Monthly Archives: September 2011

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9/30/2011 Gallup Independent: No k'e for Shelly after veto

9/30/2011 Gallup Independent: No k’e for Shelly after veto By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – When it comes to money, even among the closest of kin, relationships can become strained. Nowhere was that more evident than Thursday’s Nabiki’yati’ Committee when delegates basically threw k’e out the window and hammered Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly at length for slashing their budget. Exercising line-item veto authority, Shelly cut more than $2 million from the Legislative Branch budget for Fiscal Year 2012. He whittled $130,050 from the travel budget for the Resources and Development Committee chaired by Delegate Katherine Benally after she gutted $433,988 from the Executive Branch budget.

The money intended for Executive salary adjustments and consultant fees Benally gave to a private day-care facility and the Navajo Area Agency on Aging – before Shelly’s line-item veto wiped out her good intentions.

“Anyone wanting to fight the elders, they need to go through me first. Anybody wanting to fight the kids, I’ll take them on. Bring it on, Mr. President!” Benally said.

When it was proposed they invite the president to Nabiki’yati’ and try to talk through their differences, she said, “I will not beg him for a penny.” Then, addressing Shelly in absentia, added, “You practiced your prerogative to veto our committee’s travel line-item. Thank you. We just will not meet.”

Council is in the midst of trying to do a bond initiative for capital improvement projects. Benally said Shelly has been invited to her committee numerous times to discuss his plan for prosperity, but has not come.

“Where’s this pitch that he gives to us about prosperity?” Salaries for the president’s staff range from approximately $70,000 to $93,000, she said. “That’s where the prosperity is, just in his office. I don’t want us going over there and meeting with him. He used and abused that veto power. I say our staff needs to challenge that.”

Lorenzo Curley said this year was the worst budget experience of his eight years on the Navajo Nation Council. “There’s too much exercise of patronage in our budget system and I think that’s what we’re talking about here. We know every year that the Executive budget is padded. Some of us talk about trimming those padded monies in Executive Branch,” he said.

“We kind of give the Executive Branch the respect, the k’e, and so we let it go, and we expect the same reciprocal treatment from the president. It didn’t happen. He double-crossed us,” Curley said.

Alton Shepherd reminded delegates, “ ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’ That’s what the people have given him, and that’s what I, too, have given him as a president” as a result of the line-item veto initiative. “I had to also dread the day when it becomes as painful as using a sword. I think that’s what happened,” he said.

Leonard Tsosie, who represents eight chapters, said it was unfair for the president to have staff assistants and Council not have any. “Because what we were going to work with has been vetoed, maybe we should reexamine the amount of assistants we give him. He’s telling us to make do with nothing, no assistants. Maybe we should limit the number of assistants he has.”

Tsosie said he sent a letter to the president which Shelly said he was going to make public. “I said, ‘So be it. I don’t mind.’ My letter indicated that some of us supported the line-item veto power and we campaigned for it. When we were out there, we didn’t tell the people that it would be used to target political adversaries.”

The recent sequence of events is “like walking on thin ice,” according to Delegate Leonard Pete. He said that when Shelly was a Council delegate he nearly got into a fist fight over an issue that arose on the Council floor. “He was taken out for disorderly conduct. … That kind of a leader, that kind of a person, that kind of a background, I hate to see something started. I hate to see his true colors.”

LoRenzo Bates said later that the president didn’t go back on his word. “They could have had their assistants. But when they went and put in their own personal feelings and agendas and went against the stream, we brought it on ourselves – and my colleagues better realize that.

“If Council chooses to go to war against the president’s office based on his action, and that includes going to court, and the court makes a decision in favor of the president’s office, you have given more authority to the chief justice to make determinations that could give more power to the chief justice to legislate,” Bates said. “If they’re willing to do that, then go for it.”

Walter Phelps told delegates he did not agree with all the sentiments. “I am concerned that we are taking this down the wrong path. I think, in my mind, it’s just a matter of a need to improve areas of communication between Executive and Legislative, and setting down guidelines for future appropriations.”

Speaker Johnny Naize said he was told by the president to bring some more numbers. “I have the numbers available for him. We can negotiate on those numbers.”

He said he would provide a memo to delegates explaining the action they are going to pursue.

9/28/2011 Navajo Times: New special prosecutor to replace Balaran

9/28/2011 Navajo Times: New special prosecutor to replace Balaran By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times: A new special prosecutor for the Navajo Nation is expected to be named within the next 10 days. Dana Bobroff, deputy attorney general for the Navajo Nation’s Department of Justice, told Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry on Monday that the Special Division of Window Rock District Court overseeing the special prosecutor’s assignments was discussing the selection of someone to replace Alan Balaran.

Balaran was hired about 18 months ago by DOJ after members of the Navajo Nation Council decided that a special prosecutor was needed to investigate then President Joe Shirley Jr. because of alleged misconduct in two failed business deals that cost the tribe millions.

Then Attorney General Louis Denetsosie later asked the court to extend the scope of Balaran’s authority to include investigation into alleged misuse of tribal discretionary funds by Council members. Balaran would later file criminal cases against 77 of the 88 members then serving.

