By Joe Morey
At their meeting on Monday, Oct. 5, the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) made it official to hire Jenner & Block by ratifying their earlier decision to retain the law firm to contest handing over any financial documentation requested by Indian Health Service federal investigators in regards to a federal investigation into alleged wrongdoings at the Tribe’s clinic.
During discussion, LCO Secretary-Treasurer Michelle Beaudin explained why she believed it was necessary to hire the firm. She said the Tribe often hires specialty attorneys, such as Rozette Law Firm that represents LCO Financial Services.
“We have outside attorneys hired that are working with us in other lawsuits,” Beaudin stated. “Our Legal Department is swamped with the work we give them. Our attorneys don’t feel like they have enough experience for this investigation. Jenner & Block will protect us in our sovereignty. They will review everything before it goes out to the investigators so that we have a handle on the situation. It’s not to hide anything.”
TGB Member Glenda Barber added anyone who talks with the investigators who didn’t have legal counsel, their statements can be used against them and it might be false information.
LCO Chairman Louis Taylor stated in an earlier story that the original scope of the investigation included looking at 40 directors and all the employees across the Tribe, but now they are just looking at the TGB, Accounting, Human Resources and the Health Center. He noted this should drastically reduce the attorney fees. He also stated the TGB hasn’t seen any background information on the law firm.
The retainer for the law firm is between $100,000 and $150,000.
TGB Member Tweed Shuman said their insurance company, MB Insurance, recommended another company, Husch Blackwell out of Milwaukee who had a much more reasonable retainer. MB insurance said Jenner & Block are too high.
“Our insurance will only cover so much and the Tribe would have to pay the rest versus with Hush Blackwell, they would pay for it all and we wouldn’t have to manage payments,” stated Shuman.
TGB Member Don Carley said Jenner & Block represent a pharmaceutical company the Tribe is in a lawsuit against. He said Jenner & Block want the Tribe to sign a waiver regarding the lawsuit.
“This is a conflict of interest or they wouldn’t want us to sign the waiver. The waiver is right in the contract,” explained Carley.
Tweed said they also represent another company the Tribe is in a lawsuit against.
Beaudin responded that Jenner & Block are a nationwide law firm, so the guys they have on this case wouldn’t be the same ones working on the lawsuit.
Shuman requested a roll call vote. Beaudin, Barber and Gouge all voted in favor of ratifying the contract to hire Jenner & Block, while Shuman and Carley voted against. Gary “Little Guy” Clause abstained from voting. Chairman Taylor said for the record, “I would have voted no if I had a vote.”
Carley also wanted to add for the record, “I voted no to protect our other lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. In my mind, this is a conflict of interest and in the agreement they’ve asked that it be waived, so now it’s waived.”
Describing themselves as a litigation powerhouse, Jenner & Block is a law firm of international reach with more than 500 lawyers in five offices, including Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC.