Category Archives: Trust Fund

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.

9/23/2011 Gallup Independent: Forgotten People gets first list of expenditures in accounting suit

Show me the money Glenna Begay (left), Leta O’Daniel and Lena Nez traveled to Window Rock Wednesday for a district court hearing on Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund monies. 9/23/2011 Gallup Independent: Forgotten People gets first list of expenditures in accounting suit By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The grassroots group Forgotten People took the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission to court Wednesday and compelled the disclosure of how federal trust fund monies were spent.

In response to an accounting lawsuit filed in August 2010 by their attorney, James W. Zion of Albuquerque, Navajo Nation Assistant Attorney General Henry Howe turned over eight pages of information pertaining to how the Land Commission spent Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund monies designed to help Navajos displaced by the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute.

The trust fund was established by Congress in 1974 for improvement of the economic, educational and social condition of families and Navajo communities affected by the division of the former Navajo-Hopi Joint Use Area.

Approximately 30 members of the Forgotten People, most of them elderly, traveled three hours or more from Western Navajo Agency to Window Rock District Court for the hearing before Judge T.J. Holgate.

Howe said the case involved hundreds of projects between 1990 and 2009, and that record-keeping was not very good in the early years of 1990-95. A draft summary showed expenditures amounted to $16.8 million and included $14,500 to a Navajo Nation Council delegate whose home had burned.

“They bought him a new house, and I’m going to ask why did that Council delegate get that house,” Zion said. “Why did he get a house when people on waiting lists didn’t get houses?” Howe asked the judge about the confidentiality of that information, however, Holgate said that as long as they were within the bounds of the law, he didn’t mind the discussion.

The judge also was firm about setting some time parameters for the attorneys due to a previous lack of dialog on the part of the Navajo Nation. Howe said the parties had not met because he had just been given the information. “We have given a draft summary of receipts for Mr. Zion to share with his clients and we believe this demonstrates more than a good-faith effort on the part of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission,” he said.

Howe also offered to have all documents together by November, and to make a presentation between December and April to all chapters impacted by the trust fund.

Holgate gave the attorneys from October to December to exchange information and said he will set another hearing for January. The attorneys are to present a joint report to the judge 10 days prior to the hearing outlining what they have done.

The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission was represented at the hearing by Raymond Maxx, executive director; Lorenzo Curley, chairman; and Thomas Benally.

“The people that were here, they’re the very reason why we’re here ourselves,” Maxx said. “We serve them and they need to be more comfortable on how we handle and do things.” It takes a lot of personnel time to account for numbers, he said, and having Administration Building 1, which houses the financial section, closed due to black mold, has not helped.

“We rely on the Division of Finance for some of our numbers. When we ask for information, it takes a long time and sometimes they’re not the same, depending on who you talk to; so I hope the Nation really takes a look at funding our Finance Department adequately to where we’re accountable.”

Curley said that when he became a commission member in 2005, they were already buying property for the purpose of commerce. Back in the early 1980s, the Navajo Nation was looking at Paragon Ranch as a source of coal, and a decision was made to go after that property using Relocation funds to acquire it. Subsequently, the Nation abandoned that plan.

“Now we have thousands of acres over there, we can’t really use it for anything. My view is we’ve got to salvage this situation in some way. One of the ways that we’re looking at is to use the property for solar. There has been some talk about coal gasification and some investors have been talking with the officials about that, but we haven’t seen anything develop from that yet,” he said.

At a meeting with the Forgotten People at Veterans Park following the hearing, Zion elaborated on the court’s action.

“When Congress told the Navajo Tribe that it could take out so much land in New Mexico and so much land in Arizona, there’s a thing in there that says that any time the Navajo Nation gets that land, it is to be used for the benefit of Navajos who have not yet been relocated. What that means is Rena Babbitt Lane (who lives on HPL) owns the Twin Arrows Casino!” Zion said.

Regarding Paragon Ranch near Farmington, he said some of the relocatees went to look at the land and talked about getting homes there, but “what really happened was the Navajo Nation picked that land because of the coal, and they were going to make a whole bunch of money selling coal to the power plant.”

Congress, when it authorized $10 million a year for six years to help the Navajos that were affected by the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute, also stipulated that the Navajo Nation had to repay that money to the United States, Zion said.

“The Congress of the United States created these two trusts. The Secretary of the Interior is responsible to oversee the trust. Where is the oversight? You’ve got another situation exactly like the Cobell case, and I’m wondering if the United States is not looking over the Navajo Nation’s shoulder to make sure you folks are treated right in all this,” he said.

Vice President Rex Lee Jim joined the Forgotten People as they sat under the trees near the statue of the Navajo Code Talker and was immediately bombarded with questions and concerns. He extended an invitation to the people to be open and honest, and to meet with him so they can work together on issues such as health, housing and water.

Edith Holmes, a U.S. military veteran from Tuba City, told Jim, “We’ve made the sacrifices. The people need to have their needs addressed. Now we hear that a casino is being built and they’re going to get the necessary amenities – infrastructure like running water and things like that – and we don’t get nothing.” When her home burned she came to Window Rock for assistance, she said. “We just get the run-around.”

Leta O’Daniel, who lives on Hopi Partitioned Land at Big Mountain, asked for Jim’s help. “All the roads to the windmills where the waters are, are all washed out,” she said. “We can’t go get water, we can’t get things we need to keep our lives moving forward, so I’m here to plead on behalf of my people. There’s many needs that need to be addressed on HPL.”

Norris Nez, a medicine man whose family once had a farm plot in Sand Springs before they were fenced off from the water sources by Hopi, said there are many other issues besides the land dispute that are affecting the people. “Water is being given away … Why aren’t you protecting those resources that are vital for the life of the people?

“The people hear a recurring theme – ‘No money,’” he said. “Because of that and problems with leadership, it feels like the lights are dimming and going out on us on the west end.”

Grace Smith Yellowhammer of Teesto said many of the youth have been made homeless by Relocation, and have turned to drugs and alcohol while living in border towns. She pleaded with Jim to make a difference. “Please, take care of our youth. One day they’re going to be like us. We don’t want them to come over here and start begging.”

9/15/2011 Navajo Times: Forgotten People seeking DOJ report

9/15/2011 Navajo Times: Forgotten People seeking DOJ report By Noel Lyn Smith: A court hearing has been set for the lawsuit filed by the Forgotten People and 12 other individuals seeking an accounting of the Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund. A pretrial conference is scheduled Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 1:30 p.m. before Judge T.J. Holgate in Window Rock District Court. The focus will be on a report the Navajo Nation Department of Justice was supposed to produce on the fund accounting, but has not yet, said a lawyer for the plaintiffs. The trust fund was established by Congress to benefit residents of the former Bennett Freeze and Hopi Partitioned Land. These funds, including accrued interest or investment income, are made available to the tribe “solely for purposes which will contribute to the continuing rehabilitation and improvement of the economic, educational and social condition of families and Navajo communities” affected by various events of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute.

Money for the trust fund comes from federal appropriations and from money generated by surface and mineral interests in Paragon Ranch, located in northwest New Mexico.

James Zion, attorney for the Forgotten People, said his clients want to know the trust fund’s balance, how much has been spent, and what projects any money was allocated to.

The Forgotten People are residents of the former Bennett Freeze Area and is an association of survivors of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute.

Both the account balance and expenditures have never been fully disclosed, Zion said.

The group continues to question the use of $7.4 million from the trust fund to purchase a 405-acre tract of land east of Flagstaff for the Twin Arrows Navajo Resort Casino.

In their civil complaint filed in 2010, plaintiffs asked for an accounting 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.

This is the second time a pretrial hearing has been scheduled.

The first pretrial conference was in January, where it was decided that the Navajo Nation’s Department of Justice would produce a report on the accounting actions of the trust fund, but that report was not made, Zion said.

“We’re hoping to move things forward on Wednesday,” he added.

The Forgotten People is inviting all interested parties to attend the conference.

9/8/2011 Navajo Times: DOJ's role in slush fund case questioned

9/8/2011 Navajo Times: DOJ’s role in slush fund case questioned by Marley Shebala: Some Navajo Nation Council delegates accused of looting their discretionary funds are hoping the tribe’s insurance coverage includes the legal expenses of their defense. Henry Howe, an assistant attorney general for the Navajo Nation’s Department of Justice, told the Window Rock District Court on Aug. 29 that several individuals named in the suit filed July 28 by Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran have asked DOJ “whether the Navajo Nation’s insurance policies provide insurance coverage or the cost of representation by an attorney, or both, arising out of the claims made by the special prosecutor.”

