
Speaking of fight, could Norton have avoided a lengthy and embarrasing contempt trial if she had thrown herself "on the mercy of the court" like U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth asked her to do way back in October?

Going by some of the the judge's words last Friday, it's entirely possible he may have spared her.

"[Recent] efforts to address and solve the major trust reform management personnel and systems problems addressed by the court monitor, the special master, and EDS, have reflected a recent level of involvement by this Secretary of Interior that was never apparent in her predecessor's administration of the trust," he said.

Lamberth went on later to say that the predecessor in question, Bruce Babbitt, "never agreed with anything out of all those reports."

Nevertheless, Lamberth went ahead and scheduled the contempt hearing because Norton has challenged the court monitor, whom she initially welcomed into her department, and the special master, whom government lawyers hate so much that they take potshots at him in court filings.

So much for "cooperation" -- one of the Secretary's often heralded Four C's.

High Honors
Guess who's been "promoted" to a high position at the Interior even though his role in disseminating court orders has been largely questioned by a court investigator?

We'll give you a hint. It's not Dom Nessi. He's been promoted for allegedly giving false testimony to a federal court.

But anyway, the person in question here is none other than Ken Rossman, the ex-director of the Office of Trust Records (and close, close friend of Donna Erwin, who is handling two critical trust reform projects, by the way.) Apparently, Special Trustee Tom Slonaker doesn't want any more documents bungled so he has instead picked Rossman as his personal aide.

"I am pleased to announce that Ken Rossman has agreed to accept a temporary assignment as the acting Chief of Staff in the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians," Slonaker wrote in an email.

Temporary? Acting? Is this code for home duty?

Slonaker goes on: "Given the increasingly high level of oversight activity, I look forward to Ken’s assistance. Ken’s experience as an operations manager in OST and his familiarity with many aspects of trust reform make him a valuable addition."

And finally: "Ken will be joining us here in Washington on Monday, December 3."

Go figure.

In Your Hoop
Who deserves a promotion for their handling of Indian trust assets? Email In the Hoop and let us know.

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