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John Daley reportingThe disputed leader of the Skull Valley tribe says he's done nothing wrong and is cooperating with federal investigators.
Two weeks ago, federal agents seized documents from embattled Goshute Tribal Chairman, Leon Bear's office as part of an on-going investigation. Today Bear told Eyewitness News his side of the story.
For years there have been plenty of unanswered questions swirling around Leon Bear, his disputed leadership, and the proposal to store high-level nuclear waste on the reservation's land. Today he defended the proposal and defended himself regarding allegations of corruption.
For years, it's been the topic controversy and mystery. The Skull Valley Goshute Tribe made a deal to store on its land some of the nation's most poisonous waste (spent fuel rods) from nuclear plants. Estimates of the price the nuclear consortium Private Fuel Storage planned to pay the tribe for doing that business varied wildly from 40 million to 200 million dollars.
But a visit to the reservation shows little sign of any economic benefit for the roughly two- dozen members who live there, except for the fleet on new vehicles at times seen in front of disputed Chairman Leon Bear's house.
Recently, federal agents seized documents from Bear's office and rival tribal members have accused him of fraud and corruption. But, today Bear denied any wrongdoing.
Leon Bear/Disputed Goshute Chairman " ALL THE OPPOSITION PEOPLE HAVE STATED AN ALLEGATION, THEY'VE MADE ACCUSATIONS, BUT WHERE ARE THE FACTS?"
We asked Bear how much money the tribe has been paid and where it is.
Leon Bear/Disputed Goshute Chairman "I'M HELD UNDER A CONFIDENTIALITY RESOLUTION TO NOT SPEAK ABOUT TRIBAL BUSINESS."
Bear calls the efforts of the governor and others to derail the project a "fiasco."
Leon Bear/Disputed Goshute Chairman "I THINK THE BAND CAN SURVIVE THE SCRUTINY OF ALL THE INTERROGATIONS. I DON'T BELIEVE THE BAND HAS DONE ANYTHING WRONG. WE'RE JUST TRYING TO DO A SIMPLE PROJECT FOR SKULL VALLEY FOR ECONOMICS. IF IT WOULDN'T BE THIS PROJECT, IT'LL BE ANOTHER PROJECT SOMEPLACE ELSE."
"MAYBE THE GOSHUTE PEOPLE, WE'RE NOT AS STUPID AS PEOPLE THINK WE ARE. WE HAVE ECONOMIC SENSE."
We also spoke with Margene Bullcreek today, she's one of the tribal leaders who disputes Bear's legitimacy as tribal leader. About the investigation, she said "it's about time, but we still need to solve the leadership issue."
Of course, that is still a very much an unresolved issue.