Indian education director demoted amid hiring allegations

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The director of the federal agency that oversees education for American Indian children was demoted Wednesday after a federal watchdog found he used his influence to get agency jobs for a close relative and a woman with whom he had a romantic relationship.

The report found Charles “Monty” Roessel abused his position as director of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education to help the woman get multiple jobs and to secure the relative a position on the Navajo Nation.

Roessel has led the bureau since late 2013. He is a longtime educator whose family helped found the country’s first tribal college on the Navajo reservation.

The Interior Department said it wanted to take immediate action given the gravity of the report released Wednesday by its Office of Inspector General.

Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes, a deputy assistant secretary under the Interior Department, will take over as the bureau’s acting director.

The Bureau of Indian Education oversees nearly 200 schools serving American Indian children in some 20 states, mostly on rural reservations. It has faced scrutiny recently for rundown classrooms and for failing to conduct regular inspections at dozens of schools, putting children at risk.

The inspector general’s investigation was prompted by complaints from an unidentified bureau official who alleged Roessel asserted improper influence over the hirings.

Roessel didn’t immediately reply to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.