College president wants two trustees ousted

Author:
Updated:
Original:

KYLE, S.D. - The president of Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation wants the board of trustees to remove two of its members because of unethical activities.

Tom Shortbull, in a public statement that he said would bring out some dirty secrets of the college, said Gerald "Jump" Big Crow and Cordelia White Elk should be removed from the board of trustees for unethical activities. If they weren't removed, he said the board should buy out his contract.

"It's not worth it to my health to be under the stress that I am. I'm constantly harassed by these two board members and I can't live like this.

"I no longer want to be part of a conspiracy of deception and silence that allows these dirty little secrets to be maintained for two of our board of trustees members," Shortbull said.

During a one-hour radio address on KILI radio, he asked the board to remove the two at the next board meeting, April 18.

Shortbull said Big Crow stole more than $2,000 from a student organization at Pine Ridge in the early 1980s and, under an agreement, paid back part of the money. He also said the statute of limitations has passed, otherwise the FBI would be involved."This should disqualify the person for having a position of trust, not only with the college but with the Oglala Sioux Tribe," Shortbull said. Big Crow is a council member from the Pine Ridge District. Shortbull said he would ask the council to remove Big Crow as well.

"I don't know what he is talking about," Big Crow said. "Why make a statement like that on the radio. He should have made a written complaint."

Big Crow said Shortbull "opened a can of worms" by going on the radio without bringing the issue to the board. "He accused me of things he should have brought up to the board.

"It surprised the hell out of me," Big Crow said.

Shortbull accused White Elk of receiving gifts from Arlyn Knudson, former college vice president for financial affairs, who is serving a prison sentence for embezzlement from the college. He said while she was the assistant to the president she had an "obligation and responsibility to scrutinize Arlyn and his activities, the fiscal agent of the college. You all know what happened there, $2.6 million was embezzled," Shortbull said.

Shortbull said Knudson gave White Elk a headdress and moccasins that belonged to Chief Big Foot. He said the two items were worth $20,000 and were purchased on the black market. "This gives the appearance that she looked the other way."

White Elk was not available for comment.

Shortbull said she should have turned the items over to the Wounded Knee Survivors organization, which would have been ethical.

"My position is that she kept those items because it was a rainy day savings account for her," Shortbull said.

"On the board she questions everything I do. She vowed to get me removed."

He also accused Big Crow of requesting that his wife among others, who worked for the college while Knudson was in office but were removed, file a claim against the college. Shortbull said it was wrong because Big Crow's wife was "let go from the college because she didn't do her job."

Big Crow said his wife among others tried to warn people about Knudson. He also explained he had never harassed Shortbull. "I never harassed him, we never talked about this. I've been a public figure for more than 30 years. I don't do mess up like that."

Shortbull said the two would try to get people to attack him and say what a terrible person I am. He said the special April 18 meeting was called by a motion made by White Elk and seconded by Big Crow that questioned the line of authority at the college.

"I'm fully certain there will be an attempt by Cordelia and Jump to take away the powers of the president, to diminish the powers of the president. And what is that going to do to the college."

Big Crow said the intent was not to take authority from the president, "not to downgrade him on anything."

Shortbull said that because of federal and foundation grants his position and ability as a fund raiser was important to protect the money. "If they take away my powers at the April 18 meeting, then I can't give those assurances to federal agencies or to foundations."