Defendants in the civil suit include 81 of the 88 members of the previous Council, former President Joe Shirley Jr., former Attorney General Louis Denetsosie, Controller Mark Grant, and current Attorney General Harrison Tsosie, all of whom are required to respond to the allegations in the suit within 30 days of being served.

Because of the number of people named in the suit, getting everyone served has been a slow process. Some responses were due by Aug. 29 while other defendants have deadlines extending throughout September.

Some defendants have already made arrangements to file their responses without an attorney and others have hired private counsel, including Gallup attorney David Jordan, who represented 23 of the defendants when Balaran filed criminal cases against them.

Balaran later dropped the criminal charges in favor of pursuing civil remedies, which he said would be a more efficient way for the tribe to recover some of the money lost.

Howe had asked the tribal court to extend the deadline for everyone until Oct. 15 to give the Justice Department and the tribe’s Insurance Commission time to seek expert advice on the question of whether the tribe’s insurance company will provide attorneys or pay their attorney fees.

Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry denied the request Sept. 1 but said she wanted to be kept informed of the status of discussions on who should pay the defendants’ legal bills.

She pointed out that some defendants have already decided to represent themselves or have hired private counsel, which is consistent with the general rule that “parties to a dispute must bear their own legal costs in the absence of a statute or special circumstances justifying an award of attorney fees.”

Perry pointed to recent Navajo Nation Supreme Court decisions dealing with the criminal cases filed by Balaran, in which the high court stated that “people expect their government to perform properly, that money will be used in a manner which they have been informed and will not be used for private purposes.”

The defendants are accused of running or enabling scams that took discretionary funds meant to aid impoverished tribal members and redirected the money to benefit the defendants or their relatives.

8/2/2011 Gallup Independent: Morgan, AG caught in prosecutor's net: Complaint alleges Morgan manipulated position; attorneys general interfered with prosecution

8/2/2011 Gallup Independent: Morgan, AG caught in prosecutor’s net: Complaint alleges Morgan manipulated position; attorneys general interfered with prosecution By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Navajo Nation Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan “unlawfully manipulated his position” to encourage other delegates to award approximately $50,000 in discretionary funds to Morgan’s family members, according to the complaint filed last week by Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran alleging breach of fiduciary responsibility. In addition to the charge against Morgan and almost all 88 delegates of the 21st Navajo Nation Council, former Attorney General Louis Denetsosie and current Attorney General Harrison Tsosie are alleged to have breached their fiduciary and ethical duties in regard to defending former President Joe Shirley Jr. against the special prosecutor’s investigation into OnSat Network Communications Inc.

Shirley and Controller Mark Grant are alleged to have breached their fiduciary duties by causing a financial loss to the Navajo Nation of $36 million during fiscal years 2005 through 2010. Grant also is alleged to have allowed the accumulation of almost $2 million in “unreimbursed salary and travel advances” for delegates; failed to regularly pay taxes to the IRS on those advances; and then failed to reimburse the IRS pursuant to agreement.

SPEAKER MORGAN
According to the 68-page complaint, the unlawfully appropriated funds were funneled through the “Discretionary Fund” administered by the Office of the Speaker for delegates’ discretionary use, with Morgan’s share amounting to $1.6 million.

During FY 2005 and 2006, there were no policies or procedures in place establishing eligibility criteria or limiting the amounts to be awarded. In February 2007, Council adopted guidelines which prohibited Morgan from giving more than $300 to any one beneficiary within a 12-month period and limited that assistance to burial costs, youth allowance or emergency funds. The policies and procedures also required that each beneficiary receive an IRS Form 1099, however, one month after adopting the initial policy, delegates eliminated that requirement, the complaint states.

Delegates allegedly gave more than $2 million to 130 recipients “with little regard for the beneficiary’s indigency,” in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $54,000,” while family members of 14 delegates received assistance ranging from $51,000 to $130,000. “Beyond this, millions in awards went to Navajo Nation employees despite their obvious ineligibility. Twenty-one of these employees received amounts ranging from $10,000 to $21,000 each.”

