A lawsuit brought against National Park Service personnel by an Indian trader forced out of Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Arizona is continuing, with an effort to have a judge reconsider the matter.
The government has until the end of Monday, March 12, to respond to the new claims (attached below) made by Billy Malone's attorney, William Hobson.
The case dates to early 2004, when the Western National Parks Association approached officials in the Park Service's Intermountain Region officials with concerns that Mr. Malone, then the resident Indian trader at Hubbell Trading Post, might be embezzling from the trading post.
Those charges were never substantiated. Instead, the Park Service conducted an investigation of its own initial Hubbell investigation, and then the Inspector General's office conducted yet another investigation of the investigation. In the end, it's been estimated that more than $1 million was spent by the Park Service on the matter, which ended without any charges brought against Mr. Malone.
Through its investigation, the Inspector General's Office "determined that the NPS failed to protect the confidentiality of the investigation, and we found that an improper relationship existed between NPS and WNPA, a nonprofit organization that operates the Hubbell Trading Post under a cooperative agreement with NPS."
There never was any public mention of whether the Park Service took any action against any of its employees involved in the matter.
Mr. Malone brought a civil lawsuit against a number of Intermountain Region staff, including then-Regional Director Steve Martin and his deputy, Mike Snyder, as well as Clyde Yee, a special agent for the region. In that lawsuit, which asked for compensatory damages to be determined at trial, Mr. Malone accused the Park Service personnel of misconduct and wrongful seizure of his personal property, and also alleged that Park Service officials collaborated with officials from the Western National Parks Association in trying to build a case against him.
However, a judge two years ago removed the Park Service officials from the matter, saying he didn’t think a case could be built to show a conspiracy against Mr. Malone existed between the NPS and WNPA.
But this past January Mr. Hobson filed a motion asking the judge to reconsider the lawsuit, saying new information had come to light that merited attention. The attorney also voiced his contention that the judge had erred in dismissing the lawsuit in the first case.
In that request, Mr. Hobson cites documents uncovered through Freedom of Information Act requests, as well as details in a book written by Paul Berkowitz, the special agent who investigated the initial Park Service investigation into Hubbell Trading Post.
"Recently obtained reports and documents, along with Berkowitz’s book, The Case of the Indian Trader: Billy Malone and the National Park Service Investigation at Hubbell Trading Post, detail the entire investigation against Malone, providing information that previously was unknown," Mr. Hobson noted in his motion for reconsideration. "These records support the inference that the defendants worked together to accomplish an unlawful objective and then, in concert with attorneys from both the DOI solicitor’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, worked together to conceal their own misconduct."
As evidence of that concealment, Park Service's documents related to the investigation showed that the assistant U.S. attorney assigned to defend against the lawsuit filed by Mr. Malone specifically told the Inspector General's Office that he did not want a copy of its investigation sent to him out of concerns he in turn would have to provide it to Mr. Malone's attorneys as part of discovery in the case.
Additionally, Mr. Hobson maintained in his latest motion that a jury could reasonably conclude that rugs, jewelry and other items seized from Mr. Malone's home on June 9, 2004, by a well-armed contingent of Park Service law enforcement officers and special agents "was Malone’s, and that NPS and WNPA agreed to seize and sell it" to raise funds to pay for the ongoing investigation.
"Malone informed the NPS, at the time they were taking his property, that it was his personal property, and much of the property was marked and identified with Malone family name on the property itself," the filing states.
Further, the filing alleges that the Park Service worked to cover its tracks in the investigation and attempted to "tamper with evidence" and other documents.
While Mr. Hobson waits to see the government's response to his motion for reconsideration, he also has been trying to negotiate a settlement with the Western National Parks Association.