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Interior IG Alleges Steering of Contract

POSTED: 07:56 PM ET, 07/10/2008 by Derek Kravitz

"Washington Watchdogs," a periodic feature of the Post's Investigations blog, looks at the findings of the federal government's official investigators.

A high-ranking official with a U.S. Department of Interior program tasked with improving the management of Indian funds held in trust steered a contract to an accounting firm where a close friend is a partner, according to a report released today by the department's inspector general.

The report, while not directly related to an ongoing legal battle between Indian groups and Interior over the management of billions of dollars in Native American trust funds, is another indication of problems with the department's oversight of Indian affairs.

In today's report, the inspector general accuses 41-year-old Delano "Jeff" Lords, a special deputy trustee with the Office of Special Trustee for American Indians in Albuquerque, N.M., of pressuring members of a three-person team in 2005 to give a valuable risk-management contract to a friend, Brian A. Lamey, and his accounting firm, Chavarria, Dunne & Lamey LLC.

Despite what some contractors called a superior and cheaper offer by another company, the Albuquerque accounting firm won the $987,000 contract, which was modified 14 times over nearly a two-year period and ultimately increased to $2.4 million.

Lords denied to investigators that he had directed work to Lamey, saying that if he had shown favoritism, it was because of the firm's "ability to complete the work."

The inspector general's report said that an unnamed contractor assigned to evaluate the bids told investigators that "it was clear to him that Lords was telling him to recommend CD&L for the contract" and that "Lords ultimately made the decision to select CD&L by himself," despite objections from the evaluation team.

Investigators also found that Lamey helped write and edit a part of a contract with Margaret Williams, another friend and deputy special trustee in charge of Indian affairs. Two documents, which were discovered through a subpoena of the accounting firm's records, showed that Williams "appeared to have copied verbatim" text from the accounting firm into the contract.

Williams, who met Lamey several times at golfing events and local taverns, denied to investigators "knowingly or intentionally" doing anything wrong by adding the firm's text into the contract.

The inspector general forwarded the allegations against Lords and Williams to federal prosecutors, who declined to file charges.

Investigators noted that Lords stayed at Lamey's home after breaking up with his girlfriend in 2004, storing clothes and a fish aquarium there. Such "gifts" from third-party contractors who do business with the federal government are required to be disclosed by law.

Special Trustee Ross O. Swimmer said in a statement that he would be examining the report "to determine the appropriate course of action." Representatives of Chavarria, Dunne & Lamey's parent company, Milwaukee-based Clifton Gunderson, also said they are evaluating the report.

Suspicions were initially raised, department investigators say, when John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, told Lords' supervisors that he asked him to keep the information about the pair's short-term living arrangements in 2004 confidential. "They obviously didn't understand what the best business practices were," Berrey said in an interview with The Post today.

Today's report comes two years after a previous investigation of the Special Trustee office by the inspector general. That May 2006 report found numerous prohibited contacts between the office and the contract accountants, including trips to the Phoenix Open, a pricey PGA Tour event; a two-week trip to Bureau of Indian Affairs offices in the Northwest; frequent food runs to Outback Steakhouse and Dunkin' Donuts; a New Year's Eve party at Seagull Street, a now-defunct expensive seafood restaurant in Albuquerque; and $150-per-round golf outings in Spokane, Wash., and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Investigators also found seven no-bid contracts and one interagency agreement that were awarded to Lamey's firm, totaling $77 million.

The 2006 report recommended Lords; his brother, special deputy trustee Douglas A. Lords; and principal deputy trustee Donna M. Erwin for internal discipline. The trio were reprimanded, ordered to undergo ethics training and forced to give up year-end bonuses.

"It appears that no amount of ethics training will bring about lessons learned when it comes to the relationship of [Office of Special Trustee] officials to this particular contractor," wrote inspector general, Earl B. Devaney, in a June 27 letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

-- Derek Kravitz

By Derek Kravitz |  July 10, 2008; 7:56 PM ET Washington Watchdogs
Previous: LA Times: Gifts to Nonprofits Often Don't Get There | Next: Coming Attractions: Who Killed Chandra Levy?


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Federal officials and US Attorney's Office have an obligation to ensure taxpayer's money are protected from agregious acts such as at OST. The US Attorney's office in Albuquerque instead appear to prosecute innocent victims (employees) and protect the Law breaking OST and Bureau of Indian Affairs managers and officials (perhaps the US Attorneys Office in Albuquerque should change its mission statement accordingly). This is just the tip of the iceberg at the Bureau of Indian Affairs where Federal managers and officials violate Federal Laws pratically everyday and are not prosecuted. And the "Real" Indian people continue to be victimized.

Posted by: Disgusted Out West | July 11, 2008 6:55 AM

Ross Swimmer was fired by former Cherokee chief, Joe Byrd in the 1990's for giving an illegal $500,000 loan to group of men from Washington D.C who refused to pay the loan back... then he ends up in Washington working for the BIA..what does that tell you about the BIA's hiring practices, and the men who work for this agency.

Marvin Summerfield
Cherokee tribal member
Miami, Oklahoma

Posted by: Marvin Summerfield | July 11, 2008 7:25 AM

Dealing with OST is another form of abuse-I have spoken with all three of the subjects and have written swimmer and DOI but they have never responded. I pray the DOJ stop giving these high-paid agency hangers-on special consideration because they are 'native..' US Atty must in the interest of justice investigate OST but in NM with all the public corruption in place by domenici,etc there's little wonder they decline to prosecute. I'm pissed off because a past tribal chairman-who's blood
quantum can't even be 1/4-allowed a so-called 'trust officer' to be put on our res-another marginally-quantum tribal member pulling in probably $60K in the poorest areas in America.'BIA"= bossing indians around.' OST has lost my family's $$ time/again and when sufficiently confronted they will use suspect tactics against illiterate family members to drum
up the acrimony it needs for concealment.
swimmer, his buddies Erwin, the Lords, Jim James, all of them flush the toilet ASAP!

Posted by: 4/4 Lakota Mad | July 11, 2008 9:38 AM

Yes folks, having Swimmer investigate anything is like having the weezle guard the chicken house!

Swimmer needed a serious investigating back when he was first appointed to the BIA, a letter was published in the Cherokee Observer, the Only Independent newspaer for the Cherokee People, you can see it here:

John "The Elder" Cornsilk
Real Cherokee CNOT Member
Purveyor of Simple Truth!

Posted by: John Cornsilk | July 11, 2008 10:46 AM

Corruption and mismanagement embedded in Indian Affairs business is historical and consistent. Corrupt Indian Agent syndrome began when federal Indian Affairs was first established and then became a termination business instead of an inherent federal service.

In 1828: "The arrangements in the fiscal affairs of the Indian Department are in the extreme. One would think that appropriations had been handled with a pitch fork. ... There is a screw loose in the public machinery somewhere."
-- H.R. Schoolcraft "

In 1834: "If the Indians are exposed to any danger, there is none greater than the residence among them of unprincipled white men." H. R. Rep. No. 474, 23d Cong., 1st Sess., 98 (1834) (letter dated Feb. 10, 1834, from Indian Commissioners to the Secretary of War).

In 1868: The "Report to the President by the Indian Peace Commission" of 1868 offered their recommendation to the President of the United States: "[p103] 3. That Congress pass an act fixing a day (not later than the 1st of February, 1869) when the offices of all superintendents, agents, and special agents shall be vacated. Such persons as have proved themselves competent and faithful may be reappointed. Those who have proved unfit will find themselves removed without an opportunity to divert attention from their own unworthiness by provisions of party zeal."

Recommendation No. 4. "We, therefore, recommend that Indian Affairs be committed to an independent bureau or department."

In 1912: H.R. 25242. Right of Indians to Nominate Their Agent. June 21, 1912.

In 1916: S.5335. A bill conferring upon Tribes the Right to Recall their Agents or Superintendents. May 2, 1916.

"Since the Indians were ignorant of money and its use, had little or no sense of values, and fell an easy victim to any white man who wanted to take away their property, the government, through its Indian Service employees, often took the easiest course of managing all the Indians' property for them. The government kept the Indians' money for them at the agency. When the Indians wanted something they would go to the government agent, as a child would go to his parents, and ask for it. The government agent would make all the decisions, and in many instances would either buy the thing requested or give the Indians a store order for it. Although money was sometimes given the Indians, the general belief was that the Indians could not be trusted to spend the money for the purpose agreed upon with the agent, and therefore they must not be given opportunity to misapply it. At some agencies this practice still exists, although it gives the Indians no education in the use of money, is irritating to them, and tends to decrease responsibility and increase the pauper attitude."
"The Work of the Government in Behalf of the Indians. The work of the government directed toward the education and advancement of the Indian himself, as distinguished from the control and conservation of his property, is largely ineffective. The chief explanation of the deficiency in this work lies in the fact that the government has not appropriated enough funds to permit the Indian Service to employ an adequate personnel properly qualified for the task before it."

In 2002: "By the mid-1980s there was uniform disapproval of the manner in which Interior was administering the IIM trust. In 1988, Congress began to hold oversight hearings related to the handling of government trust accounts. On April 22, 1992, the House Committee on Government Operations issued a report entitled Misplaced Trust: The Bureau of Indian Affairs' Mismanagement of the Indian Trust Fund, H.R. No. 102-499 (1992) (Pls.' Ex. 1). This thoroughly documented report concluded that Interior had made no credible effort to address the problems in trust administration in a "wide range of areas" and that Interior had disobeyed many congressional directives aimed at forcing Interior to correct trust management practices and reconcile the Indian trust accounts.

In 2002, Judge Lamberth said in Contempt II:

"In February of 1999, at the end of the first contempt trial in this matter, I stated that "I have
never seen more egregious misconduct by the federal government." Cobell II, 37 F.Supp.2d at 38.
Now, at the conclusion of the second contempt trial in this action, I stand corrected. The Department of Interior has truly outdone itself this time. The agency has indisputably proven to the Court, Congress, and the individual Indian beneficiaries that it is either unwilling or unable to administer competently the IIM trust. Worse yet, the Department has now undeniably shown that it can no longer be trusted to state accurately the status of its trust reform efforts. In short, there is no longer any doubt that the Secretary of Interior has been and continues to be an unfit trustee-delegate for the United States."

In 2003: Page 57, First Special Trustee, May 2003

"Q. Was your experience as special trustee relative to
19 the management of the individual Indian trust unique
20 compared to your 30 previous years?
21 A. Yes.
22 Q. Why?
23 A. Well, the systems themselves are not unique. I never
24 saw anything there that couldn't have been accomplished in
25 most of the small commercial banks in the United States.

Page 58

1 The unique part was the lack of control, the lack of
2 management, the lack of appropriate policies and procedures
3 over recordkeeping and bookkeeping. Those are the two
4 aspects that I featured in my strategic plan.
5 The only issue I ever had with the Secretary of 6 the Interior was management, that I felt that no plan could 7 be implemented with the management they had there, and I'm
8 speaking from the top down. And in my experience, even 9 though the external reports I was reading and the internal 10 reports were that the management system and managers
11 themselves were the worst in government -- I certainly felt 12 that they were based upon my direct observation, but on the 13 other hand, with the government's rating systems, each of
14 those people were normally rated fully satisfactory or 15 better and essentially could not have been removed under any 16 circumstances without a four- or five-year drawn-out 17 process, and that is not only true of the Bureau of Indian 18 Affairs, it's true of government."

This is only a small chronological notice but there are many investigations in between these times.

In conclusion, stealing the Indians land was the start. Getting rid of the Indian landowner was next. Then, the federal government mismanaged our money, destroying Indian trust records, tried to manipulate the Courts and it's investigators, and after centuries of broken Indian systems and treaties, are still perpetuating the corrupt Indian Agent as a trust reform management style.

OIG and others can beg for corrective action but the offenders will be defended. They will be defended by the entire federal budget and that is what the citizen's of Indian country and America should be entirely upset about. There should be more outside investigations on all federal Indian services, their management and policies. Why, for all the reasons above? to steal Indian land and money and cover it up by puppetry. Otherwise, this may never end.

We are not terrorists or insurgents but the people that know the truth about the federal government it's inherent federal trust responsibility to us and to protect us. We need protection from our own federal protector.

If America perceives us as a lazy, drunken Indians that is because it is legislated and administered to us by the federal government (executive) and congress (legislative). The President provides lip service and agrees with either if it's in favor of them. The Courts may interpret in favor of Indians but how can they enforce it.

The entire legal history can be found on the website or you can help me edit and publish my draft called an "An Appearance of Trust (Reform) and Historical Timeline".

Thomas M. Wabnum
Prairie Band Potawatomi
IIM Accountholder
Former Federal Programs Relocation survivor
Former Indian Boarding School survivor
Former Tribal Councilperson
U.S. Navy Viet Nam Veteran
BIA/OST retired

Posted by: Thomas M. Wabnum | July 11, 2008 1:38 PM

What a shame that these people we put our trust in to manage and keep our royalty finances/accounting up to date have our money to hayoo around while trying figure out someones mistakes. If they get access to our money while its still in the process of being settled why cant we use some of this kicked around money to play with also, my kids love to take vacations and play golf also, and we also love to eat at steak houses on our inheritances!!!!!!!!! Come On Hey! Give us Some!! I hope they had fun on our money,

Posted by: Ms. Charlie, Blanco Canyon NM | July 11, 2008 2:18 PM

Ross Swimmer and his chronies ought to be ashamed of themselves. Then of course, this is typically the way the BIA operates... if a manager or official commits or violates laws, regulations, or public trust they get promoted and receive bonuses. All the while the good hard working honest employees are left in the cold or get ridiculed. No one seems to care to invesitigate and prosecute these corrupt and wasteful BIA managers and officials - perhaps there is a similar trait that the US Attorney's office that they are relunctant to prosecute. I support (ND) Senator Dorgan's assessment to do away with the BIA and get a competent entity to serve the Indian people and programs. Enough is enough and and it is too damn obvious. Swimmer and his cronies should do the right thing and resign immediately.