The complaint alleges that despite the restrictions, Morgan made multiple awards to the same recipients during a 12-month period; awarded sums vastly exceeding the $300 limit; and issued checks to himself under the names of Morgan or Speaker, as well as to his family and staff. He also is alleged to have used discretionary money to pay legal bills and to subsidize rodeo events.

Acting in concert with other delegates, Morgan “unlawfully manipulated his position to encourage other delegates to award discretionary funds to his wife, sister, daughter and grandson” amounting to approximately $50,000.

Morgan and delegates also appropriated money to a “Charitable Contribution Fund,” limited to non-employees of the Navajo Nation. Expenditures from that fund, which were at Morgan’s sole discretion, amounted to almost $2 million, according to the complaint. Balaran cited Morgan’s financial adviser, Laura Calvin, as example. Though Calvin was a tribal employee and ineligible to receive discretionary or Charitable Contribution funds, “Morgan regularly awarded her thousands of dollars from both funds and donated considerable ‘charitable’ contributions” to her daughter.

He also expended the “charitable” appropriations to donate funds to the political campaigns of those delegates he favored, the complaint states, and awarded approximately $10,000 to himself as well as $300,000 to unnamed individuals and organizations under the guise of being “contributions.”

ATTORNEYS GENERAL
In August 2008, President Shirley signed legislation approving $500,000 to the Speaker’s Office to hire a special investigator to investigate matters involving OnSat and BCDS, or Biochemical Decontamination Systems Inc. A little over a year later, in October 2009, Council placed Shirley on administrative leave and referred reports on OnSat and BCDS to Attorney General Louis Denetsosie, who was to decide whether to hire a special prosecutor to look into matters.

Shirley said the action appeared to be in retaliation for his efforts to seek an initiative election to reduce Council from 88 to 24 delegates, and to allow the president line-item veto authority. The initiative was approved in December 2009.

According to the complaint, the Nation entered into the contract with OnSat in 2001, which was before Shirley came into office. But what began as a commendable effort to provide affordable Internet service via satellite to the Nation soon transformed into an elaborate scheme to defraud the federal government out of millions of dollars and unlawfully enrich OnSat officials.

The Nation subsequently hired two law firms to investigate and file reports on their findings regarding the Navajo contract with OnSat and E-rate funding. “Both of those reports suggested that Defendant Shirley did not act ethically, violated Navajo procurement laws and may have been a participant in criminal activities.”

In late December 2009, Denetsosie asked the Special Division of Window Rock District Court to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the tribe’s contracts with OnSat and BCDS, as well as payments from the discretionary fund to family members of several legislative branch employees. Balaran was named special prosecutor in January 2010.

Around Dec. 7, 2009, then-Deputy Attorney General Harrison Tsosie executed a contract on behalf of Denetsosie retaining the legal services of Gallagher & Kennedy which would represent Shirley in his official capacity with respect to all matters arising from the president’s suspension by Council.

The contract was modified four times, with Denetsosie signing one modification and Tsosie signing the other three. On Feb. 25, 2010, Gallagher & Kennedy submitted an invoice labeled “re: Appointment of Special Prosecutor.” This was followed by eight subsequent invoices between May 24, 2010, and Dec. 14, 2010, with each referencing work regarding the special prosecutor’s appointment.

“These invoices described the work performed by up to five associates and partners charged with defending Defendant Shirley against the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into OnSat.” The Nation was billed approximately $150,000 for those services, with the most recent payment approved by Tsosie in March 2011.

The complaint alleges that both Denetsosie and Tsosie lacked authority to impede the investigation of the special prosecutor and by doing so, acted outside the scope of their employment and/or authority. In addition, by using Navajo Nation funds to obstruct the prosecutorial efforts of the special prosecutor, they are alleged to have breached their fiduciary and ethical duties.

7/30/2011 Forgotten People's Comments for the official record regarding the draft Navajo Nation Energy Plan

7/30/2011 Forgotten People’s Comments for the official record regarding the draft Navajo Nation Energy Plan Via Email transmission to michelle@navajonationmuseum.org: Michelle Henry, Division of Natural Resources, The Navajo Nation Window Rock, Navajo Nation (Arizona) 86515: Re: Comments on the draft Energy Plan for the Navajo Nation (FOR THE OFFICIAL RECORD):Forgotten People is a nonprofit grassroots organization active within the Navajo Nation. We represent communities that span over 2 million acres of remote desert terrain in the northeastern part of Arizona. Most of the members practice a subsistence lifestyle of herding sheep. Many elderly community members speak only Dinè (the preferred nomenclature of the Navajo people). Forgotten People is herewith submitting these Comments for the official record regarding the draft Energy Plan for the Navajo Nation:

Forgotten People is concerned that the energy policy focuses on the continued use of coal and coal-fired power plants and leaves the door open for renewed uranium mining when the Navajo Nation can become a leader in the forefront of alternative energy.