Most of the cases were later dropped in favor of civil suits against the same people, plus additional officials including Denetsosie, Shirley, and the tribe’s current attorney general, Harrison Tsosie, and the controller, Mark Grant.

Bobroff, who works for Tsosie, said she met with Special Division officials Monday morning but did not go into detail about what was discussed or whether the court will look in-house for the next special prosecutor or bring someone in from outside the tribe, as with Balaran.

Balaran’s last day is Friday, Sept. 30, but he said he is continuing to work on the cases up to the end, and is making arrangements so that when a new prosecutor is named, that person will be able to pick up where he left off.

9/28/2011 Navajo Times: Mold is suspect in building closure

9/28/2011 Navajo Times: Mold is suspect in building closure By Noel Lyn Smith: Potentially harmful mold inside the tribe’s Administration Building No. 1 has sent approximately 200 tribal employees packing. The building, which houses the Division of Finance, was ordered closed “indefinitely” on Sept. 9 by the Navajo Nation Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which enforces federal and tribal workplace safety laws.

Last Friday about 30 employees stood outside Admin No. 1 with empty boxes, waiting for Incident Management Team members to retrieve documents from the building.

Each department was asked to provide a priority list of essential documents needing retrieval.

A female employee who declined to identify herself said she smelled a “glue like” substance days before the closure. Other employees declined to comment and referred questions to the Incident Management Team.

Before entering the building, retrieval team members dressed in white protective suits and sterile gloves.

A clean room was set up inside and the requested items were brought into that room for decontamination before being removed from the building.

Incident Management Team members returned to the site Monday to continue the remediation process.

NOSHA Director Patrick Sandoval said the investigation and subsequent closure of the building was prompted by complaints from employees.

“It’s the employee’s right to have a safe working environment but it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide that environment,” Sandoval said.

This is the second time the building was closed due to mold in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, where mold spores can be sprayed into the air and inhaled by occupants. The first closure was Sept. 1-5.

As crucial documents were being retrieved last week, Dave Nez with the tribe’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness Office explained that an independent Arizona state-certified microbiologist collected samples to analyze and the results will be released to the Incident Management Team.

Nez said the building had water stains on interior walls and some inside paneling showed signs of bacteria or fungus growth. The mold, which can cause severe respiratory problems, thrives in dark, damp conditions.

Based on assessment reports, a large contributor to the problem is the declining condition of the roof and seepage of moisture into the building, according to an Incident Management Team press release.

The exact age of the building is unknown by most officials estimate it is about 30 years old. It has a history of problems, including a waterline break in 2007 that caused significant water damage.

Executive Office Communications Director Laphillda Tso said Tuesday that the test results had not been released. After they are received the Incident Management Team will determine how to remediate the building, she said, adding that an update on the situation was expected Wednesday.

Potential hazard

Mold colonies can start to grow on a damp surface within 24 to 48 hours and reproduce by releasing tiny spores that float through the air until landing in other locations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mold will continue to grow until steps are taken to eliminate the source of moisture and kill the existing colony.

Only certain molds are toxigenic, which means they can produce toxins but are not toxic by themselves.

It is the mold’s ability to destroy organic material that makes it a health problem for people.

Typical symptoms reported from mold exposure include respiratory problems, nasal and sinus congestion or coughing, irritation to the eyes, nose, throat or skin, headaches and body pains.

Individual with existing respiratory conditions, infants, children, pregnant women, and the elderly are at higher risks for adverse health effects, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

There is no way to eliminate mold but it can be kept to a minimum by preventing moisture from collecting inside. Water seepage, whether from an old roof, leaking pipe, or poor drainage, should never be ignored. Fix leaks immediately and dry out the area that got wet.

No routine inspections

“The Navajo Nation is obligated and liable for upkeep and maintenance services to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for its employees,” according to information posted on the Division of General Services Web site.

However, the tribe does not conduct routine inspections on tribal buildings, said Facilities Management Department Manager Marcus Tulley. Tulley’s department provides repairs and maintenance services to 625 tribal-owned facilities across the Navajo Nation.

Tulley said his department does maintenance service on buildings but only when an employee reports a problem or if an order is issued by NOSHA, the Office of Environmental Health, or the Safety and Loss Control Program.

Information about the closure of Administration Building No. 1 is posted at the building’s entrances in addition to copies of the order of closure.

Programs relocated

The programs housed there have been relocated as follows:

* Most of the controller’s office is now operating out of the Dine Education Center auditorium.
* The Credit Services Department is located at the Ethics and Rules conference room.
* Both the Cashier’s Department and some Accounts Payable staff have relocated to Property Management Department in Fort Defiance.
* Most of the Office of Management and Budget is housed in the Department of Information Technology, but OMB’s Contracts and Grants section is located at the Department of Behavioral Health Services conference room in Administration Building No. 2.
* Administration staff for the Division of General Services is in the Department of Information Technology.
* The Insurances Services Department, and Employee Benefits and Workers Compensation programs are located at the Safety Loss Control Program office inside the Navajo Nation Shopping Center.
* Risk Management is located at the Navajo Nation Museum.
* The Design and Engineering Services Program is located at the Division of Community Development conference room in Administration Building No. 2 but the project management staff is located at the Rural Addressing Office at Navajo Nation Shopping Center.
* The Department of Personnel Management is located at the Training Center.

