Interior Secretary could be held in contempt
BIA handles roughly 300,000 trust accounts and is responsible for sending checks to Indian trust beneficiaries. Beneficiaries rely on trust funds for basic living necessities. Allegations of mismanagement of the BIA trust accounting system have plagued the agency for years.
Interior issued a memorandum Feb. 16 that directed staff to comply with the order and informed employees that they wouldn't be retaliated against for speaking with the special master's office. But lawyers for the Native Americans do not think the agency's action went far enough.
"While defendants and their counsel represented that an appropriate memorandum had been distributed to all employees, such representations were false," said the motion filed by the Native Americans' lawyers. According to the motion, Balaran surveyed 15 randomly chosen field offices on March 2 to check if his order had been issued. He found that nearly half the offices had not distributed the order to all employees.
Interior spokeswoman Stephanie Hanna said information sometimes takes a little longer to reach remote BIA offices.
"The fact is that BIA has some very remote offices, and not everyone has e-mail, so not everyone receives everything at the same time," said Hanna. "The department has made every effort to distribute these memoranda," she said.
In February 1999, Lamberth held then-Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt; his assistant secretary for Indian affairs, Kevin Gover; and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in contempt of court for failing to produce records involved in the same case.