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Warm Springs tribes defend official’s removal


In a rare public statement, the tribal council of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs on Wednesday defended its removal of its secretary-treasurer, saying Jake Suppah falsely claimed the tribal government was close to bankruptcy.

Jake Suppah told The Bulletin last month he had uncovered troubling financial patterns, including theft of time, mismanagement of federal grants and missing funds. He said he took his concerns to the tribal council but was placed on paid leave Feb. 10, in what he claimed was retaliation for his actions.

Suppah and three tribal council members took their concerns public in an interview with The Bulletin. One of the council members, Orvie Danzuka, also contacted the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General, which confirmed to the newspaper last month it was investigating the matter, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Suppah told The Bulletin in March that the tribes had overspent more than $100 million over the last 10 years, threatening member pensions, monthly payouts and services. And he told the paper Wednesday he was fired without due process or the ability to rebut the allegations.

Here’s the tribes’ news release issued late Wednesday, in full:

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Tribal Council normally does not comment publicly on personnel matters.

“While we prefer to keep our internal tribal business outside of the public media, we are compelled to make a public statement as a result of the misinformation shared with outside media surrounding the separation of employment of Jake Suppah, the Tribe’s former Secretary-Treasurer,” said Evaline Patt, Vice-Chairwoman.

Starting in late 2013, staff and community members brought to the Tribal Council concerns regarding Mr. Suppah’s involvement in a tribal program and possible conflicts of interest. As a result of those concerns, an investigation was initiated in April 2014 and conducted by an outside third party with experience in human resource issues.

The investigation and report were completed in August 2014, and the issue had been under ongoing discussion by the Tribal Council. After considering and following up on information in the investigator’s report, Tribal Council placed Mr. Suppah on indefinite administrative leave in February 2015.

After being placed on leave but while still employed by the Tribe, Mr. Suppah chose to inform the Bend Bulletin of a “tribal government nearing the brink of bankruptcy” and a variety of other things which are untrue. He also disclosed emails and information about the Tribe that violated established tribal policies regarding disclosure of information through his personal Facebook account.

The Tribe has a strong record of internal and external financial auditing that it undergoes annually, and has taken steps to help ensure its financial health.

Tribal Council voted to release Jake Suppah from the duties of the Secretary-Treasurer effective April 1, 2015.

“Tribal leaders and our appointed executive staff have the responsibility to uphold the Tribe’s best interest and to work on behalf of all 5,219 Tribal members,” said Tribal Chairman Austin Greene Jr. “For the first time in our history, we’ve had to remove an individual serving in this capacity. This decision was extremely difficult but we felt it was a necessary step we had to take.”

The Tribe’s Constitution and By-Laws give the Tribal Council the authority to appoint tribal officials including the Secretary-Treasurer, and the membership of other subordinate boards. The Secretary-Treasurer serves as the Tribes’ top executive, oversees the Tribal organization, and implements Tribal Council priorities, as well as the laws and policies of the Tribe.

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs consists of the Wasco, Warm Springs, and Northern Paiute tribes and is located in Central Oregon.

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