Forgotten People supports James W. Zion, Esq. and the application of the Fundamental Laws upheld by the Navajo Nation Supreme Court that the land, property, resources and income generated from them are the property of the Navajo People. Forgotten People is concerned about a lack of transparency and fiscal responsibility by the central government through the use of “so called discretionary funds”, fails to provide an accounting of Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund monies and approves a lease re-opener for Peabody Coal Company’s Black Mesa mine when the Black Mesa mine does not have an operating permit.

Forgotten People supports the idea of civil society as an emerging concept in Indian country and supports the Right to Development, Navajo Nation adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and the UN Declaration on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. (See Forgotten People’s submission: “Stakeholder’s views for the Study on Human Rights Obligations related to Equitable Access to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation the Right to Water” posted on the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights website dated 4/15/2007.)

A 43-year US government imposed Bennett Freeze and forced relocation of 12,000 Dinè at a cost to US taxpayers of 500 million dollars was perpetrated upon our people so Peabody Western Coal Company could mine coal and power Navajo Generating Station. A legacy due to the export of coal and uranium mining is responsible for the observed adverse impacts of those mining activities on air quality, water quality, animal and human health, sacred sites, burial sites and cultural and historic sites.

Our communities face serious development issues. These issues have been compounded by the 43-year US government imposed Bennett Freeze. The Freeze was imposed in 1966 and is largely responsible for inadequate housing, lack of basic infrastructure such as paved roads, and pervasive poverty in the region. Only 3 % of families have electricity. Over 90% of the homes do not have access to piped water, requiring families to haul their water from other locations. EPA estimates 54,000 residents of the Navajo Nation lack access to a public water system. Only 24 % of homes are habitable today.

Since 1966, the population has increased by approximately 65 percent in the former Bennett Freeze area, forcing several generations of families to live together in dwellings that have been declared unfit for human habitation. The result of which has been a large number of deaths from exposure to the harsh climate.

The Bennett Freeze is responsible for intergenerational trauma affecting people mentally, physically and psychologically. Medical studies confirm that overcrowding in addition to the absence of running water, refrigeration, and adequate sewage disposal adversely impact the mental and physical health of Dinè residing in the former Bennett Freeze. These impacts range from youth suicide and mental illness; and an array of medical aliments including but not limited to kidney failure and cancer.

On May 6, 2009, President Obama signed legislation HR 956 and S531 to repeal the portion of Public Law 93-531 (The Relocation Act) to end the Freeze. Unfortunately, this did not address the extensive impact this law had on the Dinè people. While the Freeze has halted essential construction, including power line extensions, waterline extensions, and improvements to roads and community facilities, no rehabilitation program was developed to address the effects of the Freeze.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) is involved in a major effort to improve access to safe water on the Navajo Nation and redress problems resulting from the legacy of uranium mining in the 1950s and 60’s as a result of two pressures. The first was a commitment made by the EPA at the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in which the US pledged to reduce the number of its citizens lacking access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 50% by 2015. The second is the largest concentration of people without piped water and sanitation is on the Navajo Nation, especially in the communities served by Forgotten People.

A legacy of uranium mining has contaminated Navajo land and water resources. Close to a hundred percent of the demand for uranium stemmed out of the U.S. government’s pursuit for nuclear weaponry during the Cold War. From 1944 to 1986 across the Navajo Nation, mine operators extracted nearly 4 million tons of uranium ore which brought the ore to the surface.

The Navajo Nation reports the presence of over 1300 abandoned unreclaimed mines and the leeching of uranium from the slag piles into drinking water supplies was damaging water supplies. Up to 25% of the unregulated sources in the western Navajo reservation exceed drinking water standard for kidney toxicants including uranium.

