Director of Bureau of Indian Ed Demoted After Nepotism Found

(Photo: US News)

(Photo: US News)

This week, the director of the federal agency that manages education for American Indian students, Charles “Monty” Roessel, was demoted. He had used his authority, said a federal watchdog, to get jobs for a romantic interest and a relative.

Felicia Fonseca of the Associated Press writes that Roessel abused his influence as director of the Bureau of Indian Education, which he has led since late 2013, to help the woman in question receive multiple jobs and to get a close relative a position with the Navajo Nation. A report concerning Roeller’s activities was written by the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General, who was advised of the issue by an unidentified bureau official.

In the meantime, the bureau’s acting director will be Ann Marie Bledsoe, who has been a deputy assistant secretary for the Interior Department. The bureau supervises almost 200 schools for American Indian students in roughly 20 states, most of which are on rural reservations.

Rundown classrooms and the absence of regular inspections at dozens of schools has caused the bureau to face examination recently for putting young people at risk.

Mr. Roessel is an experienced educator whose family was involved in establishing the first US tribal college on the Navajo reservation.

The report says that Roessel first helped the woman get employment in 2013, She came on board as an emergency employee when Roessel requested that a human resources official help him find her a position.

At another time, the former director asked an education specialist how he could get the woman a job at the Bureau of Indian Education community school, in spite of the principal at the school explaining that he did not have an open position.

Then, again, Roessel selected the woman with whom he had a romantic relationship to be a program analyst in Washington, D.C. He explained that the selection was appropriate because she was the most qualified and he was not her immediate supervisor.

A human resources official said the director did not pressure him to hire the woman nor did he feel there was anything improper about the placement.

He met the woman when she was an employee at the Navajo Department of Diné Education, the report says. Although they first told the investigators they were not romantically involved, they later admitted they had hugged, kissed and spent time together outside of work.

When Roessel suggested a position for an educator who could move among three schools in the Navajo region, his relative was chosen to be the top candidate. The position was eliminated, however, when two of the principals said they could not afford to pay their portions of the suggested salary.

The job was put back on the table when Roessel and his staff chose to use money from a US Department of Education to come up with the salary, says the report.

Later an education specialist appointed another candidate for the job, but Roessel discredited her choice and later, knowing his relative was the only prospect left on the certification list, he understood that his relative would automatically get the job.