Words on women come at a cost to BIA law

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WASHINGTON - With Sen. Byron Dorgan fuming in the chairman's seat, BIA top lawman Pat Ragsdale testified to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee June 19 that BIA law enforcement has limited resources of both personnel and funding.

They became more limited still following the Feb. 7 initial decision of Kelly M. Humphrey, administrative judge of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, according to Leon Glenn. Humphrey found that BIA Associate Director of the Division of Law Enforcement Brent LaRocque's ''use of derogatory, gender-specific language, including 'bitch,' 'stupid bitch,' 'those women' and 'complete waste of air' in reference to the appellant [Agatha Tsosie], combined with his expressed intent to abolish the appellant's position if he were ever given the opportunity, is direct evidence reflecting his discriminatory intent to take action against the appellant based on her gender.''

The action taken was to subject Tsosie and Stephanie Pretty Weasel (whose case the MSPB consolidated with Tsosie's) to ''reduction in force'' retirements through gender discrimination. ''The agency cannot show who made the decision to RIF the appellant[s], much less that its decision was bona fide undefined.''

From the testimony among nine witnesses, Humphrey found that in 2002, LaRocque had more to say: '''From now on, you women are not here to tell us what to do. You're here so when we tell you what to do you just do it. Working with you is like working with the Taliban, and [Tsosie] is the head of the Taliban.'''

According to a witness Humphrey relied on: ''LaRocque used the word 'whore' when talking about women and made other negative comments about women. ... I [Humphrey] find that LaRocque's denial of his involvement in the RIF of the appellant[s] is not credible ... several of the witnesses who testified at the hearing, including higher level management officials, testified that LaRocque is not a truthful or trustworthy person, and has lied on numerous occasions.''

LaRocque was the ''No. 3'' man in BIA law enforcement.

Ted Quasula, who retired in 2000 as the BIA director of law enforcement, said both Tsosie and Pretty Weasel were good people, though he knew Tsosie better in his time with the bureau.

''Anybody that knows Aggie, well, she's quiet, respectable, hard-working, professional; all that good stuff.''

Glenn is not impartial. He retired in March as special agent in charge of a BIA law enforcement district, having heard his allegations against bureau management substantiated in testimony before the board on an Office of the Inspector General report, he said; and he still has issues with alleged damage to his reputation.

But Glenn wrestled successfully with budgetary issues in his division throughout his last half-dozen years as a BIA special agent in charge. He estimated the cost of BIA mismanagement in the MSPB matter, decided Feb. 7, at $1 million. ''I'd say that's probably ballpark. ... That's probably close.''

The cost includes approximately a year of back pay to Tsosie and Pretty Weasel; lengthy administrative leave for LaRocque; potential compensatory damages permitted by the judge; and attorney fees.

LaRocque declined to discuss his future or Humphrey's findings. ''I can't comment on that. I wish I could.''

He said he would talk with his supervisor about a response. BIA spokesman Nedra Darling said Ragsdale would not comment on a personnel matter or costs, in keeping with Interior Department policy (the BIA is a subordinate agency of Interior).

Quasula said the damage to the bureau's credibility from LaRocque's alleged gender-specific language, as well as Humphrey's finding that LaRocque was untrustworthy and had lied, is bad enough without reference to ''Giglio material,'' U.S. law that requires prosecutors to provide defendants in a criminal trial with evidence that tends to impeach government witnesses.

''If it's just some flunky cop doing it, that's one thing. But when you get the BIA No. 2 or No. 3 doing it, that's a whole different level.''