FROM THE ARCHIVE

Norton accused of continued harassment

Facebook Twitter Email
JUNE 12, 2001

The plaintiffs in the billion dollar trust fund lawsuit are once again accusing Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and other top government officials of continued intimidation and harassment of a former Bureau of Indian Affairs employee.

The allegations this time center around Joe Christie, a long-time veteran of the BIA. Along with Mona Infield, a computer analyst in the middle of another employment battle with Norton, Christie has provided court testimony which contradicted the government's position that it was properly maintaining the financial assets of an estimated 300,000 American Indians throughout the country.

But unlike Infield, Christie isn't sitting at home while still drawing an $80,000 yearly salary. He took early retirement at the end of last year, a move the plaintiffs blame on the government.

"For two and one-half years, the Interior Secretary and counsel to the Secretary have falsely attacked and retaliated against Mr. Christie," charged the plaintiffs in a court filing last week.

As a BIA employee in New Mexico, Christie in the mid-1990s oversaw reconciliation of tribal trust accounts. Audits showed that the government couldn't account for $2.6 billion in funds owed to tribes, despite being obligated by law to do so.

Yet after seeing the tribal accounts resolved, Christie soon became embroiled in a bitter legal and political fight over the Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. He was assigned to work with Paul Homan, the first Interior official brought in to clean up the trust fund system.

But while trying to locate documents the government was required to provide for lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell and four others, Christie was removed from his duties by former Secretary Bruce Babbitt. Homan then resigned from his post the next day in disgust.

Christie's court testimony about destruction of trust fund documents and his removal eventually led Judge Royce Lamberth to issue a stinging order in February 1999 in which he held Babbit, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover in contempt of court.

That wasn't the end of Christie's run-ins with his former bosses, though. Just two years short of retirement, the government last year decided to move Christie's office from Albuquerque to suburban Washington, DC.

After some delays, Lamberth allowed the move to take place. Christie later left the BIA at the end of the year.

Despite no longer being employed by the government, Norton and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill are opposing Christie being part of an ongoing investigation of their respective departments. Special Master Alan Balaran wants to use Christie to help probe Norton's Office of Trust Records, but the two Bush officials have repeatedly objected.

Relevant Links:
Trust Management Improvement Project - http://www.doi.gov/bia/trust/tmip.htm
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com

Related Stories:
Trust fund fiasco makes worst list (6/7)
Landmark trust fund ruling won't be appealed (5/31)
Energy Policy: More drillng, more problems (5/31)
Norton: Indian Country won't get ripped off (5/24)
Norton welcomes trust reform monitor (4/25)
Fed instructed to preserve documents (4/20)
Court investigator faults Federal Reserve (4/19)
Court monitor to oversee trust reform (4/17)
Memo: Trust reform project needs extra attention (4/11)
Trust funds still causing trouble (4/11)
BIA official: Organization was in 'disarray' (4/5)
Trust fund to get new lawyer (4/4)
Industry insider named to Interior (3/30)
Interior: Trust reform is working (3/22)
No trust fund settlement just yet (3/22)
'Emergency' trust fund meeting requested (3/21)
BIA Memo: Trust reform out of control (3/16)
More trust documents reported destroyed (3/16)
Norton targeted for contempt (3/15)
Trust fund investigation continues (3/9)
Report: Litigation threatening reform project (3/8)
Message to Norton: Don't Threaten Us (3/7)
Interior to provide anti-retaliation evidence (3/6)
Mona Infield: Indian Country's Linda Tripp? (3/5)
Norton hit on trust fund mess (3/1)
Landmark trust fund decision upheld (2/26)
Interior contempt trial recommended (2/22)
Ex-employee says harassment started at top (2/15)
Intimidation alleged at Interior (2/14)
Norton's trust fund office to be investigated (2/13)
Trust fund decision blasted (1/25)
Records a continued source of problems in lawsuit (01/18)
News Archive
2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

About This Page

You are enjoying stories from the Indianz.Com Archive, a collection dating back to 2000. Some outgoing links may no longer work due to age.

All stories are available for publishing via Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)