Report slams top trust reform officials
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A federal judge is being urged by a court investigator to take immediate action against the Department of Interior in order to protect 300,000 American Indians.

In an emergency report issued yesterday, special master Alan Balaran blasted the Office of the Special Trustee (OST) for wanting to transfer 32,000 boxes of trust documents from New Mexico to a federal records center in Missouri. The move was announced in a private memo with little fanfare in February by an OST subordinate.

But Balaran said the decision was in fact made by top trust reform officials in Washington, D.C. He blamed Special Trustee Tom Slonaker, his chief deputy Tommy Thompson and Ken Rossman, a senior aide whose management practices have been questioned in numerous other reports, for acting "without regard for the consequences."

"It can not be disputed that OST senior management, and particularly the Special Trustee, the Principal Deputy Special Trustee and the Acting Chief of Staff, were the architects of the document transfer," Balaran wrote in the 24-page report.

Saying that the OST never informed him of the pending move, Balaran lashed out at Slonaker and his aides. "Either the Office of the Special Trustee conducts negotiations regarding Indian trust affairs telephonically or this represents another 'inadvertent' failure to turn over relevant documentation," he wrote.

One by one, he then rejected OST's justifications for the transfer. Pitched as a means to cut costs -- which would have also "abolished" and "reassigned" 19 jobs, according to the February 14 memo -- Balaran said there is absolutely no reason to move current records of Indian account holders to a center designed as a repository for inactive documents.

As a result, he urged U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth to take extraordinary steps not just to stop the move but to rein in the OST officials. "It is the position of the Special Master that the Office of the Special Trustee is incapable of administering the trust records program without oversight," Balaran wrote.

"The very heart of the trust is at stake," he added.

Balaran's latest missive comes on the heels of a recent report which faulted the OST for its records-keeping policies. As part of an investigation which began more than a year ago, false claims of progress, lack of training and government stall tactics have been uncovered.

The ongoing probe has also had its casualties. After Rossman's capabilities were criticized in November report, he was removed from a director's position by Slonaker and installed as acting chief of staff in Washington, D.C.

Subsequently, Lamberth rebuked Rossman and his attorney for their personal "attacks" on the court. A request for sanctions and other punishment is pending.

Get the Report:

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -
Trust Reform, NCAI -

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