Most departments have retained the same telephone number and people may call them, or the president’s office, for location information, Tso said. The president’s office also instructed KTNN to announce the relocations.

“We asked them to send out information daily because it’s public information and to relieve the stress on the public that comes out to these departments,” she said.

The building may be closed, but shuttering the Division of Finance was never an option, said Herman Shorty, director of the Office of Environmental Health.

“That’s the heartbeat of the Navajo Nation,” he said. “Everything that is key to the Navajo Nation is associated with that building, so you can’t close down operations.”

Related

Balaran gets court order to protect documents

Rehab fund spending report released: Report details how money intended for victims of the Bennett Freeze, in the Navajo-Hopi land dispute, was spent.

New special prosecutor to replace Balaran: Announcement expected within 10 days.

9/28/2011 Navajo Times: Rehab fund spending report released

Rehab fund spending report released Report details how money intended for victims of the Bennett Freeze, in the Navajo-Hopi land dispute, was spent. 9/28/2011 Navajo Times: Rehab fund spending report release By Noel Lyn Smith: WINDOW ROCK: The Navajo Nation’s Department of Justice has finally produced a draft summary of the accounting record for the Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund. Nine months after being ordered to do so, DOJ submitted the document during a Sept. 21 hearing for the lawsuit filed by the Forgotten People and 12 other individuals who are suing the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission to learn how money has been spent from the fund, which was established by Congress to benefit residents of the former Bennett Freeze and Hopi Partitioned Land.

As their name suggests, the Forgotten People contend that the assistance their region was promised in the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute settlement has failed to materialize, and they suspect the money may have been misspent.

Henry Howe, a DOJ attorney representing the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, submitted an eight-page report that shows trust fund expenditures from 1990 to 2009 that went toward projects on the former Bennett Freeze area, New Lands, Navajo Partitioned Land and Hopi Partitioned Land.

The report also shows amounts Congress appropriated for land purchases and federal appropriation amounts from 1990 to 1995.

“This information provided to plaintiffs demonstrates good faith on behalf of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office,” Howe said, speaking before a courtroom packed with spectators.

When plaintiffs filed their civil complaint in 2010, they asked for a full account of all income, expenses, profits, losses, assets and other financial matters for which the tribe, the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission and the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office have responsibility.

Window Rock District Court Judge T.J. Holgate asked Howe why it took months to produce the report after the court issued an order in January.

Howe explained that it took time to locate accounting documents and it was especially difficult for the office to locate the first five years of records.

Sitting with Howe were Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Chair Lorenzo Curley (Houck/Klagetoh/Nahata Dziil/Tsé si’án’/Wide Ruins) and Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office Director Raymond Maxx and Deputy Director Thomas Benally.

James Zion, attorney for the Forgotten People, asked Holgate for time to examine the record since it was handed to him shortly before the hearing started.

Holgate granted Zion 30 days to review the document and to submit any written responses or questions.

The judge also ordered both parties to continue discussing the issue before the next hearing date in January.

In an impromptu meeting at Veterans Memorial Park after the hearing, Zion told the group that this was just a start.

“Today we had a victory for the Forgotten People,” Zion said to the group of about 30 people.

This document is a start in addressing the issue of when the money was received, how much was received and how it was spent, he said.

Forgotten People member Grace Smith Yellowhammer said it took a long time to obtain this financial record but the group will continue fighting until the issue is completely resolved.

“I want to see these elders win,” she said.

9/24/2011 Gallup Independent: Forum to focus on Navajo-Hopi coal, water issues

9/24/2011 Gallup Independent: Forum to focus on Navajo-Hopi coal, water issues By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The people of the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe are at a crossroads, according to former Hopi Tribal Chairman Ben Nuvamsa. The dilemma hinges on whether to continue accepting pennies on the dollar for their resources from outside entities, or take the bull by the horns and create “economic sovereignty” for themselves.

A public forum sponsored by the Inter-Tribal COALition to address tribal water, coal, environmental, cultural and economic issues affecting the tribes will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 30 on the sixth floor of the Native American Community Building, 4520 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

Presenters include Daniel Higgins, Ph.D., Sean Gnant of the Brewer Law Firm, Milton Bluehouse Sr., and Nuvamsa. Navajo Nation Council delegates, Hopi Tribal Council members, and interested members of both tribes are asked to attend the forum to learn more about their common issues.

“We believe that we are at the crossroads. Many of these entities are after our water and our coal. We kind of stand, so to speak, at the headwaters of all these resources,” Nuvamsa said.

Coal from the tribes is used to generate electricity so the people in southern Arizona, southern California and Nevada will have electricity in their homes. The massive Central Arizona Project depends on power from Navajo Generating Station so the federal government can deliver surface water to tribes and municipalities in southern Arizona, he said.

“The sad part is that these entities that are using these resources to provide these services to the people and generate profits are not paying us at the fair market value for our water and our coal,” while the tribal councils are prematurely agreeing to settlements without properly informing their people, he said.

“For example, the lease reopener that’s before the Hopi Council – there ought to be increased royalties. Instead of one-time bonuses, there ought to be annual bonuses. There ought to be higher scholarships – $85,000 (for Hopi) is nothing.”

In addition, provisions in the proposed Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement could hold Peabody Energy and others harmless for all past, present and future damages to the water quality. “I think these are the kinds of things that people need to know, that our tribal councils are agreeing to these things,” he said, adding that the companies should be held accountable for damages and the federal government should be held accountable for not enforcing the rules.

“Both nations ought to be able to say, ‘OK, we have this precious resource, we’re going to take all bidders,’ and be able to go out and compete for higher prices, not have it handed to Peabody Coal. We ought to be able to make those decisions ourselves. I call that economic sovereignty,” Nuvamsa said.

During last week’s meeting with U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hayes on the proposed water rights settlement – which many have linked to the future survival of NGS and the Central Arizona Project – Shiprock Delegate Russell Begaye said a change of policy may be in order in terms of the use of Navajo resources by outside entities such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson and Los Angeles.

Begaye said Navajo historically has focused on “outsourcing” its minerals and water resources rather than looking inward to see how they can be used to benefit the Navajo people. He proposed that Navajo look at developing local community-based generating plants which produce up to 10 megawatts of electricity.

“The town of Shiprock where I’m the delegate – about 18,000 folks – we can probably use 2 to 3 megawatts to run the whole community, and the rest we could outsource and sell to outside entities or other communities on our land, using a combination of coal, wind and solar.”

Rather than building mega-plants to power up electricity in other places, if a company said, “’We want to come alongside you and develop those resources to light up your communities on the reservation, to give water to homes on your land, and be able to do it in such a way that these communities can start selling these sources to outside entities,’ then we’re really talking about a trust responsibility that builds the Nation first,” Begaye said.

“I think the focus needs to turn from Phoenix to the Navajo Nation, from Los Angeles to the Navajo Nation. That policy change, if it takes place, will resolve a lot of our issues. We are sitting on gold mines, but those gold mines are being used by outside entities.”

Navajos travel to major cities across the West and “dream about the days when we may have those stores and those manufacturing plants,” Begaye said, all the while knowing it is Navajo resources which made those developments possible. “Why not let’s turn that inward? Let’s change the policy of outsourcing, to using those resources to build a nation.” He asked Interior to help Navajo in that endeavor.

After Interior officials left, the work session turned from water to NGS and despite efforts by Duane Tsinigine and Nelson Begaye to keep the session open to the public, Nabiki’yati’ Committee voted to go into executive session.

Adella Begaye of Wheatfields, a member of Dine CARE, said, “This is very sad because there is no accountability, there is no transparency. All these decisions are made without our consent, without our concern. We have been concerned about the water settlement because 36,000 acre feet is not enough for our Nation, and they are now even trying to settle for $400 million – which is nothing.”

She said it was wrong for Navajo and Interior officials to try to push through the settlement by saying there is just a small window of opportunity because Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., will retire next year and chances for a settlement after that are not likely. “Kyl is for Phoenix to get all the water they can. They’re not for the Navajo Nation.”

Tsinigine left the meeting when it went to executive session. “It’s only fair that all delegates are here to hear these issues, and some of these issues, in general, should be made public. In LeChee, Coppermine and Kaibeto, the majority of the men and women work at Navajo Generating Station and they want to be updated and make sure that the people hear what is at the negotiating table,” he said afterward.

“We’re leaving 75 percent of the Council out of it,” because they were given abrupt notice of the meeting and many had prior commitments, he said. “That’s not fair.”

Marshall Johnson of To Nizhoni Ani, or Beautiful Water Speaks, said the Interior’s visit to discuss their water rights was “like you see on television – a drive-by” that took in the president’s office, Legislative and the Hopi Tribe, but the people, “the original stakeholders,” were left out.

The state of Arizona is the beneficiary of any proposed settlement, he said. During a May hearing in Washington, Shelly and Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa stressed the importance of NGS to the tribes. Johnson, who testified along with Black Mesa Trust Director Vernon Masayesva, opposed extending the lease.

“We told Central Arizona Project it’s about time they get self-sufficient. We’ve been feeding them. They have a $3.5 billion operation in industrial agriculture. We made it available for them. Navajo resources made it possible to push water 3,000 feet elevation uphill. They plant three times a year,” he said. “We have no net benefit from this operation.”

Information: http://beyondthemesas.com/2011/09/21/a-forum-to-address-tribal-water-coal-environment-cultural-and-economic-issues-affecting-hopi-tribe-navajo-nation-phoenix-az-sept-30-2011/

9/27/2011 Gallup Independent: Prosecutor's documents protected – Navajo court keeps restraining order

9/27/2011 Gallup Independent: Prosecutor’s documents protected – Navajo court keeps restraining order  By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau:  WINDOW ROCK – A temporary restraining order will remain in place to protect Navajo Nation financial documents while Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran and Navajo Department of Justice work on a plan to ensure documents are preserved, District Court Judge Carol Perry ruled Monday.

