FROM THE ARCHIVE
Speedy trust fund payments sought
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MONDAY, JANUARY 7, 2002

If the Department of Interior cannot make payments to as many as 300,000 beneficiaries to the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust as soon as possible, top officials should be thrown in jail, attorneys for the account holders said today.

In a court motion, letter and update provided to a federal judge, the plaintiffs criticized Secretary Gale Norton for not proposing a single plan to make payments to American Indians. Yet the department has found time to perform other functions, they said.

"The Secretary’s payroll deposits have been made without interruption and will undoubtedly continue to be made without interruption; regional fire control centers can communicate and coordinate wildfire information; general assistance checks have been brought current; the Interior geologists are able to transmit data on rock samples from Alaska to Albuquerque; and, through the miracle of technology, somehow the Secretary – and apparently other Interior employees – is able to send and receive e-mail," they wrote.

"Unsurprisingly, the Secretary chooses to play politics and tactical games with individuals’ trust monies. Such willful malfeasance should not be countenanced by this Court any longer."

In hopes of disbursing money to 43,000 account holders whose December 2001 payments have still not been made, the plaintiffs want U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth to order the Interior to "take all steps necessary to collect, allocate and distribute trust funds to individual Indian trust beneficiaries safely and soundly as soon as possible."

Under an agreement with Lamberth's court, the Interior can temporarily reconnect computer systems to process payments. But the plaintiffs said the government has yet to do so, instead proposing a permanent solution that its own experts say could take months to implement.

"The failure of the Secretary to submit any plan in the preceding month that would have enabled the prompt distribution of Indian trust checks so vital to the welfare of Indian trust beneficiaries is unconscionable and the willful dereliction of her most basic fiduciary duties exacerbates the disgraceful conduct already found by this Court," wrote attorney Dennis Gingold.

Get Court Documents:
Motion (1/7) | Letter (1/7)

Today on Indianz.Com:
Debate continues over trust fund shutdown (1/7)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com

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