-- The Interior Department's inspector general has cleared a regional Bureau of Indian Affairs official of allegations that she used her authority to influence matters in her own tribe as it was seeking approval to build a $100 million casino.
Deputy Regional Director Amy Dutschke, a member of the Ione Band of Miwok Indians, did not violate any rule, law or ethical standard, Inspector General Earl E. Devaney concluded.
In a three-page letter dated June 16, Devaney said he found no evidence that Dutschke took any official action regarding the tribe or advanced the interests of her family in the tribe.
A telephone message left for Dutschke was not immediately returned. But the tribal chairman, Matt Franklin, said, "There was never a doubt that we wouldn't pass."
The investigation followed calls by Congress to investigate alleged conflicts of interest aired in an article by the Associated Press.
In February, AP -- relying on BIA and tribal documents -- reported that the tribe's official membership grew from about 70 to 535 after regional BIA officials opened up membership rolls in 1996 to other Indians in the area. The new members included Dutschke and 68 relatives, two of whom also worked for the BIA, the article said.
AP reported that Dutschke was the BIA's acting regional director in June 2002 when she authorized the Ione Band's last leadership election. The election produced five new tribal leaders, four of whom are related to Dutschke, the article said.
Tribal members are split between the federally recognized leadership, which proposed the casino, and a smaller group that maintains it was ousted by Dutschke and other BIA officials.
Lawmakers and county officials echoed the minority group's complaints, leading to a separate, ongoing FBI investigation.
The inspector general confirmed that Dutschke's uncle and niece are BIA employees and tribal members but said she did not have 68 relatives in the tribe. Devaney's letter to Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who called for the probe, said Dutschke recused herself in March 2001 from matters related to the Miwok Band.
Devaney also said another BIA employee, Carol B. Rogers-Davis, who resigned her post as chairman of the elections committee after some tribal members objected, has no "blood relatives" in the tribe. The article reported that Rogers-Davis had three relatives in the tribe but did not specify whether they were related by marriage.
The tribe's new leadership has been given nearly $2 million from a state trust fund and intends to build a $100 million gambling hall with 2,000 slot machines in Plymouth, in the Sierra Nevada foothills.