McCaleb gets too close to termination
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Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb told tribal leaders on Monday that he wasn't trying to "terminate" thousands of individual Indian trust accounts just to save money and reduce administrative boondoggles.

Responding to a January 25 article on Indianz.Com, McCaleb said a certification he provided to a federal judge on the issue was misrepresented. "I'm not advocating closing the accounts," he told a Washington, D.C., gathering of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET).

"That's not the case," he continued, "I didn't say that."

But in trying to explain how the Department of Interior's obligations differ from a privately administered trust, McCaleb acknowledged he got too close to the word tribal leaders fear the most. He said a commercial bank, for example, would "terminate" a trust if the cost of maintaining it exceeded its actual value.

He then quickly added: "I used the t-word and I wish I hadn't. That's not what I'm advocating."

At issue is a pending move by the Interior to close as many as 18,000 Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. In a status report sent to U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth two weeks ago, McCaleb and other department officials provided information which showed the government can cut costs and red tape by eliminating the daily management of the assets.

Through a Bureau of Indian Affairs land acquisition program, McCaleb noted that closing a single IIM account can save up to $1,900 a year. The Office of the Special Trustee, meanwhile, said eliminating low-balance accounts, those with less than $1.00, can also save money.

"I think you can see the business impacts of not closing all those trusts," McCaleb said yesterday.

Through McCaleb's program, closing is voluntary and approved when an individual Indian sells his or her land to a tribe. Action on the low-balance accounts, however, is involuntary. Solicitor Bill Myers is finalizing an opinion on the issue.

Whatever the case, representatives for the Indian beneficiaries don't want any account closed until an accurate historical accounting has been completed. Attorney Dennis Gingold said the department has already eliminated tens of thousands of accounts since a class action lawsuit he filed began in 1996.

"They've closed apparently 200,000 accounts," he said, referring to the 500,000 beneficiaries his legal team represents.

McCaleb, however, said yesterday there are just 265,000 accounts. He then said the number is growing "exponentially" due to fractionation and birth rates in Indian Country.

The Office of Historical Trust Accounting, which Secretary Gale Norton created last summer, is tasked with the monumental project and promises to have a plan to do so by this summer.

Trust Reform Updates:
Intro | Secretary's Observations | Special Trustee Observations | Trust Transition Observations | Departmental Organization | Historical Accounting | Computer Security | Trust Management | Data Cleanup | EDS Roadmaps

Get the 8th Quarterly Report:
Status Report to the Court Number Eight (1/16)

Relevant Links:
United South and Eastern Tribes -
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -
Trust Reform, NCAI -

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