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Fort Berthold Reservation tribal members question chairman’s business dealings

Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall, pictured May 8, 2013, near Makoti, N.D., speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for a refinery owned by the tribe. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

NEW TOWN, N.D. -- Pressure is building on the Fort Berthold Reservation for tribal leaders to take action after details in a criminal investigation raised questions about Tribal Chairman Tex Hall’s business relationships.

The chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes is linked in court documents to James Terry Henrikson, 34, who is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and is suspected of hiring another man to kill a business associate in Spokane, Wash.

Court records say Henrikson and two other people who worked for Maheshu Energy, an oil company controlled by Hall, are under federal investigation for allegedly defrauding the company out of millions of dollars.

Records from the investigation into the death of Doug Carlile also include an interview with an informant who says Henrikson wanted to have Hall killed, and also connect Henrikson to KC Clarke, a man who disappeared last year.

The business relationship between Hall and Henrikson, a five-time convicted felon, is worrying many tribal members, said Theodora Bird Bear, a tribal member from Mandaree.

“Henrikson has a violent past and he’s associated with other violent individuals,” Bird Bear said. “Alarm bells are just ringing for people.”

It’s also raising questions about potential conflicts of interest involving Hall’s company, a tribal contract and Blackstone Oil Field Services, a company associated with Henrikson.

The conflict of interest issue – Hall owning an oil and gas services company while also serving as chairman of the Tribal Business Council that regulates oil and gas activity on the reservation – has been questioned before but never addressed by tribal leaders, said Vance Gillette, a tribal member and attorney who lives in New Town.

“They should suspend him, investigate him,” Gillette said.

A draft tribal resolution that has circulated online among tribal members seeks to suspend Hall for 30 days and conduct an independent investigation into potential inappropriate expenditure of tribal funds involving Blackstone Oil Field Services.

The resolution says the company, associated with Henrikson and his wife, Sarah Creveling, received nearly $588,300 between December 2011 and June 2012 for “alleged road watering work” on two tribal roads. The document also says the payment to Blackstone may have included a payment to a company owned by Hall.

Attempts to reach Hall Wednesday were unsuccessful. Hall issued a statement in January that said he had been fully cooperating with investigators for months. Hall also emphasized that he has had “zero connection or affiliation with any gangs.”

Henrikson told investigators he has connections to organized crime in California.

Glenda Baker-Embry, a spokeswoman for the tribe, said a resolution seeking a suspension and investigation of Hall failed on Jan. 31 at the Tribal Business Council budget meeting.

Tribal Business Council members either declined to comment Wednesday or did not return calls seeking comment. The seven-member group headed by Hall meets at 10 a.m. today.

Tribal members, who have been turning to social media to discuss the draft resolution and seek information, are looking for the Tribal Business Council to take some action, said Charles Hudson, a tribal member who lives in Portland, Ore., and has been closely following the developments.

“I want to see some evidence that this Tribal Business Council can step up and fulfill some of its basic obligations to the people, particularly a fiduciary responsibility and holding each other accountable to some standards of conduct and good faith,” Hudson said.

Tribal member Kandi Mossett said she recently discovered photos of Hall vacationing in Hawaii in 2012 with Henrikson and Creveling on Facebook and posted them on the Facebook page People for Fort Berthold Environmental Awareness. Those photos, later removed from the page but still floating around online, prompted more questions about how closely Hall associated with Henrikson, Mossett said.

“That’s how the firestorm continued,” Mossett said.

Tribal members also are concerned about a lack of transparency with the Tribal Business Council. Bird Bear said she attended the Jan. 31 meeting but left at 2:30 p.m. after it went into a closed-door session.

“It’s not a transparent government. People want to feel confident about their government. But the transparency and the accountability is not there,” Bird Bear said.

Henrikson has not been charged in the death of Carlile, who was found shot to death on the kitchen floor of his Spokane home on Dec. 15.

However, court documents suggest investigators believe Henrikson may have hired out the killing to 50-year-old Timothy Suckow, who was arrested Jan. 14 and charged with first-degree premeditated murder in Spokane County Superior Court.

A federal grand jury indicted Henrikson on seven counts of felon in possession of a firearm and one count of felon in possession of ammunition.

Henrikson pleaded not guilty to all eight charges on Monday in U.S. District Court in Bismarck.

A jury trial is set for April 1. Henrikson is being held in federal custody without bail.