RIVERTON — The Northern Arapaho Business Council has filed a lawsuit against its former longtime law firm, Lander-based Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd. The suit, approved on a 4-2 council vote in a meeting conducted without the dissenting two of the six council members, claims the law firm withheld tribal funding and documents that should have been returned to the tribe amid the transition from one law firm to the next.

In a public statement, the council majority also wrote that the law firm was overpaid by former Wind River Hotel and Casino CEO Jim Conrad.

At the time of the severance, the council majority had issued a written demand for “Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd to return all tribal documents and files currently in their possession to the tribe.” Council members wrote further in a letter to Arapaho program directors that the decision to fire the long-term legal counsel was intended to “preserve the sovereignty of this tribe and to secure self-governance for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.”

Tribal leaders then hired Atlanta-based Kilpatrick Townsend to represent them and their interests during the “time of transition.”

Kilpatrick Townsend is representing the NABC in its current lawsuit against its longterm legal counsel.

A separate statement published on the tribes’ Facebook page emphasized the entity’s sovereignty: “For too long, the Northern Arapaho Tribe has been dominated by interests outside our community who have undermined our sovereign right as a people to govern ourselves,” the council members wrote. “These forces have made millions upon millions of dollars for themselves while too many of our people suffer. No more,” the post reads.

The tribe said the forces cited would “gather to try and insert themselves back into a position of dominance over our people,” and that “they are attempting to infiltrate our politics and manipulate our internal affairs.”

The four council members’ accusations against their severed law firm prompted pushback in the form of a letter from Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd’s representation to the tribe’s transitory legal counsel. It calls into question the new lawyers’ interests and ethics and says that “all tribal trust funds have been returned and no new matters have been undertaken” by Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd.

The letter alleges, moreover, that there is a majority faction within the Northern Arapaho

Business Council itself which operates through strong-arm tactics, and that NABC chairman Lee Spoonhunter “has called upon the Finance Office staff to physically assault the co-chairman’s daughter. The chairman’s brother has taken to Facebook to make menacing threats against the co-chairman Al Addison and other tribal employees. People have been made to fear for their safety and livelihood.”

The letter also references the factious nature of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, which, according to a statement by cochairman Al Addison and council member Samuel Dresser, convened without their knowledge to catalyze the lawsuit against their law firm.

 

By Clair McFarland

Riverton Ranger Via Wyoming News Exchange