Posted by: Indian in the Rez | July 12, 2008 10:27 AM

Similar atrociuos acts are also on-going against the Indian children in the BIA Education program where managers and officials on a daily basis commit violations of laws such as Civil Rights Act, Crime Control Act, Prohibited Personnel Practices, Indian Preference, and Whistle-blower Act, etc. Instead they receive promotions and awards. The only thing that changes in the BIA educationprogram are the managers and officials new hair-do and new cars. The bottom line is our Indian children are the ones to suffer from these corrupt acts. Where are the law enforcement types and US Attorneys that should be conducting investigations and prosecutions on these matters so that our Indian children canprotected and receive quality education and assistance?

Posted by: Indian Education Atrocity | July 12, 2008 1:07 PM

Dancing with Contractors:

Another OIG report on OST dancing with contractors is only the tip of the contracting services iceberg. In many other reports, OST is dancing with many contracting partners who want to give an appearance of fixing the trust system. This latest report doesn't even cover the well-designed plan for failure of many other contracts. It is not a plan-to-plan but a consistent pattern of many failures. What kind of contractor product are Indian beneficiaries getting for their, and many other taxpayers, dollars? OIG is not checking and OST doesn't know what it wants as long as it renders to the public an expensive appearance of trust reform.

Historically, former Indian agents then or federal employees now are pre-selected especially in trust reform now. Most Indian agents got rich administering Indian money, sold goods, received Indian land allotments, built themselves in treaties as payoffs, promoted upward at bullet pace and get their pick of any job when they want to leave. This doesn't envision the lavish retirement benefits that normal GS employees won't receive.

The OIG reports are talking about the Senior Executive Service (SES) employees that are paid higher than the general schedule (GS) employees.
"What is the SES?" The Senior Executive Service (SES) is comprised of the men and women charged with leading the continuing transformation of our government. This dedicated corps of executives shares a commitment to public service and a set of democratic values grounded in the fundamental ideals of the Constitution. As the leaders of our Federal civilian workforce, Senior Executives strive each day to create a more citizen centered, result oriented Federal Government.
Members of the SES serve in the key positions just below the top Presidential appointees. SES members are the major link between these appointees and the rest of the Federal work force. They operate and oversee nearly every government activity in approximately 75 Federal agencies.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) manages the overall Federal executive personnel program. OPM staff provides the day-to-day oversight of and assistance to agencies as they develop, select, and manage their Federal executives.
The Senior Executive Service (SES) was established by Title IV of the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) of 1978 (P.L. 95-454, October 13, 1978) and became effective on July 13, 1979. The CSRA envisioned a Senior Executive Service whose members have shared values, a broad perspective of government, and solid executive skills. Its stated purpose was to "ensure that the executive management of the Government of the United States is responsive to the needs, policies, and goals of the nation and otherwise is of the highest quality." The Government's senior executives would be held accountable for individual and organizational performance. To achieve this purpose, the CSRA gave greater authority to agencies to manage their executive resources and assigned OPM the responsibility for governmentwide leadership, direction, and oversight.
How much are they getting paid?

Structure of the SES Pay System Minimum Maximum
Agencies with a Certified SES Performance Appraisal System $114,468 $172,200
Agencies without a Certified SES Performance Appraisal System $114,468 $158,500

Welcome to the OST Website

"Established by the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-412), the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) was created to improve the accountability and management of Indian funds held in trust by the federal government. As trustee, the Department of the Interior has the primary fiduciary responsibility to manage both Tribal trust funds and Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts, as well as the resources that generate the income for those accounts."

Restoring Trust: The Reformation of Indian Trust Management 1994 - 2007. A report to the U. S. Congress.

"How the Department of the Interior was able to turn around one of the most notoriously intractable management problems in the federal government is an amazing story. Every Department employee who had a hand in this should be proud: Indian Country will be reaping the benefits of their labor well into the future."
• Ross Swimmer, Special Trustee for American Indians

Page 9 of the same report.

