By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Although a federal agency implicated two Wind River Indian Reservation school administrators in a sweeping misconduct report which detailed an alcohol-fueled party with a topless student dancer, a state investigative committee last week cleared the pair of wrongdoing.
An unnamed source whose written statement was referenced in a Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) report in April had accused Matt and Macey Mortimore, St. Stephen’s Indian School administrators, of being at an alcohol-fueled party where a student danced topless.
In response, the Wyoming Professional Teaching and Standards Board (PTSB) appointed an investigative committee to the case. School teachers and administrators in Wyoming must be licensed through the PTSB.
Investigators found no evidence to support the bureau’s accusation, according to an Aug. 12 letter from the board to Matt Mortimore.
The investigative panel consisted of two PTSB members, the board’s disciplinary specialist Jillian Reagan, the board’s executive director, assistant director, and prosecuting attorney. It met Aug. 12 to review the results of its three-month investigation.
Reagan then sent letters to both Mortimores letting them know the panel found no evidence of misconduct, including misconduct involving harassment or alcohol use.
“Our investigative committee found they did not violate anything,” Reagan told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.
Macey Mortimore said she was grateful for the chance to clear their names.
“We knew we didn’t do anything wrong so it’s great that the truth is out there in writing,” Macey Mortimore told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “It also makes me hopeful that we will stop being judged for something we didn’t do and instead for all of the good things we’ve done.”
Matt Mortimore called it a “relief.”
Both remain licensed to work in Wyoming schools.
The Professional Teaching and Standards Board has scheduled an Oct. 17 meeting to review its investigative committee’s findings.
The Intertribal Business Council, which is a joint governing board consisting of Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone leaders, in April voted to fire many St. Stephen’s Indian School staffers and the school’s entire board.
The council also released the Bureau of Indian Education report to the public.
Matt Mortimore was one of the staffers fired; Macey was allowed to teach until the final days of school, when she was placed on unpaid leave.
The tribes retroceded the school to the Bureau of Indian Education, which is a process by which tribal entities can turn a school over to federal control if they feel the school needs intervention.
The school’s superintendent Frank No Runner, elementary school principal Greg Juneau, and meals supervisor Pattee Bement also were fired at that time following a slew of allegations of sexual and other kinds of misconduct involving staffers and students.
No Runner did not keep an interview appointment with Cowboy State Daily to discuss the case.
The council passed a resolution barring No Runner, Juneau, Bement, and Matt Mortimore from ever working on the Wind River Indian Reservation again.
Macey Mortimore said she and Matt hope to have the tribal government reconsider his employment banishment.
“Even on my parents’ farm, he couldn’t work,” she said. “Because it lies within the external boundaries of the reservation.”
Jordan Dresser, Chairman of the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s governing council, did not offer a comment following a text inquiry sent Tuesday. The council’s spokesman Matt Benson also did not comment following a Wednesday inquiry.
Eastern Shoshone Tribal spokesman Alejandra Silva said on Wednesday that she would ask the Shoshone tribe’s governing council if it would like to speak on the issue.
According to the Mortimores, the PTSB’s investigative panel contacted witnesses from the BIE report, asked the BIE for documentation, and vetted witness statements against established facts to determine witness credibility.
The Mortimores said the BIE did not provide its investigation materials to the state board.
The BIE did not return a voicemail and email on Tuesday.
Reagan said she could not yet comment on the panel’s investigative methods.
The Mortimores have had no luck finding new jobs.
Macey Mortimore said they both still want to work in education. They’ve applied for various jobs in Fremont County schools. In some cases, they’re denied interviews altogether; in others, they’re simply denied the job, she said.
“We’re just getting ghosted,” said Macey Mortimore. She noted that she has two master’s degrees in education.
“If I would have interviewed with these districts two years ago, I feel like, I would have been inundated with offers,” she said.