Honors and accolades are plentiful in Nikishina Polequaptewa's life, but the Garden Grove resident and founding director of the American Indian Resource Center at UC Irvine might be in the battle of his life.
In April 2014, Blue Stone Strategy Group, LLC of Irvine hired Polequaptewa as a senior consultant. The relationship soured, however, within six months during a company retreat in Fort Lauderdale. His employers didn't just file a federal lawsuit in late November claiming Polequaptewa stole trade secrets and sabotaged company computer records. They also instigated a preliminary FBI investigation that appears to be ongoing.
But Polequaptewa, who denies wrongdoing, is telling a far different story in court. In his version, he's the victim of company bosses that won his services and then breached their contract by unacceptably demanding he must spend six days a week in Florida for at least half a year.
More specifically, he says he quit after filing two whistleblower complaints that protested Blue Stone "improperly paying" money to Indian gaming officials, tribal leaders and a New Mexico politician to secure contracts, according to court records.
This month inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Polequaptewa filed a counter suit. "Polequaptewa felt that Blue Stone deceived him, ignored his concerns and retaliated against him," states a court brief that goes on to claim company officials misled Fort Lauderdale police to confiscate his personal computer and concocted a disingenuous lawsuit.
He also says his personal email accounts were hacked and that Blue Stone officials have refused to return to him more than $4,000 worth of his personal property.
"I am not the only native America employee that they have treated badly by this deceptive company that is managed by non-natives," Polequaptewa said.
He had hoped U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney would place the civil case on hold until the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office in Santa Ana concludes a probe. But the judge declined earlier this month, saying, "The defendant has not provided any information as to the substance of the investigation." He also invited Polequaptewa to "renew his motion after the facts of the investigation develop or charges are brought."
It's unclear when Carney will conduct the next hearing in the case.
In 2009, President Bill Clinton honored the affable Polequaptewa, who has also received "Special Congressional Recognition" for his activities on behalf of Hopi and other native Americans.
Jamie Fullmer, a former chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, founded Blue Stone, which provides consulting services for tribal leadership, governance and economic plans.