- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 2, 2002


Three days after leaving office, a Clinton administration official sat in his car outside his former workplace and signed documents granting a group of American Indians status as a tribe, a federal investigation has determined.

The paperwork for the Duwamish tribe outside Seattle was signed Jan. 22, 2001, by Michael Anderson, the former acting head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A BIA staffer then stamped the document with a date of Jan. 19, 2001 Mr. Anderson's last day on the job.

Federal recognition as a tribe grants Indians status as a sovereign nation and makes them eligible for many federal benefits. It also can pave the way for casinos on their land.

The report by Interior Department's inspector general characterized the agency's handling of the Duwamish petition and five others approved at the end of the Clinton administration as "highly unusual." Four were approved by Mr. Anderson's predecessor, Kevin Gover.

In each case, the decision went against recommendations by BIA staff assigned to determine if the tribes meet the recognition criteria.

The Justice Department had been made aware of the backdated documents prior to the release of the inspector general's report and had declined to prosecute Mr. Anderson for impersonating a federal official.

In a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft on Thursday, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, asked the Justice Department to reconsider that decision.

Mr. Anderson, now a partner in a law firm that represents Indian tribes, did not return phone calls seeking comment. In the report, he acknowledges the documents were signed after he left office, but said he did not backdate them or instruct his staff to do so.

The inspector general's report paints a picture of a charged, tense atmosphere in the closing days of the Clinton administration.

"The BAR staff collectively described the last seventeen days of the Clinton Administration as pure hell," the report said. The deputy commissioner for Indian affairs, Sharon Blackwell, said confrontations were so heated that she expected someone would get slapped.

It was Miss Blackwell, a career BIA employee who remained through the administrative change, who authorized Mr. Anderson to sign the documents and believed backdating them was appropriate since he had intended to sign them.

The report made no recommendation on criminal prosecution, but did suggest administrative action against Miss Blackwell and the staffer who backdated the document.

On Wednesday, Neal McCaleb, the Bush administration's secretary of Indian affairs, announced Miss Blackwell's retirement.

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