Haskell Indian Nations University has released a new statement clearing up some discrepancy about an investigation into alleged nepotism at the school.
While a federal human resources investigation into the nepotism complaint has concluded, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General continues.
On Tuesday, Haskell administration released a statement saying that the Office of Inspector General investigation had concluded and found the nepotism complaint to be unsubstantiated. On Thursday, Haskell issued a new statement saying the earlier one, “which was made in good faith, was erroneous.”
It was not the Office of Inspector General investigation that was completed, but actually an internal investigation conducted by the Bureau of Indian Education’s Human Resources Office, Haskell’s new statement said. According to the statement, the Bureau of Indian Education investigation found “no evidentiary basis exists to support a finding of wrongdoing on Dr. (Venida) Chenault’s part,” the investigation has been closed and a finding has been issued that no disciplinary or other corrective action needed to be taken.
A complaint accused Chenault, the university's president, of engaging in nepotism by supervising her son, Joshua Arce, while he served as acting dean of students for a period of eight months earlier this year. Arce’s permanent position at Haskell is chief information officer. He was removed as acting dean of students effective Sept. 1.
Multiple federal offices are involved in overseeing Haskell, the only four-year university operated by the federal Bureau of Indian Education. The Bureau of Indian Education is within the U.S. Department of Interior.
An Office of Inspector General investigation into Haskell remains ongoing, a spokeswoman for the office told the Journal-World Tuesday.
Haskell’s new statement said that the Bureau of Indian Education submitted its investigation results to the Office of Inspector General “for transparency and mutual cooperation purposes.”
“The University incorrectly assumed that the internal investigation was the only investigation and that it was being conducted cooperatively between BIE Human Resources and the Office of Inspector General,” Haskell’s new statement said. “Currently, we are still awaiting the issuance of a final investigation report from the Office of Inspector General regarding the complaint filed against Dr. Chenault. Haskell Indian Nations University sincerely apologizes for its oversight and for not being more careful in ensuring the accuracy of its initial release of information on this matter.”