April 25, 2003
Norton Under Fire:
Department of Interior’s Lack of
Credibility Stretches to
By Jean Pagano
of Interior (DOI) Secretary Gail Norton came under attack from two
week relating to the seven-year-old Cobell v Secretary of Interior
lawsuit. This landmark case seeks an accounting of Individual Indian
accounts held in trust by DOI. The Department of the Interior has
mismanaged the 300,000 IIM accounts for over a century.
salvo in the barrage against Secretary Norton came from Democratic
Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. from the 5th District in
Jersey. Pallone has asked Norton to “cease and desist from any further
implementation of your trust reorganization” until U.S. District Judge
Lamberth has a chance to rule in early May. A trial has been ordered by
Lamberth starting on 1 May to evaluate trust reform plans presented to
to decide upon a course of action for trust reform. Trust reform is
under the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act.
Pallone stated “It has recently been brought to my attention by tribal
that you are proceeding to reorganize the Bureau of Indian Affairs
(BIA) in the
name of trust reform even though Indian Country is overwhelmingly
further states that he is concerned that Norton will waste further
implementing her plans for reform since the court and Judge Lamberth
reviewed and approved her plans. Pallone joins a number of
Senators that have voiced concerns about the ongoing Cobell
While some members of Congress are outright hostile to trust reform,
would like to see the Department of Interior and the Cobell
work out some compromise in the landmark case. A previous agreement,
in the latter days of the Clinton Administration, was not acted upon
Bush Administration arrived in Washington in 2001.
separate but similar front, court-appointed Special Master Alan L.
presented the U.S. Court of Appeals his Interim Report Concerning DOI’s
Quarterly Status Report on Trust Reform. In this 57-page document,
claims supplemental authority in support of Judge Lamberth’s holding of
Secretary Norton and former Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb in civil
Lamberth had held that both Norton and McCaleb had perpetrated a fraud
court by their actions.
holds that a number of claims listed in the Eighth Quarterly Status
false and materially misleading and that Norton continues to deceive
District and the Appellate Courts. The Status Report in question was
during Norton and McCaleb’s previous contempt trial.
Balaran claims that Norton, as signatory of the Eighth Report,
withheld information concerning problem with the automated Trust Assets
Accounting Management System (TAAMS) that was being developed at the
the contempt trial. The Special Master believes that the problems with
system were hidden to cast DOI in a more favorable light during the
Project Team and NAID (an information technology, security, management,
training firm employed by DOI since 1999) had reported to DOI a number
problems, concerns, and issues during a High-Level Planning process,
the chagrin of DOI. Concurrent with the TAAMS Project Team and NAID’s
evaluation, Electronic Data Processing Systems (EDS) was also looking
Trust Reform process. The conclusions arrived at by EDS differed from
TAAMS’ review and was ultimately the basis used to report findings in
Eighth Quarterly Status Report.
to Balaran’s Interim Report, “The evidence reveals that EDS employed a
methodology resulting in reports that overlooked or diluted the
findings of NAID and the TAAMS Project Team.” Judge Lamberth and the
Appellate Court will most likely address the issue of DOI’s ongoing
in the coming weeks. The Bush Administration has appealed Lamberth’s
contempt ruling against Norton and McCaleb. McCaleb has since resigned
as Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, claiming that the Cobell
litigation made his job all but impossible.