Interior Report: Indian trust officials violated ethics rules in contract awards
Investigators said that between October 1998, when the initial contract was awarded, and February 2005, Erwin and the Lords brothers "socialized on numerous occasions" with the Chavarria executives and other contractors. Their report explains, "This included golfing at exclusive resorts together ... dining at upscale restaurants together, entertaining one another at their personal residences, and attending happy hours together on a regular basis."
It says that in September 2002, OST issued a memo directing personnel to maintain arms length relationships with contractors. However, it went on, "the socializing did not cease after the guidance was in place." OST officials and Chavarria executives particulary loved to play golf, sometimes at exclusive resorts, the report says. "These golf outings occurred during both official travel related to contract work and during non-duty hours," the report explains. "The golfing took place at exclusive resorts, private golf clubs, a local country club, and public golf courses spanning seven states ... "
The Lords brothers and Chavarria executives, it says, even went to the Phoenix Open one year. The Lords maintained that they paid their own expenses on trips with the firm's executives, although Douglas Lords acknoweldged that "they did share travel expenses, such as gas, snacks, and beverages."
According to the Interior Department, OST was created in 1994 to "improve the accountability and management of Indian funds held in trust" by the federal government. The special trustee's office manages some 1,400 accounts for 315 tribal entities and more than 280,000 Individual Indian Monies accounts.
Native Americans have not been happy with Interior's handling of its funds. In a contentious federal lawsuit filed 10 years ago in Washington, they argue that the department has mismanaged their funds for a century, and they are demanding billions more.