Uranium in the drinking water causes multiple health impacts like bone cancer and impaired kidney function from exposure to radionuclides in drinking water. Before the cause was known, doctors in the region thought they had discovered a genetic disease caused “Navajo Neuropathy”, which was associated with muscular degeneration, ulcers, vision weakness, and other severe health issues. Cancer rates among Dinè teenagers living near mine tailings are 17 times the national average. Reproductive-organ cancers in teenage Dinè girls average seventeen times higher than the average of girls in the U.S.

The Navajo miners were regularly exposed to radioactive conditions that were sometimes in excess of 750 times the generally accepted radon limits, which led to many instances of cancer, death, and other diseases. “Concentrated uranium was being blown all over the land surrounding the mills” for up to “a radius of a half a mile or so” which led to further contamination. Even after uranium mining ceased there were still radioactive problems that persisted through the mill tailings (the leftovers from the conversion process).

Forgotten People believes reaching our goals will require collaboration with the help of the Navajo central government and a human rights centered approach to development.

Forgotten People believes that in order to accomplish our goals we will need tangible improvements for our communities that would be greatly enhanced with the help of the central government.

Wars of the future will be fought over water, as they are over oil today, as our ‘Blue Gold’, the source of human survival, enters the global marketplace. While here on the Navajo Nation the most precious of all resources, our water rights, are being waived and minimized, endangering the survival of our citizens and future generations as a separate indigenous People.

In the last days of the prior administration, the Navajo Nation signed a Water Rights Settlement against the wishes of the people. Forgotten People believes the Settlement is a tragedy not only due to the minimizing of Dinè rights but the waiver of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential compensation for rights waived and a waiver for injury to water as we have seen in the Black Falls region where sources are still contaminated with arsenic and uranium, and where a US EPA Superfund contractor found, on November 9, 2010, that an un-remediated abandoned mill located yards away from a Wetland by the Little Col. River, in a flood zone, maxed out his Geiger counter at over 1 million counts a minute. This mill is in close proximity to an un-remediated abandoned uranium pit with high walls and tailings piles.

The corporate favoritism at Dinè people’s expense is throwing away money when Dinè s have to haul water by small barrels, drink contaminated water or have no access to water. The Dinè people do not get power from the NGS. It goes to Phoenix and Tucson and other cities. There is a fundamental unfairness and lack of information on the Navajo Nation. The issues addressed by Forgotten People’s highlight the need for strengthening and implementing cross-cutting principles in international human rights law. This is needed by the Navajo Nation in considering a draft Energy policy.

As members of a civil society, Forgotten People affirms the right to development and transparency. Public health is threatened by un-remediated abandoned uranium mines, coal mines, renewed uranium mining adjacent to our borders in the wetlands of the Grand Canyon, the ‘crown jewel’ of the national park system and the proposed transport of uranium through Dinè lands with no disaster response plan and the Navajo Nation remains silent.

Forgotten People urges the Navajo Nation to work with Forgotten People, Forgotten People’s attorney and grassroots organizations to develop an energy policy that will benefit the People, the environment and our future generations.

Respectfully submitted,
Caroline Tohannie
On behalf of forgotten People

Attachments:
• 7/29/2011 Comments on the DRAFT Energy Plan for the Navajo Nation (James W. Zion, Esq.)
• 7/19/2011 Forgotten People White Paper recommending a uranium transport ban amendment to the Dine’ Mining and Milling Ban
• 3/15/2011 Uranium Transport Analysis (Robert Sabie, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University)
• Map of the Proposed uranium transport route through the Navajo Nation (Robert Sabie, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University)
• LINK to Interactive Mapping (Arc-based) project (work-in-progress): http://myweb.students.wwu.edu/~sabier/ForgottenPeople (Robert Sabie, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University)
• 3/16/2011 DRAFT Energy Policy for the Navajo Nation (Jarrett Wheeler, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University)

5/5/2011 Navajo Times: Balaran: Senior officials part of 'systemic' abuse

5/5/2011 Navajo Times: Balaran: Senior officials part of ‘systemic’ abuse by By Bill Donovan Special to the Times: The $2 million or so that Navajo Nation Council delegates allegedly stole from their discretionary funds is only the tip of the iceberg, according to a court document filed Monday by Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran. In a proposed revision of his prosecution plan submitted to the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, Balaran stated, “During the course of his investigation, the special prosecutor uncovered a systemic pattern of financial improprieties on the part of the nation’s most senior officials that resulted in the loss, theft or misuse of millions of dollars both in federal and tribal funds and more than $1.5 billion in federal grants.”

