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Tribes want governor to apologize for firing Indian Affairs director

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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert hosted Native American tribal leaders Wednesday to discuss the sudden dismissal earlier this month of Indian Affairs director Forrest Cuch — but his efforts have left tribal leaders wanting.

Some tribes are still "very upset" that Cuch was fired without warning from the position he held since 1997, Utah Tribes Chairman Kenneth Maryboy said Wednesday after the council's quarterly meeting at the Little America hotel. He said the council plans to send the governor a letter asking for an apology for the way he was dismissed.

Cuch, who was not invited to the meeting, said he has never been given an explanation as to why he was fired and hasn't spoken with the governor or any member of his staff since he was let go Feb. 26 through a letter read to him by a supervisor.

"I think he deserves to know why he was terminated," Maryboy said.

The governor's spokeswoman, Ally Isom, said in a statement issued late Wednesday that Herbert felt Cuch "was not as engaged and productive as a liaison to the tribes as he should have been."

She said tribal leaders seemed satisfied with the governor's explanation during the two-hour meeting, and that their request for an apology "appears to be a complete 180 degrees from earlier today."

But Cuch, a member of the Ute Indian Tribe, said he spoke with Ute chairman Richard Jenks Jr. and that Jenks felt the explanation the governor gave at the meeting "wasn't to his satisfaction."

During the meeting, the governor asked tribal leaders for input in choosing a new director. He is looking for "someone with passion about their duties and delivering results," Isom said.

"I look forward to working with the tribes to find a replacement to improve our relations with the Native American tribes and help us get things done," Herbert said in a statement.

E-mail: averzello@desnews.com