The man chosen by Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington football team, to head his new Indian country charitable foundation, helped clip the Bureau of Indian Affairs for $1 million, and the botched contract cost taxpayers an additional $600,000 in termination fees, according to a federal investigation.
On Tuesday, March 23, Snyder announced in a letter addressed “To Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation” the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation (OAF) whose mission, he said, is “to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities.” To head up his new foundation, Snyder chose Gary L. Edwards, a Cherokee Nation citizen, and founder and chief executive officer of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association (NNALEA), whose law enforcement recruitment services contract with the BIA was investigated by the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG is an independent oversight organization that sets and monitors ethical standards in the department’s employees and products.
An interesting choice, observed Carly Hare, Pawnee/Yankton and the executive director of Native Americans in Philanthropy. “There are a number of amazing Native foundation leaders who could have been a strong advisory resource.”
Hare, like so many other Native Americans, was not thrilled at the announcement of Snyder’s OAF. She wrote, “I woke up to Dan Snyder's letter on my phone and the message: ‘Poverty Porn meets White Privilege in taking Cultural Appropriations to a whole 'nother level. Mind blowing... full inception.’”
The OIG’s investigation of Edwards’ contract with the BIA was aimed at finding out if the BIA’s Office of Justice Services (OJS) received the intended benefits by awarding a $1 million contract to NNALEA to provide 500 qualified Native American law enforcement applicants to serve in law enforcement positions on reservations. Qualified applicants had to meet legislative requirements, regulations and guidelines for employment of federal law enforcement officers, such as Indian preference, citizenship, age parameters and education.
The OIG’s May 9, 2012, investigation report came down hard on both the BIA and NNALEA. “We found that the OJS received no benefit when they awarded a recruitment services contract to NNALEA, thus wasting almost $1 million.”
Among its various transgressions, the BIA violated federal rules by awarding the contract to an organization whose board of directors were primarily government employees. At the time the contract was awarded, five out of seven NNALEA board members were employed by federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “By appointing NNALEA dues paying members to participate on the technical panel that evaluated and selected NNALEA as the contractor, BIA created an appearance of a conflict of interest,” the report says.
The report also has plenty of criticisms of the NNALEA. “These failures [of the BIA] resulted in a poorly written contract developed in conjunction with NNALEA that contained significant defects, allowing NNALEA the opportunity to take advantage of OJS to produce unusable contract deliverables.”
The NNALEA “capitalized on bureau failures,” the report says. “BIA officials negotiated with [Edwards] to modify the statement of work.” The “most significant modification” replaced the requirement for 500 qualified Native American law enforcement applicants with 500 pre-screened applicants, removing the need for applicants to be either Native American or qualified, the report says.
“When [Edwards] proposed significant modifications to the statement of work, the BIA officials simply accepted them in part because they said that they were under pressure to get the contract out,” the report says. The agency ended up awarding “a non-competitive contract that was tailored to meet the needs of NNALEA without regard to justification and compliance with regulations.”
Edwards provided the agency with 748 applications – none of which were of any use, the report says. The OIG reviewed 514 applications and found one 80-year-old applicant, three who were not U.S. citizens, and 26 missing documents required by the contract, among other deficiencies. Altogether 244 or 47 percent of the applicants were unacceptable. And the vast majority were not Indians. “[Edwards] stated that he would focus his recruitment efforts in Indian country. We found that recruitment in Indian country was ineffective with only 22 of 514 applicants (or about 4 percent) having Indian preference,” the report says.
In addition, the OIG found two instances where invoices reporting NNALEA’s planning and recruitment efforts conflicted with information it obtained during its investigation. In one invoice, NNALEA reported onsite recruiting at the Crow Fair Celebration in August 2009, but a BIA technical representative who attended the event said there was no NNALEA recruiting booth or representative there. In the second invoice, NNALEA reported placing recruitment advertisements in a newspaper circulated in South Dakota, but the paper had no record of the ads.
During the investigation, the OIG tried to interview members of the NNALEA board of directors about their knowledge of the association’s implementation and performance of the contract.
“These directors, all of whom were Federal law enforcement agents, declined to participate in an interview on advice of NNALEA’s counsel,” the report says.
Edwards also refused to speak to the OIG investigator. “Although we initially interviewed [Edwards] about the contract, he also declined to be interviewed further on advice of counsel.”
In a statement released on Thursday night by the football team and reported by USA Today, Edwards responded, "The NNALEA believes it met and exceeded all of its obligations under the contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Justice Services, and subsequently was paid after the contract was completed."
The one-year, $1 million, performance-based, firm-fixed price contract was awarded to the NNALEA in June 2009 and was terminated in February 2010, around four months short of the one-year term, on the advice of the Solicitor’s Office. At the time of termination, the NNALEA had been paid almost the entire $1 million, the report says.
The termination also provided the NNALEA with a windfall. “BIA did not follow proper closeout procedures when it terminated the contract for convenience and paid settlement costs of $600,000 to NNALEA,” the report says.