The former administrator of the Skagway Traditional Council is facing four charges of embezzlement.
Delia Commander now lives in Oregon. But the allegations stem from her time as administrator of the Skagway tribal organization.
The Alaska U.S. Attorney’s office says Commander embezzled about $300,000 from the council between 2010 and 2014. Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward says Commander used the tribal credit card at casinos and to pay for things like personal travel, shopping, online university courses, vehicle maintenance and more.
Sara Kinjo-Hischer is the Skagway Traditional Council’s current tribal administrator. She was hired after Commander resigned in late 2014. Kinjo-Hischer says shortly after she started the job, she reviewed the council’s financial records and found practices that concerned her.
“These concerns were reported to the council and tribal funders,” Kinjo-Hischer read from a statement. “As a result, the [Bureau of Indian Affairs] through the Dept. of Interior launched an investigation. We will continue to cooperate whenever needed with the investigators and the U.S. Attorney.”
Kinjo-Hischer says the council does not expect to recover any of the money that was allegedly embezzled. However, she says the organization is financially secure and has made changes to try to prevent misuse of funds.
“The council and the staff here looked very closely at our financial systems and are very committed to a sound management of tribal resources,” Kinjo-Hischer said.
The council has about 90 tribal members.
A grand jury in Anchorage indicted Commander on one count of embezzlement from an Indian tribal organization and three counts of embezzlement from an organization receiving federal funds.
The indictment says the Skagway Traditional Council received more than $150,000 in federal money annually during the years in question. The funding’s purpose was to promote education, housing, environmental and self-governance programs.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or both.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office says the investigation was conducted by the Department of Interior Office of the Inspector General and the FBI.
Commander was the Skagway Traditional Council tribal administrator for about six years, between 2008 and 2014.
Court records show her arraignment is set for June 1 in Anchorage.