Perry granted a temporary restraining order Friday at the request of Balaran pending Monday’s hearing on a preliminary injunction and request for the appointment of a special master to protect the “lifeblood” of the Navajo Nation housed within Administration Building One.

Balaran became concerned after seeing a Sept. 15 press release from the Office of the President/Vice President which stated that a team of 50 individuals would be working every day for three days to retrieve documents, which would be scanned and then destroyed because black mold allegedly had been found inside the building.

Balaran pointed out that according to the press release, the decision had been made to destroy documents even though an assessment of the contamination wasn’t expected to be delivered until the following day, and there was no mention of mold – black, blue or otherwise.

Navajo Department of Justice attorney Paul Spruhan said that in filing the ex parte motion, Balaran had acted on incomplete information without bothering to call the Department of Justice or members of the Incident Management Team. He also laid part of the blame on the press release from the president’s office.

“Apparently there was a press release – mind you, not an order, not an executive order, not an administrative order – that suggested falsely, and unfortunately, that this was how this situation was going to be handled; that these documents were going to be taken out and scanned and destroyed,” Spruhan said.

However, early Sept. 15, prior to issuance of the press release, Controller Mark Grant and members of the Incident Management Team appeared before the Budget and Finance Committee where destruction of the documents was discussed. As part of the emergency response action, Grant said, “They’re talking about scanning all the documents in the building and then disposing of them afterward.”

Ron Interpreter, emergency management specialist with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc., told the committee, “When the documents are purged, there’s a certificate of destruction that is provided by the company so that will help meet some of the federal regulations … to prove and show cause or reasons why those documents were destroyed,” he said. “Mr. Grant is aware of that process and he’s putting a purging policy in place.”

Operations Chief Wilson Laughter told the committee, “Whatever is contaminated will be removed, and they will triple bag it and seal it. That’s how it’s going to work.”

Neither Grant nor Interpreter were asked to testify at Monday’s hearing and team members said they were not instructed to destroy documents.

Deputy Attorney General Dana Bobroff told Judge Perry that the majority of Navajo Nation records are already under a detention order issued by the Court of Federal Claims regarding trust mismanagement litigation against the United States. There also is an executive order issued by President Joe Shirley Jr. in 2007-2008 prohibiting the destruction of documents, she said.

“The concern comes out, I guess, some of your people forgot to update the president’s office. It’s important that this information is provided,” Perry told her.

In Friday’s motion, Balaran said the “intimate involvement” of Shirley’s former chief of staff, Patrick Sandoval, who now heads Navajo Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the timing of the proposed destruction of documents was of particular concern given allegations against Sandoval pertaining to OnSat, the E-Rate Program and BCDS.

“While it may sound conspiratorial on my part, I get very nervous when I’m leaving in a week and all of the sudden there is a rush to movement on this,” Balaran said.

According to Sandoval, closing the administration building wasn’t just his decision. “It was a joint decision of safety professionals there in Window Rock. There were many meetings and there were many people involved in that decision to go ahead and close it.

“I am not intimately involved in any of the things happening up to this point. What NOSHA did was we closed the building, and we’ll reopen it when it’s safe. I am not spearheading any destruction of documents, which is what was alleged,” he said. “I’m pretty far out of the loop on everything.”

Balaran suggested the court appoint a special master “to ensure that all documents that were obtained by the Navajo Nation are protected in accordance with federal, state and Navajo standards.” He also requested that the restraining order remain in effect until after the new special prosecutor steps in.

While they may disagree on motives, he said, “Nobody from the Office of the Attorney General believes in the idea of destroying records, that I’ve talked to. … In fact, it’s the one point of unison that we have.”

Spruhan said he thought a special master, in theory “is a good idea,” however, it also suggests that the people in charge on the Incident Management Team “simply can’t be trusted. …  I believe it’s unnecessary.”

Because Judge Perry had other hearings to preside over Monday afternoon, she ended the hearing around 1:30 p.m., after allowing attorneys to state their positions and briefly question members of the Incident Management Team, made up of Wilson Laughter, David Nez, Herman Begay, Julius Elwood, Herman Shorty and Wilfred Keeto.

Under questioning by Balaran, they admitted they were not certified in the treatment of mold.

Perry told the attorneys and those in attendance they were free to submit written statements to the court within the next three days. She said she expects to issue an order on Thursday. She also asked DOJ about the progress in appointing a successor to Balaran.

Bobroff said she met with the Special Division Monday morning and it is expected they will announce a new special prosecutor within 10 days. Perry said she was hopeful there will be a new special prosecutor named by 5:01 p.m. Friday, right after Balaran’s contract expires.

