By the CUJ
MISSION – A preliminary report issued Friday, Sept. 30, four days before a recall election, shows that David Close, Secretary of the Board of Trustees (BOT) for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), among other things, used a key-card in an attempt to enter the Office of Legal Counsel and Tribal Court after hours.
The BOT is expected to take up the issue on Monday, Oct. 3, at its regular 9 a.m. meeting in the Council Chambers at Nixyaawii Governance Center on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
The report also showed that Close, who faces a recall election on Tuesday, Oct. 4, may have violated CTUIR election code by using tribal resources, including his office computer, e-mail, cell phone and tribal office phone.
Reading from the report, tribal attorney Naomi Stacey said, “… this initial review reflects a pervasive pattern of work on tribal computers, networks, demands of staff assistance and response, litigation costs and significant Board time to address these disputes. Most activities occurred during regular working hours.”
The BOT told Close in June (Resolution 16-042) to stop acting without consensus of the full Board, which directed the Secretary to cease using tribal resources to assist in his ongoing disputes with some members of the Board and the community.
However, the report states, Close on several occasions may have violated that resolution. He used email to edit information presented to the Confederated Umatilla Journal (CUJ), sent questions to the Election Commission, and documentation to Tribal Court, according to the report.
At the open work session Friday, Sept. 30, it was reported that the preliminary investigation reflects that the Secretary used CTUIR property and resources to:
- Work on matters conflicting with the Board Resolution 16-042;
- File or provide notices of intent to sue; and prosecute lawsuits against the CTUIR in four cases, as well as preparing additional lawsuits;
- Work on his election recall disputes and responses.
The BOT on Sept. 12 directed the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and the Office of Executive Directors (OED) to investigate Close’s use of tribal resources back to Dec. 7, 2015 – soon after he was sworn in as secretary. The September directive came following several issues between Close and other members of the BOT, against the Election Commission, and against Tribal Court Judge William Johnson.
Close filed a suit to stop the Election Commission from carrying out its duties and he filed a suit against Judge Johnson for conflict of interest. On Aug. 9, the Judge dismissed outright Close’s claim of conflict of interest. He set a date in January of 2017 to hear the complaint against the Election Commission.
As Stacey read through the preliminary report findings, some of the BOT members appeared incredulous.
“You’re telling us,” asked BOT member Aaron Ashley, “that the Secretary in fact had access to DCFS after hours, OLC after hours, and Tribal Court after hours?”
Stacey clarified that Close swiped his key card but could not get into the Office of Legal Counsel.
“That’s very concerning. Chilling,” said Ashley.
Close said he was meeting a friend at DCFS. He had swiped his card just as his friend opened the door. He did not address the other two attempts to access offices.
Judge Johnson said late Friday that the key-card codes have been changed for Tribal Court.
Justin Quaempts, another BOT member, called it “disturbing to say the least” and was fixed on the word “pervasive.”
“It’s pretty revealing. Card swipes. We were told at the retreat if we ever need access we should call Tribals in advance,” Quaempts said.
Some of the findings from the preliminary report:
- Approximately 5 Word documents created on a CTUIR computer relating to temporary injunctions, election commission investigation, motion for change of judge, and response to recall allegations.
- Approximately 38 emails relating to recall election, actions filed in Tribal Court.
Employment matters and related litigation
- Approximately 4 documents created on a CTUIR computer relating to filing of suit in Tribal Court against two CTUIR employees.
- Approximately 40 emails relating to employment matters and related litigation and tasks not assigned to him by the BOT.
Defamation lawsuits filed against CTUIR
- Approximately 3 documents created on a CTUIR computer related to filing suit.
- Approximately 3 emails related to filing defamation lawsuits.
Unmet obligations related to Secretary’s duties
- Approximately 15 documents created on a CTUIR computer related to tasks not associated with the Secretary’s duties.
- Approximately 30 emails relating to unmet obligations or tasks not directly to Secretary duties.
- 2 documents showing the door access by Secretary Close from December 2015 into September 2016. The logs indicate he tried to access the DCFS office area after hours (including once on a Sunday) and the Office of Legal Counsel area after hours, and Tribal Court after hours (although door permission were set to allow access, so he was able to access Court after 4 p.m. with his access card). Court officials, after finding out the Secretary had been in Tribal Court office after hours when no Court staff were present, required that the Secretary’s card permission be changed so that he could not access the area when the door is locked.
- 1 document showing the Secretary’s phone log (calls to and from his desk phone). The log shows 1 call to a legal firm in Portland and a call from and to Philip LaCourse (a legal advocate representing a CTUIR member who filed suit against CTUIR employees). Examination of the Secretary’s cell phone information (CTUIR issued phone) shows that the cell phone provided for official CTUIR business has not been turned on since February but CTUIR has continued to pay the monthly charges for the cell phone. The Secretary commonly uses his personal phone when calling into the office to report his whereabouts or make inquiries.
Following the 40-minute report, Secretary Close made remarks that led to a somewhat quick but heated exchange with BOT Chairman Gary Burke and Quaempts.
“As Secretary of the BOT and the custodian of the BOT files and records I want to initiate an investigation of this Board that has spent an inordinate amount of time to get me out of this office,” Close said.
Said Burke, who sits next to Close, “Point of order. This is about you, not us.”
“I’m going to investigate you guys,” Close said.
Then Quaempts, “I’m tired of getting threatened by you.”
The Board went into Executive Session with Close excluded from the proceedings.