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Cheyenne River family violence prevention program probed

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. - The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe's Family Violence Prevention and Services Program is under investigation amid allegations of financial mismanagement.

And, Chairman Gregg Bourland said the tribe has accepted the resignation of the program's director Janet Collins.

Eight people barricaded themselves in the family violence prevention office Jan. 28 when tribal officials demanded control of the office and client records.

The tribe's administrative officer changed the locks after employees refused to turn over the key to a cabinet containing the files, Collins said because of a fear of violating confidentiality.

The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but isn't a part of tribal government.

Chairman Gregg Bourland said he couldn't comment, beyond a press release, until an investigation into allegations was completed.

Agency, tribal and state officials met Jan. 30 with representatives of domestic violence programs from around South Dakota to begin a dialogue to resolve the issue of confidentiality that arose in the tribe's program.

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A week earlier, Tribal Treasurer Benita Clark had questioned program expenditures which resulted in an inquiry. The program director refused to comply with the request, citing concerns over confidentiality. This led to the conflict between program staff and tribal officials, a tribal press release stated.

The Jan. 30 meeting focused on resolving this conflict and ensuring that confidentiality is protected.

"Our meeting was a great success. I believe that we are well on our way to solving this dilemma. I would also like to state that in this process and during this conflict, that at no time did the administration of the tribe seek to breach, nor did they breach the confidentiality of the program or any clients the program serves," Bourland said in the press release.

"It was very unfortunate that there was a breakdown in communications. It is even more unfortunate that the press immediately tried to sensationalize this situation, which we believe has caused fear and confusion with clients. But as of our meeting Tuesday, we are now communicating and are all on the same page."

"I have a constitutional duty to protect the financial integrity of all tribal programs and funds. If we feel that there is a possible misuse of money granted to the tribe by a funding agency, then it is my duty to secure the records involved in the matter," Clark stated.

"Mr. JR LaPlante was acting as the department chair and was acting on my behalf to help me carry out my duty! At no time did we attempt to breach the confidentiality of clients or the program. JR and other tribal officials have been portrayed by the press in a negative manner and I am asking that this be recanted. We were carrying out our responsibilities and will continue to do so."

In the press release, CRST Legal Counsel R. Kidder said the tribe wants to make it "very clear that there is no current conflict on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation with these programs. There will be no further comments from the tribe on this matter due to the delicate nature of the discussions."

Chairman Bourland and the domestic violence programs will continue the dialogue throughout the coming weeks.