A former Three Affiliated Tribes judge who filed suit to force the tribal council to activate an ethics committee said it could deal with ethical allegations against Chairman Tex Hall.
Vance Gillette filed the suit two weeks ago on behalf of a tribal citizens’ group. He’s asking the court to order the council to name an ethics committee and fund it so it can deal with conflicts of interest by tribal agents, including the chairman.
An ethics committee was established by a 2005 ordinance, “but has not been enforced, staffed, or funded,” the suit says.
The question of ethics is on the front burner on the reservation and Gillette said it’s time to get to the bottom of how Hall can operate a private oil field service company, Maheshu Energy, and still serve as chairman.
The situation goes deeper than a mere conflict of interest. Hall is being investigated for his business dealings with James Henrikson, a man who owned at least two oil-related companies and did business on the reservation and who’s being held on weapons charges. He’s also part of an investigation into a murder-for-hire plot that killed his former partner in December.
Gillette said most people on Fort Berthold are aware of the connection between Hall and Henrikson and deserve some answers.
“It’s kind of scary for people, the dealings with Tex and the tribe needs to be more careful about who it hires,” Gillette said.
Investigations involving Hall are proceeding on two fronts: in one, multiple law enforcement agencies continue to look into Henrikson's possible role in the murder of Doug Carlile and his dealings on the reservation; in the other, the tribal council recently hired a former U.S. attorney to conduct an investigation into the business relationship between Hall and Henrikson.
The tribal council's investigation will be led by Stephen Hill, a member of Dentons US LLC Litigation and Disputes Resolution practice and former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
Hill declined to be interviewed by the Tribune. In an email he said, “I am afraid I will not be available for an interview as it is my policy to not do so during the pendency of an investigation including responding to information request(s) regarding investigative personnel.”
The company’s website said that while serving as U.S. attorney, Hill’s office obtained numerous convictions involving corruption at the Kansas City (Mo.) Hall, local county courthouses and the Missouri General Assembly.
He also advised former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and the Justice Department on corporate prosecution, the website says.
Tribal Vice Chairman Fred Fox, who was behind a failed effort to suspend Hall from office, said the council will not comment while its investigation is ongoing.
Hall has not responded to numerous requests for comments directed to his personal cellphone and spokeswoman's office. He did issue a statement last month saying he is cooperating with law enforcement in its official investigation. He has not commented on the personal investigation being led by Hill and his team.
Gillette said he wonders if any investigation results will be released before the upcoming tribal elections. Hall’s term expires, but he has not made any announcement about his plans and it would take five of the seven council votes to remove him, he said.
“Can they get anything done before the election? Still, it's good what they’re doing,” Gillette said.