Tag Archives: Alan Balaran

10/20/2011 Navajo Times: Former MacDonald prosecutors replace Balaran

10/20/2011 Navajo Times: Former MacDonald prosecutors replace Balaran By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times: The Special Division of the Window Rock District Court has decided to go with experience in replacing Alan Balaran as special prosecutor. The division last week approved hiring Santa Fe law firm of Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom & Schoenburg as the new special prosecutor. “The Rothstein law firm, led by attorneys Eric Dahlstrom and Richard Hughes, will continue the investigations into alleged misuse of discretionary funds by high ranking officials of the Navajo Nation,” a press release from the attorney general’s office stated.

The firm will also look into allegations of mismanagement of funds in the OnSat, BCDS and Tribal Ranch Program and other matters assigned by the special division, which is composed of three judges.

Balaran, according to the press release, has agreed to assist with the transition.

The law firm was instrumental in the late 1980s in the prosecution of then chairman Peter MacDonald Sr., his son Rocky and others in MacDonald’s administration for a variety of crimes while in office.

Dahlstrom, who has been a member of the Navajo Nation Bar Association for at least 30 years, was deputy attorney general of the Navajo Nation from 1987 through 1991.

Hughes has also been a member of the Navajo bar for at least 30 years and was one of the lead prosecutors in the MacDonald case.

In the press release, the attorney general’s office said it was “fully supportive” of the appointment. Both the current attorney general, Harrison Tsosie, and his predecessor, Louis Denetsosie, are named defendants in the civil suit filed by Balaran.

The attorney general’s office stated that it “is fully committed to the resolution of these matters pursuant to Navajo laws, principals and cultural values.”

Dahlstrom, interviewed by phone at his Phoenix office, said Wednesday that the firm is not making any statements at this time about how it plans to proceed in the investigation and the prosecution of those who have already been named in civil suits filed by Balaran.

10/14/2011 Gallup Independent: Law firm selected as special prosecutor

10/14/2011 Law firm selected as special prosecutor By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – The law firm that successfully prosecuted former Navajo Nation Chairman Peter MacDonald and other tribal officials 20 years ago has been named to succeed Alan Balaran as the Nation’s special prosecutor. Deputy Attorney General Dana Bobroff announced Thursday that the Special Division of Window Rock District Court appointed the nationally prominent Rothstein Law Firm to continue the investigations into Navajo Nation Council delegates’ use of discretionary funds, alleged crimes by tribal officials involved in contracts or payments to OnSat Network Communications and BCDS Manufacturing, the tribal ranch program and other matters assigned to the Special Division.

US News & World Report, in its 2010 ranking of “Best Law Firms,” gave the Rothstein Law Firm (Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom, Schoenburg & Bienvenu LLP) the highest possible ratings both nationally and regionally.

Though Bobroff was not at liberty to release the name of Balaran’s successor when asked Wednesday, she said she thought the Navajo people would be reassured by the Special Division’s choice.

The Rothstein Law Firm was the first firm ever retained by the Special Division as special prosecutor. Balaran was notified a little more than a month ago by the three-judge Special Division that his contract would not be renewed.

“Mr. Balaran has graciously agreed to assist with the transition of the special prosecutor cases prior to beginning his new assignment with the federal court,” Bobroff stated in the press release. Balaran received his sixth appointment in August to serve as U.S. District Court special master for victims of the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing.

Asked Thursday about his successor, Balaran said, “The firm comes with a superlative reputation.”

The firm’s Richard W. Hughes and Eric N. Dahlstrom, both of whom have been members of the Navajo Nation Bar Association for at least 30 years, will lead the special prosecutor investigations.

Hughes, whose office is in Santa Fe, started the firm’s Indian law practice. Prior to becoming a partner in September 1988, he spent eight years in legal service on the Navajo Nation and was a lead attorney in the MacDonald prosecutions, according to the firm’s website. His areas of practice include Indian law and civil litigation.

Dalhstrom, whose office is in Tempe, was Navajo Nation Deputy Attorney General from 1987 through 1991 and has practiced Indian law for more than 30 years, representing tribes in Arizona and Wisconsin. His areas of practice include Indian law, natural resources and civil litigation.

“The Office of the Attorney General is fully supportive of the appointment of the Rothstein Law Firm and stays fully committed to the resolution of these matters pursuant to Navajo laws, principles and cultural values – which requires that those who are proven to have engaged in wrongdoing are held accountable,” Bobroff stated.

“The Office of the Attorney General has the utmost confidence in the Navajo Nation’s system of justice that those who have not engaged in wrongdoing will have their names cleared,” she said.

Nearly a year ago, on Oct. 20, 2010, former Navajo Nation Attorney General Louis Denetsosie announced that Balaran had filed criminal charges against more than 70 of the 88 delegates from the 21st Navajo Nation Council. The charges alleged conspiracy, fraud, forgery, abuse of office and theft of funds ranging from a low of $650 to a high of $279,175.

This past May, after being stymied in his efforts to prosecute the cases, Balaran filed a plan with the Navajo Nation Supreme Court to streamline the court process by withdrawing the outstanding criminal complaints without prejudice – meaning they can be refiled – against all but a few defendants.

In place of the criminal complaints, around the end of July Balaran filed a single civil complaint charging more than 80 current and former Navajo Nation officials with breach of fiduciary duty, including Denetsosie and current Attorney General Harrison Tsosie, who has formally delegated all his responsibilities concerning the special prosecutor to Bobroff.

10/10/2011 Navajo Times: Court orders protects documents, Balaran ends job: 'going fishing'

10/10/2011 Navajo Times: Court orders protects documents, Balaran ends job: ‘going fishing’ By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times: Alan Balaran, who stepped down as special prosecutor on Friday, stirred up a hornet’s nest with his court filings over concerns for financial documents housed in Administration Building No. 1. It’s an issue that seemingly didn’t want to die even after Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry ruled in a hearing on Sept. 26 that no documents could be removed from the building. Last Friday, Perry issued a formal order saying no documents could be taken out of the building or destroyed without the court’s permission.

Tribal attorneys were still saying that Balaran was wasting the court’s time since no one was making plans to destroy any of the documents, despite a president’s office press release issued two weeks before saying that because of the closing of the building suspicions of mold, documents were going to be scanned and then destroyed.

The president’s office issued a press release the day after the Sept. 26 hearing stating that information on the earlier press release was incorrect.

“All documents will be preserved according to Navajo Nation, federal or any other pertinent entities’ record retention policies and procedures and any other applicable law,” the release states.

Tribal officials at the Sept. 26 hearing had stated that because environmental officials were saying that it may be six months or more before the building could be re-opened, some employees wanted to get documents they would need to keep their offices running.

With Perry’s order last Friday, tribal officials will now have to get the court’s permission before any of these documents could be removed from the building.

As for Balaran, he said on Friday that he still feels his efforts to protect the records – some of which are needed in his civil prosecution of former and present tribal officials for misuse of discretionary funds – was justified.

He said he saw videos and has transcripts of meetings in which tribal officials responsible for investigating the possibility of mold in the building talked about the destruction of tribal documents after they were scanned.

He said he felt he had no recourse but to get the court order to make sure that whoever is appointed to replace him has the evidence they need to prosecute the case.

Balaran was still hoping for the court to appoint a special master to oversee the safety of the hundreds of thousands of financial records being stored in the building but Perry has not agreed to this request.

Assistant Attorney General Paul Spruhan, in a memo filed with the court last week, agreed that such a master was not needed and adding that the incident management team overseeing work in the building has the expertise to make sure that all of the documents are protected.

“The team demonstrated at the hearing (on Sept. 26) that it is acting with the utmost integrity and professionalism with no ulterior motive concerning the merits of the current civil case filed by the special prosecutor,” he said.

Despite the fact that the tribe currently has no special prosecutor, the civil case against 77 members of the previous Council, former president Joe Shirley Jr., Controller Mark Grant, former attorney general Louis Denetsosie and current attorney general Harrison Tsosie continues.

It will be up to whoever is appointed the new special prosecutor to decide whether to proceed with the case, change the civil suit back to criminal cases or go in a different direction.

Officials for the attorney general’s office have continued to hold meetings with the special district of the court set up to oversee the operations of the special prosecutor.

Perry noted that officials for the attorney general’s office had indicated that a new special prosecutor may be appointed as early as this week. If that doesn’t happen, she said she wanted a written report submitted to her by Oct. 7 to give a progress report.

As for Balaran, asked what his plans are now that he is no longer special prosecutor, a job he held for 18 months, he said, “I’m going fishing.”

10/5/2011 Associated Press: Navajo slush fund case awaits prosecutor

10/5/2011 Navajo slush fund case awaits prosecutor By Felicia Fonseca The Associated Press: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A civil case alleging that dozens of Navajo officials used tribal money as personal slush funds or failed to regulate the money won’t move forward for at least a month to allow for the appointment of a new prosecutor and to get that person up to speed. Alan Balaran spent more than a year investigating discretionary spending within the tribal government and allegations of illegal and unethical conduct by tribal employees, some of whom have left office. The expiration of his contract Friday means there is no prosecutor in the case, though tribal justice officials said one ideally would be named this week.

Tribal District Court Judge Carol Perry, who is overseeing the case, issued an order late last week putting the case on hold until Nov. 7. She says defense attorneys can submit pleadings but she won’t act on them until after then.

She also ordered the tribe’s Department of Justice to secure the special prosecutor’s office until a new person is appointed and can take control. Financial documents housed in a tribal building believed to be contaminated by mold will remain there until an incident management team comes up with a plan to preserve them that must be presented to Balaran’s replacement and approved by the court, Perry said.

Some of the 85 defendants, which include former and current Navajo lawmakers, attorneys general and the tribe’s controller, have said the civil complaint was a shoddy piece of investigative work. Tribal Council Speaker Johnny Naize, who is among the defendants, questioned Balaran’s motives and believed that the prosecutor was trying to disable the tribal government.

“We can now move forward with better confidence to resolve these vague civil suits and focus on our job of working for the Navajo people,” he said in a statement after a judicial panel decided against renewing Balaran’s contract last month.

Balaran said those charged clearly defrauded the tribe in the management and use of $36 million. The money should have gone to address significant hardships, help elderly Navajos on fixed incomes or to student scholarships, he said.

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.

9/27/2011 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.