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U.S. official fired for criticizing Native policy

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  • thekoba@aztecfreenet.org
    If you are a bureaucrat and want to keep your career, the last thing you want to do is start telling the truth. The following article, attributed to Robert
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 18, 2003
      If you are a bureaucrat and want to keep your career, the last thing you want
      to do is start telling the truth. The following article, attributed to
      Robert Gehrke of the Associated Press, appeared on page A11 of the Thursday,
      September 18, 2003 edition of The Arizona Republic.

      --Kevin Walsh

      INTERIOR OFFICIAL SAYS U.S. CHEATED NAVAJOS, IS FIRED

      Washington--The Interior Department has fired an employee who told a court
      investigator that the department was failing in its duty to protect the
      Navajos from being cheated by oil and gas companies.

      Kevin Gambrell, who had been head of the Farmington, New Mexico, Indian
      Minerals Office since 1996, said he protested for six years that Navajo
      landowners were not receiving fair compensation for the use of their land, but
      he was ignored.

      This year, he contacted Alan Balaran, an investigator appointed by a federal
      judge presiding in a class-action lawsuit against the Interior Department.

      The suit alleges that the department has mismanaged Indian money for more
      than a century.

      Balaran filed a report last month that said private landowners near the
      sprawling Navajo Reservation were paid, in some cases, twenty times what the
      Indians were being paid.

      He said those discrepancies and the destruction of records related to the
      deals had constituted a failure by the Interior Department to meet its
      legal obligation to Indian landowners to ensure a fair payment for the use
      of their land.

      In May, the department put Gambrell on paid administrative leave, saying he
      had destroyed documents and was insubordinate. On Monday, the department
      formally fired him.

      "It was just an excuse to get rid of me," Gambrell said. "It's very unfair
      treatment."

      A spokesman for the Interior Department said he could not comment on
      personnel matters.

      "Kevin Gambrell's career difficulties started the moment his phone records
      showing contact with the Special Master (Balaran) were discovered," said
      Dan Meyer, general counsel for the Public Employees for Environmental
      Responsibility. "Given Interior's sorry track record in this area, they
      would be far better served promoting Kevin Gambrell than firing him."

      Gambrell has filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board and
      has notified the judge in the Indian money case, U.S. District Judge Royce
      Lamberth, of his termination.

      Gambrell said for years the Indians have been told by oil and gas companies
      to sign blank leases to build pipelines across their land and the companies
      would fill in the lease rates later.
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