SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert has fired the director of the state's Division of Indian Affairs, but declined to say why.
Herbert spokeswoman Ally Isom told the Deseret News that the governor wants to take the division in a different direction, and won't comment on the reason for Forrest Cuch's firing because it was a personnel matter.
Cuch, who had held the position since 1997, said no reason was given when he was dismissed Thursday. He said he did not consider himself especially outspoken, despite having to act as a liaison between tribes and various groups on "highly political" issues.
"It was a big-time shock. I was traumatized," Cuch said. "I never thought I would be treated this way for 131/2 years of service. I did some good work for the state, and I didn't deserve to be treated this way."
He cited his work in an ongoing controversy over a proposed Utah Transit Authority FrontRunner stop near a 3,000-year-old Indian archaeological site in Draper, as well as water rights disputes involving the Goshutes and Utes, and questions about law enforcement jurisdiction in the Uintah Basin.
Cuch, in an e-mail to friends, wrote that he thought he handled those issues "properly and professionally but apparently not to the liking of the governor."
Isom said the Utah Transit Authority dispute had "absolutely nothing" to do with Cuch's dismissal.
Cuch also said Utes had recently raised business taxes on companies working on their reservation, prompting complaints to the governor's office from several contractors. Cuch said one in particular became upset, and Herbert asked Cuch to respond to the matter.
Still, he said he has no idea why he was fired, he said.
Cuch said he plans to start a consulting company and work on building the nonprofit organization Rising American Indian Nations.
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell has taken over Cuch's duties while Herbert works with Utah's Indian tribes to find a replacement, Isom said.
Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com