FROM THE ARCHIVE

Edwards: Slonaker changed mind on accounts

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MONDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2002

In his final days on the job, former Special Trustee Tom Slonaker changed his mind about an historical accounting of 8,000 trust fund accounts, according to the testimony of a senior Department of Interior official.

Earlier this year, the Office of Historical Trust Accounting (OHTA) said it reconciled $22.7 million in funds owed to members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe of Arizona. But Slonaker, a former bank executive, in a June 5 letter said he did not agree with that assessment.

"Absent an overall historical accounting definition for all IIM accounts or a specific definition by account type," he wrote, "I cannot concur that the reconciliation of the judgment accounts constitutes an historical accounting."

In a deposition on Friday, Bert T. Edwards, a former Arthur Andersen partner who is now the director of OHTA, testified that Slonaker changed his mind. "I've seen a letter from Mr. Slonaker that says an historical accounting was not possible," he said. "But on July 26th, he said the judgment accounts that we did constitute historical accounting."

Four days later, Slonaker was ousted from his position. He told Indianz.Com that he was "asked to leave" by Secretary Gale Norton and that his candid views about trust reform were the reason.

"I have to stand up and tell things as they are," he said in a July 30 interview.

The letter to which Edwards makes reference has yet to be made public but Dan DuBray, an Interior spokesperson, in early October told Indianz.Com that it existed. When asked to provide a copy, he declined to do so and said Ross Swimmer told him about it.

Indianz.Com subsequently contacted Slonaker to ask him about the letter but a request for comment was not returned. Other sources close to the former official said they were never told of its existence.

Joseph S. Kieffer Letter on Bert Edwards Testimony (December 22, 2002)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
Trust Reform, NCAI - http://www.ncai.org/main/pages/
issues/other_issues/trust_reform.asp

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