"Toward the end of this period, the Department formalized the principles that would be the heart of all initiatives aimed at improving overall trust asset management, and would
provide the guidelines for developing trust processes and systems for the 21st century. The Secretary of the Interior's Trust Principles were first issued by Secretary Babbitt in
April 2000 with Secretarial Order 3215, and were eventually incorporated in the Departmental Manual.

Trust Principles. It is the policy of the Department of the Interior to discharge, without limitation, the Secretary's Indian trust responsibility with a high degree of skill, care, and
loyalty. The proper discharge of the Secretary's trust responsibilities requires that persons who manage Indian trust assets:
A. Protect and preserve Indian trust assets from loss, damage, unlawful alienation, waste, and depletion;

OST one of worst places to work in government
TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2007
Filed Under: Politics

"The Office of Special Trustee is one of the worst places to work in the federal government, according to a survey of employees.

OST ranked 212 out of 222 federal agencies, or near the bottom of the pile. Scores were low in the "Teamwork" and "Effective Leadership" categories.
In other rankings, BIA came in 181 out of 222. The Indian Health Service came in much higher, or 96 out of 222.

Among top-level departments, Interior ranked 22 out of 30. HHS ranked 18 out of 30.

The rankings were based on 2006 data from the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Human Capital Survey."

There have been many historical efforts of every form to terminate the treaties or the federal trust responsibilities to Indians. The 1868 report basically identified a termination attempt by intractable federal employees. An article written by C. Patrick Morris on "Termination by Accountants" The Reagan Indian Policy. Summer, 1988.

"With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, a new kind of federal leadership assumed control over U.S. Indian policy, one that promised to break with the failures of the past and to "redefine" the relationship between the federal government and the American Indian tribes. As with most U.S. Indian policies, the Reagan policy began with promises. During the 1980 Presidential campaign, candidate Reagan pledged that he would honor the policy principle of "self-determination" supported by the four previous Administrations, and assured the American Indian tribes that treaty rights and federal obligations would be respected and even expanded (Wassaja 1980:1)
Today, however, the Reagan Indian policy is seen by many Indian people to be a callous form of "termination by accountants" a half-clever attempt on the part of the Administration to end the Government's historic trust responsibilities toward the U.S. Indian tribes (Charkoosta, 1987b). Many of the major Indian policy issues that faced the Administration when it entered office have not been resolved, some have even worsened, while new issues have been created by Administration failures (Indian News Notes, 1985c: Martin, 1984).
This paper critically reviews and evaluates the Reagan Indian policy and its impact on Indian tribes and people in regard to three fundamental areas of U.S. Indian policy: federal programs to 1) improve the quality of Indian life through education, housing, and health, 2) provide the protection of tribal lands and natural resources, and 3) preserve treaty and other legal rights collectively referred to as the "trust relationship" (Getches, 1979:240-252)."

Do you know whom President Reagan appointed as Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs during this time?

The majority of OST's SES managers are accountants. Accountants that breezed through the GS ranks and rose to SES level as trust reform needed loyal posturing of District Courts contempt findings. With very little historical or institutional knowledge of the federal governments problem with Indian trust services, they quickly became a cure all, fix it manager, led by dozens of unknowledgeable trust contractors that were not investigated by OIG but should have been that displayed an expensive appearance of trust reform to date.

Long gone is a trail of forced out federal Indian employees loyal to the beneficiary, loyal to the "Oath of Office", against all enemies foreign and domestic, whom under a never established Indian trust policy with common law trust standards and protection against the department of Interior of whom they worked for. This is another historical tool called an internal conflict of interest within the department that always favors the department instead of the federal Indian trust.

Why then, has the federal government appointed the most highly educated and Indian experienced employees in the last two centuries and yet failed to fix the broken Indian trust system? They don't want to fix it but don't want to go to jail either. They will find other employees to continue this expensive appearance of trust reform and will move this problem into the next decade and next century.

My articles are never short but the federal Indian problem cannot be explained in a couple of pages when it took centuries of mismanagement and breaches of trust to get us to where we are today. From the beginning, if the government took all the money appropriated in properly administering this trust, its financial assets and natural resources, Indian Affairs and Native Nations would have been a strong, participative and contributing partner in nations' power business instead of what you read about Indians and Indian Affairs today.

Thomas M. Wabnum
Prairie Band Potawatomi
IIM Accountholder
Former Federal Programs Relocation survivor
Former Indian Boarding School survivor
Former Tribal Councilperson
U.S. Navy Viet Nam Veteran
BIA/OST retired

Posted by: Thomas M. Wabnum | July 14, 2008 10:30 AM

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