Trust fund account holders call for jail time
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Emboldened by the contents of a new report criticizing the federal government for failing to abide by court orders to fix the broken trust fund system, the plaintiffs in the billion dollar Cobell v. Norton lawsuit on Wednesday renewed calls to hold a number of current and former Department of Interior officials in contempt.

Former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt and former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover need to be held responsible for failing to provide a full, historical accounting of the funds owed to an estimated 300,000 American Indians throughout the country, the plaintiffs said.

Along with other top aides, some of whom still work for the Interior, the Clinton political appointees "intended to defraud the courts" while delaying meaningful resolution of the trust debacle, they alleged.

"We believe it's appropriate that certain individuals serve time in jail for what's going on," said Geoffrey Rempel, a member of the litigation team. "There's no gray area here."

"They can run but they can't hide," promised Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff. "They will be held accountable."

Along with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Babbitt and Gover were held in contempt of court by US District Judge Royce Lamberth in February 1999. He slapped them with fines for failing to produce trust documents as required by the court.

Since then, the plaintiffs have made numerous requests to hold top officials, including Secretary Gale Norton, in contempt. Alan Balaran, the special master assigned to the case, in February recommended Lamberth hold a contempt trial to address incidents of retaliation against a Bureau of Indian Affairs employee, a scandal in which Norton has since been implicated.

Armed with a report issued by court monitor Joseph S. Kieffer III yesterday, the plaintiffs are now casting a wider net in what is turning out to be an equally large black eye on the government. Despite being ordered by Lamberth to provide a full, historical accounting to Indian account holders, Kieffer says the Clinton administration avoided doing so because they believed they could eventually win the case.

"Whether the Interior defendants were expecting to prevail in the Court of Appeals or with the ongoing settlement negotiations, they were under a duty to comply with this Court’s order even while its decision was on appeal," wrote Kieffer. "They not only failed to do so but also took actions to avoid having to do what they were required to do by this Court with regard to the historical accounting."

Interior spokesperson Stephanie Hanna said the government was still reviewing Kieffer's report, which was issued late yesterday afternoon. But she said that Norton has taken positive actions "to make progress on an historical accounting" for the Indian beneficiaries.

Get the Report:

Today on Indianz.Com:
Norton slammed by trust fund monitor (7/12)

Relevant Links:
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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