Accounting irregularities related to the misuse of money date back 10 years and include false reporting of receipts, collections, deposits and disbursements, he stated. Federal, state and tribal money is involved.

Balaran originally was hired by the Council to look into allegations of impropriety in connection with then President Joe Shirley Jr. and the contracts for OnSat and BCDS, two business deals that cost the tribe millions and ended in failure.

A special court panel set up to oversee his operations expanded Balaran’s authority on Jan. 6 to look into the Council discretionary funds and based on what he then uncovered, further expanded his mandate to look into all aspects of tribal finances.

What he found, according to Monday’s document, is epic corruption and mismanagement by some of the highest officials in the tribal government.

Balaran singled out the tribe’s controller, Mark Grant, for his role in allowing tribal funds to be misused.

“Putting aside for the moment that Mr. Grant, by all accounts, displays a remarkable lack of knowledge concerning anything related to tribal finances, the controller was singularly responsible for the loss of billions of dollars in federal grants while simultaneously violating dozens of federal rules and regulations,” Balaran wrote.

“These issues are raised not merely to demonstrate that theft, fraud and incompetence inform practically every financial transaction in the nation but to underscore that this evidence will necessarily arise during the trials of many of the delegates.”

Attempts to get hold of Grant for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful. Grant did not return phone calls, and kept the Navajo Times on hold for over 20 minutes on one call before an assistant said it was time to free up the phone line and disconnected the call.

Balaran asserted that Grant also “played a role designed to ensure the special prosecutor was not paid,” but lays major blame for this problem at the feet of the tribe’s attorney generals, past and present.

Balaran stated that former Attorney General Louis Denetsosie and his top assistant, current Attorney General Harrison Tsosie, “violated numerous federal and Navajo statutes by surreptitiously entering into contracts with no fewer than two law firms – neither of whom hired attorneys licensed to practice before the Navajo courts – to defend the former president and his chief of staff against the special prosecutor’s investigation.”

Balaran said he has records showing that while Denetsosie and Tsosie paid those lawyers more than $250,000, “they simultaneously refused to compensate the special prosecutor and his staff on the plank that there were no available funds.”

Tsosie was on travel according to his staff and could not be reached for comment. Denetsosie, who reportedly has gone into private practice since stepping down in January, could not be located.

In addition to encountering repeated problems getting tribal officials to turn over documents, Balaran told the high court that its directives on case planning and other procedural matters are being widely flouted by lower courts and the attorney general’s office.

Only four of the 10 district courts responded to his invitation to meet and discuss how to ensure all the defendants get speedy trials.

He also said members of the attorney general’s office have told him they fear retaliation, including the loss of their jobs, if they help him, despite the Supreme Court directive to do so.

Citing the court’s order to the attorney general and chief prosecutor’s office to assist the special prosecutor, Balaran said, “From all accounts, this … caused panic among the members of the office of the Attorney General who met in emergency session the very next morning” to decide how to fight the order.

“In this instance, the OAG did not simply ignore the court’s order, it went to great pains not to comply,” Balaran said.

He singled out Chief Prosecutor Bernadine Martin as an exception, writing, “In stark opposition to the recalcitrance demonstrated by her colleagues at OAG, the chief prosecutor expressed a genuine willingness to assist.”

Balaran expressed surprise that no one has been penalized for ignoring the Supreme Court’s orders. He said in most off-reservation courts an attorney who refused to comply with a direct order from a court would face severe sanctions including suspension and disbarment.

“… the special prosecutor must profess he has never heard of so many jurists demonstrat(ing) a similar irreverence toward an appellate court. On the Navajo Nation, it appears that, irrespective of the court issuing the order, orders are complied with at the convenience of the attorney,” Balaran wrote.

Balaran said “in response to this court’s urging,” he reported the misuse of federal and state money to the proper authorities, including the acting attorney general for the U.S. Interior Department, but that agency “faces its own financial constraints and could promise no immediate action.”

He also tried to contact the U.S. attorneys for New Mexico and Arizona to report his findings, he told the Supreme Court, but so far hasn’t been able to speak directly with either one.

http://www.navajotimes.com/politics/2011/0511/050511specialp2.php