Reminder: National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) Public Meeting 10/25-10/26

Reminder: National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) Public Meeting October 25-26, 2011: Albuquerque, New Mexico:Registration is Now Open: (*Advance Registration closes October 7*): The next face-to-face meeting of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) will be held at the Albuquerque Marriott Hotel, 2101 Louisiana Boulevard, NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87109, on October 25 and 26, 2011. The meeting will include a public comment period.

Meeting Registration: Registration is required for everyone (including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and other federal employees). Advance registration closes at Noon Mountain Time on Friday, October 7, 2011. Meeting materials will be prepared based on the number of participants who have pre-registered by that date.

On-site registration will be available; however, meeting materials will be distributed first to those who registered in advance. Any remaining materials will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

There are four easy ways to register:

  • Online: Click here (link) to register online.
  • By E-mail: Send an e-mail to Meetings@AlwaysPursuingExcellence.com with “Register for the NEJAC October 2011 Meeting” in the subject line. Please provide your name, , organization, mailing address (including city, state, and zip code), e-mail address, and telephone number for future follow-up as necessary.
  • By Fax: Print the web page containing the registration form and fax to 877-773-0779.
  • By Phone: Leave a message at 877-773-0779. Please provide your name, job title, organization, mailing address, e-mail address, and telephone number for future follow-up as necessary.
  • Non-English speaking attendees wishing to arrange for a foreign language interpreter also may make appropriate arrangements by calling the number above.

Hotel Reservations: A limited number of rooms have been reserved at the prevailing government rate, under the group code “EPA-NEJAC.” If you are planning to stay at The Albuquerque Marriott for the meeting, you must contact the hotel directly to reserve your room. Call 1-800-334-2086 or by visiting the website http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/abqnm-albuquerque-marriott/?toDate=10/29/11&groupCode=epaepaa&fromDate=10/22/11&app=resvlink. To be eligible for the negotiated room block rate, you must contact the hotel no later than Tuesday, October 11 at midnight.

Public Comment Sign-Up: Members of the public who wish to speak during the Public Comment period should pre-register by Noon Mountain Time on Friday, October 7, 2011. To accommodate the large number of people who want to address the NEJAC, only one representative of a community, organization, or group will be allowed to speak. (On-site public comment sign-up will also be available; however, those who sign-up in advance will be called to speak first.)

Written comments also can be submitted for the record. The suggested format for individuals providing written public comments is as follows:

  • name of speaker
  • name of organization/community
  • city and state
  • e-mail address
  • a brief description of the concern, and what you want the NEJAC to advise EPA to do

Written comments received by Noon Mountain Time on Friday, October 7, 2011, will be included in the materials distributed to the members of the NEJAC. Written comments received after that time will be provided to the NEJAC as time allows. All written comments should be sent to Meetings@AlwaysPursuingExcellence.com.

You may also be interested in… The Federal Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Environmental Justice will conduct a community dialogue on Monday, October 24, 2011. Information regarding meeting details will be provided at a later date.

For more information, please contact EPA Support Contractor, APEX Direct Inc., at 877-773-0779 or Meetings@AlwaysPursuingExcellence.com.


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Can a 90-Year-Old Set of Colorado River Laws Work in the 21st Century?

For Immediate Release Colorado College: Can a 90-Year-Old Set of Colorado River Laws Work in the 21st Century?  Colorado Supreme Court Justice and Colorado River Legal Scholar to Discuss Implications of the Law of the River: COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Sept. 26, 2011 – The future of the Colorado River Basin faces mounting challenges, including climate change and an exploding population growth in the West.  Although roughly 27 million people rely on the river for water, energy and healthy ecosystems, some expert studies predict that by 2050 the river system will not be able to consistently meet the needs of those dependent upon it.

Can a nearly 90-year-old set of laws weather the turbulence of the 21st century?

Come hear Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs and Colorado River legal scholar Larry MacDonnell, of the University of Wyoming’s College of Law, discuss the implications of the river’s legal foundation for the next generation at 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 17 in the Richard F. Celeste Theatre in the Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave., on the Colorado College campus.

The Colorado River Basin is ruled by a compilation of decrees, rights, court decisions and laws that together are referred to as the “Law of the River.” The keystone of these “commandments” is the 1922 Colorado River Compact, an interstate agreement created by the seven basin states with provisions for general water allotments. As municipalities, agriculture and environmental interests jockey for continued water supplies in the face of projected diminished flows, will the Law of the River be able to bend under new stresses or will it break?

This free talk is part the Colorado College State of the Rockies 2011-12 Project Speakers Series, where leading experts and well-known river advocates examine the Colorado River Basin and the complex water use, environmental and economic challenges facing future generations.

Monthly programs are scheduled through January 2012, leading up to a public conference April 8-10 where students will present the 2012 State of the Rockies Report, which examines current water, agricultural and recreational issues in the Basin and highlights how economic, demographic and climate changes will impact what the Colorado River looks like to future generations. Sessions with national experts will also explore the future of the Basin.

