Too Many Chiefs

The only center Dallas has to help Native Americans is mired in ineptitude and tribal politics

The center's records show that $20,000 was transferred from the holding company account into a trust account on May 30 to pay Gibbs. The money was transferred before the board had even voted to pay the attorneys, apparently at Oakes' direction.

On just one accounting covering 11 days of billing, Gibbs received $7,375 and Peters $10,446 on June 16. Peters' payment included $2,760 for work done on Armstrong's discrimination lawsuit.

Asked about the time they've billed to the center, both attorneys declined to discuss their wages. "I really don't think that's any of your business," Peters says.

At the present rate of billing, DIC will have spent $45,000 on legal fees by the September election.

Gibbs is quick to point out that if Oakes' threatened lawsuit had materialized, DIC would easily have spent $50,000 a month defending itself.

"It's kind of dumb," Carlisle says. "You're paying somebody to sue yourselves. I'm so sick of it, I don't know what to do...Oakes has cost the center over $30,000 for no reason. We could have sat down and thrashed it out without all this shit we're going through."

Somewhere in all the mudslinging, the reason the attorneys were hired has been lost, Gibbs and Peters say. Their goal is to get the center back up to speed. Going without an executive director is not making the restructuring any smoother, Gibbs says.

"It's like trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again," she says. "Somehow, the harder you try to put it together, there is some force that is trying to cause this to fall apart, which then makes you start getting paranoid."

Mary Biermann now thinks she'd like to try again, and has applied to get her old job as executive director back. After two months' rest, she says she's ready to roll up her sleeves and help put the pieces back together again. Some board members have left, she says, and that would make the job easier.

But whether Biermann is rehired or not, the center has a long way to go to attain some semblance of order and stability. For the moment, it risks losing even more of its funding because of the chronic management problems.

"If you were a funding agency, would you want to be doling out funds to a group of people who are basically listing at sea?" asks attorney Gibbs.

Board member Carlisle is trying to be optimistic about the center's prospects. But he admits it won't be easy. "They're going to get their act together, because I'm going to raise enough hell where they'll have to," he says. "My wife told me I was walking into a hornet's nest. I said, 'I'm a mean old son of a bitch anyway. I'll get in there and stir that shit up with them.' So I did, and I am. I'm going to stay there until we get it straight.

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THE DALLAS INTER-TRIBAL CENTER was started by one person Bernice Johnson. Who saw that their was need for the Native American who lived in the Dallas Metro area. Please give credit where credit is deserve. Thank you.