Billy Malone, an Indian trader forced out of Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Arizona by National Park Service investigators, is taking his case for damages to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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.
Last year Mr. Malone and WNPA reached an out-of-court settlement, and in June the district court dismissed the WNPA from the matter and two days later turned down the Indian trader's request to reconsider the case against the NPS defendants.
In taking the matter to the 9th Circuit Court, Mr. Malone's lawyers ask that the judges agree Park Service defendants in the case conspired to deprive Mr. Malone of his personal property and remand the matter to the district court for trial.
In arguing their case, they note that an NPS special agent called in by the agency to investigate how the raid on Hubbell Trading Post was conducted concluded a conspiracy did indeed exist.
"Even if the conspiracy was not plain on the face of the complaint, the District Court found 'all of the Defendants were somehow involved in the events surrounding the seizure of [Malone’s] property,'" the appeal (attached below) to the 9th Circuit states.
"These facts support the inference the defendants agreed to help the WNPA keep Malone’s property and later sell it, as a way for the WNPA to recoup the funding of the NPS’s investigation," the filing adds a bit later.
"This agreement suggests that the NPS defendants and other government officials agreed to act in concert with the WNPA defendants to violate Malone’s constitutional rights, by illegally taking and keeping his property to fund the investigation, a fact necessary to support an inference that the defendants agreed to work together to accomplish the same unlawful objective."