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BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (AP) -- The Northwestern Band of the Shoshone tribal council has suspended the top two executives of the tribe's economic development company after a company accountant leveled allegations of embezzlement, tax fraud and corporate mismanagement.
The allegations include that Chief Operating Officer Mike Devine has been reimbursed for nonbusiness expenses, such as his mortgage and his daughter's LDS mission expenses, and that executives spent lavishly on travel, ringing up $163,000 on airline tickets, dining, entertainment and motels in the past year.
Devine has denied any wrongdoing and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Parry is standing by him.
"I'm absolutely certain we'll withstand any scrutiny," Devine said.
The council wanted to suspend only Devine, but Parry insisted he be suspended while the allegations are investigated by law enforcement.
"I'm ultimately responsible," Parry said.
Parry will remain on the tribal council, but has resigned his chairmanship. Gwen Davis was elected chairwoman. Devine is not a member of the tribe.
The suspensions came at the end of a seven-hour meeting Saturday in which Parry's four children, grandchildren and wife of 50 years accused Devine of stealing from the tribe's company.
In 2003, the council set up NWB Economic Development to pursue business ventures from its Salt Lake City office.
Devine runs the business. Its subsidiaries are involved in construction and translation work for the government as well as development of geothermal projects in southern Idaho and northern Utah. The latter have yet to secure financing.
According to usaspending.gov, the company, through subsidiary NWB Technology, has had more than $28 million in federal contracts since 2004, although the value of contracts dropped dramatically in fiscal 2009.
The allegations were detailed by one of Parry's grandsons, Chase Parry, an accountant who joined NWB Economic Development in August and said he found it struggling to pay vendors. Many are threatening lawsuits for nonpayment, he said.
He said he has already contacted the federal Small Business Administration and state and federal tax authorities. Other tribal members said they intend to go to the FBI.
Among his disclosures were that Devine signed a $15,000 check made out in his own name in September. An attached invoice said the money was for Devine's mortgage, his daughter's mission expenses and for household utilities, Chase Parry said.
Devine said the invoice was a household budget that was erroneously placed with other papers detailing personal expenses charged to credit cards that he uses for business and personal expenses.
"I don't expect the tribe to pay for my daughter's mission," he said.
Divine has an agreement with the company to be paid $250,000 a year, but has agreed to smaller paychecks, Parry said. Last year, Devine was paid $180,000, he said.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)