WHAT:                 “The Law of the Colorado River Basin: Rigid Relic or Flexible Foundation for the Future?” presented by Gregory Hobbs Jr., Colorado Supreme Court, and Larry MacDonnell, University of Wyoming College of Law

WHEN: 7-9 p.m., Oct. 17, 2011

WHERE: Richard F. Celeste Theatre, Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave., on the Colorado College campus (corner of Cache La Poudre Street and Cascade Avenue)

NEXT UP: Monday, Nov. 7 – “The Colorado River Basin: Environmental Perspectives and Action” presented by Bart Miller, Water Program Director for Western Resource Advocates; Jennifer Pitt, Director of the Colorado River Project for the Environmental Defense Fund; and Tom Chart, USFWS, Director of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

MORE INFO: All talks are free of charge and open to the public. For more information, or to learn how to connect with various podcasts and videos from program, visit the State of the Rockies Project website at www.stateoftherockies.com. The State of the Rockies Project is an annual research study conducted collaboratively by undergraduate students and faculty to increase public understanding of the vital issues affecting the Rockies. This year’s topic is The Colorado River Basin: Use, Restoration and Sustainability for the Next Generation.

For information, directions or disability accommodation at the event, members of the public may call (719) 389-6607.

About Colorado College: Colorado College is a nationally prominent, four-year liberal arts college that was founded in Colorado Springs in 1874. The college operates on the innovative Block Plan, in which its approximately 2,000 undergraduate students study one course at a time in intensive 3½-week segments. The college also offers a master of arts in teaching degree. For more information, visit www.ColoradoCollege.edu <http://www.ColoradoCollege.edu>.

Contact:  Leslie Weddell (719) 389-6038 Leslie.Weddell@ColoradoCollege.edu

Confused Signals Come from President Shelly on FY2012 Budget – President’s Shelly’s vetoes target green initiatives, resource development, young people and the elderly

9/23/2011 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Confused Signals Come from President Shelly on FY2012 Budget – President’s Shelly’s vetoes target green initiatives, resource development, young people and the elderly: WINDOW ROCK: The Navajo Nation Council voiced anger at Navajo President Shelly’s line-item vetoes of portions of the FY2012 Tribal Operating Budget on Friday. Among the cuts in the $556.6 million budget included $111 thousand for the Little Folks Day Care Program, $161 thousand for five Navajo Area Agency on Aging offices in Shiprock, Chinle, Tuba City, Fort Defiance and Crownpoint, $352 thousand from the Navajo Green Commission, $130 thousand from the Resources Committee, and $838 thousand for legislative district staff for the 24 Council Delegates.

“The Council is very concerned for President Shelly’s lack of cohesive management on the direction he wants to take the Navajo People,” said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize. “The President says not to forget the elders but it appears he has.  He has also said we need to nurture the youth because they are our future but instead has yanked funding that would do just that.”

“Additionally, at a time when other governments are looking for ways to build a green economy to reduce waste and become environmentally aware, President Shelly has decided that the Navajo people will not.”

“These vetoes were unnecessary after all the discussions we held in June between the three Branches and during the recent Budget Sessions which produced this budget,” continued Naize.  “I unfortunately believe the President has suddenly decided on himself to rewrite all the work the Branches have done during the past three months.”

In the FY2012 operating budget, the Executive Branch was appropriated the bulk of the $556.6 million at a little more than $505 million for programs and set asides such as for Higher Education and Veterans.  Next, the Legislative Branch was appropriated $16.6 million with the Judicial Branch receiving $15.4 million for their programs and set asides.  Also included in the budget are $25.4 million for fixed costs and $4 million for chapter spending.

“These cuts are concerning because they appear to be made as a vendetta against certain programs, council members and committees,” said Naize.  “But in the process of doing that he vetoed funds for Summer Youth Employment, and an elderly group home in Blue Gap.  Our people are in need and even though the President says his Branch provides direct services to the people, these vetoes prove they won’t.  That is not how a Natani leads his people.”

Earlier this month President Shelley vetoed $2.2 million for Youth Employment, $286,000 for the Hoosh Doo Dii To’ Home and $1 million for the Navajo Department of Transportation.

Also in these latest round of vetoes was funding for 24 Legislative District Staff for the 24 Council Delegates.

“In the past, the Legislative Branch has worked with a little more than 8 percent of the total Navajo Nation Operating Budget, said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize.  “Not only do we need to remain at that level but we’ll also need some additional funds to address the increased workload for the 24 Council Delegates.”

At the district level there is a growing feeling of isolation as Council Delegates juggle up to 8 chapters and their work on their committees in Window Rock.  The Legislative District Staff would assist the Delegates by attending meetings that otherwise may have been missed due to other commitments.

Although some thought a smaller Council would mean a smaller budget, the opposite has happened.  The increase in Chapter representation has lead to an increase of meeting and on-reservation travel expenses.  Speaker Naize and the Council are resolved in making sure the people don’t lose their voice just because President Shelly wants to ration and silence the Delegates ability to serve community needs and concerns.”

“Again, the Navajo People are becoming confused where President Shelly is taking us,” concluded Naize.  “All these programs are for the people yet he refuses to acknowledge the need out there.  For the last couple of months he has held numerous town halls to get community input yet for all the people’s efforts, he has decided to ignore them.”

