Chippewa Cree Tribe faces additional review of federal funding

The health clinic on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana was destroyed by a flood in June 2010. Photo from Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security

The Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana continues to face scrutiny after 18 former leaders, officials and associates were caught stealing federal funds.

The poor track record prompted the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security to review $31.6 million in funding awarded to the tribe by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A June 9 report found that the tribe mismanaged $3.9 million to remove a clinic that was destroyed by severe storms in June 2010.

"The Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation in Montana mismanaged this grant, which resulted in a domino effect of negative consequences," the report's highlights stated. "First, the tribe awarded a $3.7 million sole-source contract to a tribal-owned corporation, the Chippewa Cree Construction Corporation. The lack of full and open competition set the stage for fraud, waste, and abuse."

"Then, the tribe neglected to identify the material deficiencies in the corporation’s fiscal controls and accounting procedures," the report continued. "The corporation’s chief executive officer took advantage of these weaknesses; and a federal court has since convicted him of federal corruption charges for embezzling the tribe’s insurance proceeds and FEMA grant funds, and sentenced him to prison in August 2014."

"Finally, the tribe could not provide documentation sufficient to support the $3.9 million it claimed for Project 117," OIG said.

Ken St. Marks. Photo from Native News Project / University of Montana

The widespread fraud on the reservation has put Montana on nationwide list of judicial districts with the most government corruption prosecutions. Tribal leaders, however, continue to retaliate against former chairman Ken St. Marks even though he reported the misspending to the Interior Department.

St. Marks was granted whistleblower status under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A final disposition found that he was the victim of retaliation and ordered the tribe to pay $648,430.35 and to reinstate him but the council has refused to do so.

Even though St. Marks has been voted into office three times by the people, the council has removed him from office every time. He's running against in a June 30 special election against interim chairman Ted Whitford Sr., and two other candidates.

Get the Story:
Federal Auditors Expand Review of Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Aid Mismanagement (AP 6/22)
Chippewa Cree to hold new election for chairman (AP 6/21)

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