Southern Utes meet to mull recall

Tribal members worry about investment losses

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	James Jefferson of Durango speaks Thursday evening during a meeting he organized to discuss the recall of Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Matthew Box at the combined Oxford Grange-Los Pinos Fire Protection District Station No. 2 in Oxford. <br />
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STEVE LEWIS/Herald

James Jefferson of Durango speaks Thursday evening during a meeting he organized to discuss the recall of Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Matthew Box at the combined Oxford Grange-Los Pinos Fire Protection District Station No. 2 in Oxford.
 

More than 50 members of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe met Thursday to discuss a petition to recall Tribal ChairmanMatthew Box.

The meeting, which took place at the Oxford Grange-Los Pinos Fire Station 2, was organized by James Jefferson and Orville Hood.

“We have uneducated leaders who can no longer make rational decisions about sophisticated financial affairs," Frost said. “We need to put past differences aside; this is about survival."

Frost said minutes had been sent to the Tribal Council, with councilors being told they have to sell certain investments in what he called “a fire sale for pennies on the dollar." He also said the Permanent Fund was only earning about 3½ percent instead of the 8 percent it needs to replenish costs.

Jefferson said he has met with experts in Indian law and investments as he looks into tribal affairs and the Southern Ute Growth Fund. While he wants a deeper investigation into staff, human resources and the disposal of tribal assets, he wants to start with recalling Box and trying to elect a new tribal chairman who will order such an investigation.

“A friend asked me if I had seen The Wall Street Journal," Jefferson said. “I found out in an article that 12 banks were under investigation, and one happens to be J.P. Morgan, who the tribe uses, under investigation for fraud."

Much of Jefferson's information has been garnered from discussions with external experts and online research because he said he has been told all of the tribe's financial affairs are confidential.

Jefferson is leveling accusations of mismanagement and fraud.

“I'm digging all this information up on the Internet," he said. “There's so much out there. You just have to go out and look for it."

Jefferson also said he is worried about threats, because a lot of money is involved.

“It's going to become very dangerous, at least for me," he said, “which is why I'm releasing everything, all the papers, so that if something happens to me, or happens to Orville, it's out there. Some of my friends are starting to carry pistols."

Jefferson was one of several speakers who pointed fingers at individual managers at the Growth Fund and in tribal government. Concerns about non-Indians running the tribe's affairs and the amount of money the Growth Fund spends on wages, bonuses and prospecting projects also were raised.

Several people felt the tribal chairmen of recent years had not represented them well.

“Our Chairman Leonard Burch worked for the people, on getting our kids educated, that was his priority," Misty Jefferson said. “I sure don't want us to lose what he worked for all of his life. A lot of secrets are going on around here, and we can't do this anymore."

Box, who is in Washington, D.C., on tribal business, could not be reached for comment.

All three organizers kept reminding Southern Ute tribal members why they were holding the meeting.

“A billion dollars is only 1,000 million dollars," Frost said. “Through mismanagement, all of this can be lost. With the old-boy network, nothing will change until all of you stand up and get involved in what's happening with your money."

abutler@durangoherald.com