“I want the people to know that the Council will not ignore them and will continue to work and make sure the business of the people gets done no matter how President Shelly tries to silence them.”

# # #

Michael Wero, Communications Director

Navajo Nation Council – Office of the Speaker

PO Box 3390, Window Rock, AZ 86515

928-871-7160 – phone  928-255-3428 – cell

9/24/2011 Gallup Independent: Court halts NN mold cleanup

9/24/2011 Gallup Independent: Court halts NN mold cleanup  By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – At the request of Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran, District Court Judge Carol Perry issued a temporary restraining order Friday afternoon temporarily halting cleanup of black mold at Administration Building One until after a hearing Monday. Balaran filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, application for preliminary injunction and appointment of a special master at 1 p.m. Friday. He alleged that the building, which is the principal storehouse for the Navajo Nation’s financial documents, has been declared an environmental hazard.

“Locks have been replaced on all the doors and the financial records of the people are being removed and are slated to be destroyed,” he said.

No environmental hazards have been circulated confirming the ostensibly deadly mold that is supposedly infecting the building; no federal or state organizations have verified any findings or have generated any reports which would shed light on the gravity of the situation and propose realistic solutions, he said.

In addition, the effort to destroy all financial documents is spearheaded by Patrick Sandoval, former chief of staff to former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., who is named in a civil complaint filed by the special prosecutor alleging breach of fiduciary duty during his presidency. Also named are more than 80 current and former Navajo Nation officials.

“Mr. Sandoval’s intimate involvement is of particular concern in light of the fact that he was named by three law firms as being a central player in the alleged criminal actions involving the Nation and OnSat, the E-Rate Program and BCDS,” Balaran said. “The timing of the proposed destruction appears particularly coincidental – coming on the heels of the Special Prosecutor’s imminent departure.”

Destruction of the records would make it virtually impossible for a new special prosecutor to pinpoint those involved in any of the alleged events cited in the special prosecutor’s complaints. The loss of records also would place the new special prosecutor “in the untenable position of being unable to subpoena any records with the assurance that he or she had received all that was available only weeks earlier,” he said.

The Navajo Nation’s governmental staff has not been apprised of how the Nation intends to inventory, store, and scan all records removed from the Administration Building, and documents received to date indicate there is no plan, according to Balaran.

“Indeed, the one outside company with whom the Nation has contracted to assist with the assessment of environmental contamination, ‘Environmental Consultant, Inc.’ is not licensed to do business in either New Mexico or Arizona.”

Laura Johnson, a manager with the Office of the Controller, stated in an affidavit that around Aug. 31, the entire staff in the Administration Building were informed that the Nation intended to close the building and clean it, beginning Sept. 2 due to “mold.”

On Sept. 6, financial personnel were allowed to return to work. “It was noted some of the staff items were moved out of its usual area,” she stated.

On Sept. 8, staff were told the building still had a mold issue and would be closed again beginning Sept. 9, with no definite date of reopening. “We were advised to take what we could since we may not be allowed back in for weeks,” Johnson said.

As of Sept. 20, financial personnel were informed that the building would be closed for six months to a year. “They were further informed that all documents in the building were contaminated and would be scanned and destroyed. All of the door locks were changed,” she said, adding that Sandoval was spearheading the decontamination effort.

The Office of the Controller maintains hundreds of thousands if not millions of documents supporting the Nation’s accounting needs. “Many of these documents are originals in paper form that, if lost or destroyed, cannot be duplicated,” the affidavit states.

In the order issued at 3:38 p.m., Judge Perry noted the “significant implications” to the case The Navajo Nation v. Alice W. Benally, et. al., associated with the alleged destruction of the Nation’s financial documents.

Perry said the court was aware that Balaran had been trying to obtain various financial documents during his investigation and tenure as special prosecutor. She said the court must consider whether the procedures currently in place are adequate to protect the Nation’s financial records as they relate to the ongoing case.

“As such, the Court is forced to balance the severity of the potential harm associated with the allegations of the destruction of financial documents, against the hardship that may be caused by temporarily halting Navajo Nation Occupational Safety and Health’s ongoing efforts to address mold in Administration Building One.”

Upon review, Perry granted Balaran’s temporary restraining order and set a hearing for 11 a.m. Monday on the motion for a preliminary injunction to determine whether the allegations have merit. She ordered Sandoval, incident commander Wilfred Keeto and any other Navajo Nation employees instrumental to the cleanup efforts and Operation Breathe Safe to be in attendance, with counsel, at the preliminary hearing.

Navajo Division of Public Safety was ordered to stop Navajo OSHA’s cleanup efforts, secure the premises – down to replacing the locks if necessary – and not permit any employees into the building until the court decides the pending motion. She instructed law enforcement to take any violators into custody.

During a Sept. 15 Budget and Finance Committee meeting, Controller Mark Grant stated that the building was vacant and that they were “in the process of contracting for security.”

“We don’t want anyone breaking in now and just having a good time throwing documents around. I think that would be very damaging if that happened. Our servers are still in the building and we don’t want anybody messing with those,” Grant said.