Martin caught in court's expanding e-mail probe
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Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb told a court investigator recently that he refused to sign a legal affidavit drafted by his second-in-command because he said it contained inaccurate statements about his own destruction of government e-mails.

McCaleb didn't know why Aurene Martin, the deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, prepared the document. She had never done so in the past and he didn't ask for it, he testified.

"I assumed that she was acting in what she thought was my best interests," he said on December 6.

But at the time Martin stepped in the dispute, she was no longer acting as his legal counsel, a position she assumed in October 2001, two months before McCaleb began erasing his electronic correspondence. She had been promoted to deputy after her predecessor Wayne Smith was forced out in an unrelated controversy.

So McCaleb instead submitted a court declaration that was the product of his private attorneys -- Mike Rauh and Julie Campbell -- whose fees, up to $125 an hour, are being reimbursed by taxpayers. Both work for the Washington, D.C., law firm of Mannatt, Phelps & Phillips, and specialize in white-collar crimes.

Whether the actions in the e-mail debacle rise to that level remains to be seen. Special master Alan Balaran has been investigating for two months now and his work increasingly puts Martin, a Republican lawyer who came to the BIA from the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, at the center of activity.

That could spell trouble for Martin's career. Although she is is relatively young and lacks the management experience of her boss, she is poised to take over the BIA until a replacement for McCaleb can be found.

"She was recommended by Neal and I think she carries a lot of Neal's priorities and understandings and values," said Tex Hall, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

Martin was ordered to testify about her actions on Friday. Attorneys in the case declined to discuss the contents of her two and one-half hour deposition but documents obtained by Indianz.Com show she was an eager and early participant.

According to McCaleb, Martin presented him with an affidavit shortly after his e-mail destruction was reported to the court on October 16. "Mr. McCaleb -- This is a draft. Please make any changes you feel necessary," a handwritten note, signed "Aurene," at the top states.

McCaleb went ahead and did just that, putting "approved as amended" on "10-19-02" at the bottom of the first page. The document never got submitted, however, apparently because his personal attorneys were unhappy with Martin's work.

In his testimony, McCaleb doesn't explain his decision not to sign the affidavit. But he admitted that he never discussed it with Martin, nor any attorneys from the Department of Justice or the Department of Interior.

He also testified that the declaration his private attorneys ended up sending to Balaran a month later, although vehement in its denial of wrongdoing, was just as questionable as he viewed Martin's. "I did not knowingly or intentionally destroy any e-mails," it states.

When asked if he "intentionally" and "knowingly" deleted his e-mails, McCaleb simply replied: "Yes."

Relevant Documents:
Neal McCaleb Draft Declaration (October 19, 2002) | Neal McCaleb Final Declaration (November 19, 2002)

Today on Indianz.Com:
McCaleb aides circumventing court (12/16)

Relevant Links:
Mannatt, Phelps & Phillips -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

Related Stories:
McCaleb to go before investigator again (12/16)
Deposition and hearing on trust fund (12/13)
McCaleb e-mail probe widens (12/11)
McCaleb aide ordered to testify (12/9)
McCaleb being deposed on e-mails (12/6)
Interior's casualties of war (11/25)
McCaleb resigning from BIA (11/22)
17 months at arm's length (11/22)
Court cites 'troubling record' at Interior (11/14)
McCaleb admits to e-mail 'misunderstanding' (10/23)
Interior admits to more destruction of e-mails (10/22)
Probe raises more questions than answers (08/07)
DOI investigation released (8/7)
No one to punish for destroyed e-mails (4/10)
Request for trust fund probe rejected (11/7)
Internal trust fund investigation sought (8/22)