Thu, 02/08/2018 - 5:00am admin
By Andrew Turck / Big Horn County News
In a review of Crow Tribal Court from Dec. 5-6, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Rocky Mountain Regional Office outlined 14 main issues in its Fiscal Year 2017 corrective action plan (the document states 13, but No. 8 is repeated twice).
Jo-Ellen Cree served as awarding officer’s technical representative for the report and Louise Zokan-Delos Reyes was Indian services officer.
Cited problems and the BIA’s solutions are written below. The first, second and tenth corrections were recommended previously in the BIA’s 2016 review.
First: Reviewers believe the Judicial Branch’s “separation of powers” from the tribe’s executive and legislative offices is being used to justify a lack of compliance with Crow tribal management procedure. Clarification, they note, must be provided to the court and BIA on both the separation of powers and administration of their financial contract.
Second: Tribal Court Administrator Ginger Goes Ahead provided financial information that the review team found unclear. They believe it “contradicts tribal finance policies and tribal code.” Reviewers believe these issues must be clarified, and the budget revised and “carefully” monitored.
Third: Funding from First Interstate Bank, reviewers believe, is being “used as needed by the court” and not being reported to Tribal Finance. “The overall budget for the court,” the report states, “needs to be planned and not manipulated at will.”
Fourth: According to reviewers, the court is not complying with their personnel policies, position descriptions or salary limits. The tribal court manual is being used in place of the law, they state. Reviewers state the court must “clarify which personnel policies will be complied with including salary limits and nepotism requirements,” along with who will ensure they follow these rules.
Fifth: Court staff are being hired without background checks, according to the report. In addition, reviewers continue, court staff were issued unauthorized bonus pay and former Associate Judge Sheila Not Afraid received an unauthorized amount of $21,320 in severance pay. All of this, the report states, must be stopped and the severance returned, as “it is not supported in tribal or federal management systems.”
Sixth: Reviewers state TCA Goes Ahead received two unauthorized paychecks totaling $2,608 on Aug. 3, 2017. Financial documentation, they continue, shows the checks were paid on Aug. 15, 2017 using federal funds through Public Law 93-638. Reviewers state that an audit must be conducted on these payments, since they were given out using 638 funds.
Seventh: Payroll is issued weekly for judges and the court administrator, but once every two weeks for all other personnel. “All employees of the Crow Tribe should be treated equally,” the report states.
Eighth: A 2016 Chevy Tahoe was purchased using 638 contract funds, according to financial documents. Chairman Not Afraid believes the vehicle was purchased by the previous Executive Branch administration and not the court, but nonetheless, its location is unknown. It must be located, the report states, and the Crow Tribe “provide supporting purchase documentation.”
Ninth: None of the court’s judges have graduated with a juris doctorate (one of several Doctor of Law degrees). This issue, the report states, requires the tribe to revisit the educational requirements for the chief judge position “or contract for legal consultation with confirmation by the legislature if needed.”
Tenth: TCA Goes Ahead has not attended college for tribal court administrator training. Reviewers want her to attend training at National Judicial College.
Eleventh: Chief Judge Leroy Not Afraid, according to the report, questioned the use of the JustWare case management software used by the court. According to reviewers, he wanted to switch to the more current system, Full Court – which they called “costly.” Reviewers added that “tribal competency on current systems” needed to be analyzed before switching to a new platform.
Twelfth: Funding for tribal court staff training was provided through the BIA’s Office of Justice Services. According to the action plan writers, the staff must complete this training and provide certificates as proof.
Thirteenth: Tribal court, the report states, has a “limited interpretation” of their statement of work. This document is used by organizations to define project activities and timelines. Reviewers state that it must be clarified under BIA oversight.
Fourteenth: Chief Judge Not Afraid wrote a standing order on Dec. 4 that reviewers believe was designed to “limit the BIA review and [Wilson’s] access to the court and court records.” Reviewers state this order must be rescinded, as it “could be seen as setting up a hostile work environment” and – since it interferes with her job – “contrary to federal law.”