Former BIA official inks documents after leaving post

WASHINGTON ? A former Bureau of Indian Affairs executive signed tribal recognition documents three days after leaving office, and in doing so cast further aspersions on the beleaguered recognition process.

On Jan. 22, 2001, according to a report by the Interior Department's Inspector General, Michael Anderson penned his signature on a pair of Federal Register notices recognizing the Duwamish Tribe of Washington state while sitting in his car outside the department's office building. A staff member carried them back into the building and backdated them "Jan. 19." Anderson had been acting Assistant Secretary at BIA during the Clinton Administration; he left his post when President Bush took office.

M. Sharon Blackwell, Deputy Commissioner for Indian Affairs, first told the IG that she was not aware that the documents had been backdated. In a subsequent interview, she admitted that the papers had been signed subsequent to Anderson's departure from office, and said she was "concerned" that the documents had been carried outside the building.

According to the report, Blackwell told investigators that Anderson had "clearly intended" to sign the documents prior to leaving office and understood that "the documents could still be signed" as a "nunc pro tunc" (signing now for then) condition. Blackwell asserted that she did not actually participate in the signing or the process of getting Anderson to sign them.

Anderson "readily admitted" that he signed the documents in the manner and at the time described, but stated that he neither backdated them nor advised any one else to do so, the report said.

Interior's IG recommended to the Justice Department that both Anderson and Blackwell be prosecuted for false impersonation of a federal officer and conspiracy to do so, respectfully. Justice declined to prosecute Anderson and, since Blackwell remains an employee of Interior, declined prosecution "in lieu of administrative action," the report said.

A BIA spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter.