NCAI's Hall to press Interior on transition funding
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Angry that the Department of Interior won't release costs associated with controversial appointee Ross Swimmer, National Congress of American Indians President Tex Hall said he would demand the information at a meeting with government officials later this week.

Hall, chairman of a tribal task force on trust reform, said the department should disclose the activities of the Office of Indian Trust Transition, which Swimmer directs. He said tribes have a right to know how money is being spent to manage their own assets.

"I think they are being really secretive about what they are doing," Hall said. "Usually when they are being secretive about what they are doing, it's not right."

Citing privacy and personnel issues, department officials have declined to say how the office is being funded. They also won't say how many employees are working under Swimmer.

But in a court filing last week, government attorneys cited the establishment of the office as a reason not to hold Bush officials in contempt. They said the office has been "initially staffed."

Hall said the disclosure raises questions about existing Bureau of Indian Affairs operations. "If they are taking staff within the bureau, within existing programs, what happens to those programs?" he said.

Hall added that the status of Swimmer's position with the department needs to be clarified. "If he's an employee, I'm sure he's went through the background investigation because he's working with some very sensitive information," he said. "Has he been screened accordingly?"

"If they're not answering any of those questions," Hall said, we're going to make them."

The task force, which is made up of 36 tribal leaders and additional technical advisers, will meet Friday and Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona, with department officials. Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles, Associate Deputy Secretary Jim Cason, Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb and Special Trustee Tom Slonaker are expected to attend.

Secretary Gale Norton is not scheduled to attend. So far, she has met only for a few hours with the task force.

Today on Indianz.Com:
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Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -
Trust Reform, NCAI -

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