Tag Archives: Black Mold

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.”

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.

9/24/2011 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/

9/24/2011 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.”

9/16/2011 Gallup Independent: BLACK MOLD – Window Rock Administration Building 1 cleanup projected at $1 million

9/16/2011 Gallup Independent: BLACK MOLD – Window Rock Administration Building 1 cleanup projected at $1 million By Arlyssa Becenti and Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – A meeting of division directors took place Thursday afternoon to discuss the extended closing of Navajo Tribal Administration Building 1 and the planning of how the divisions’ operation during this closure will be handled. Nearly two weeks after a memo was sent out to inform employees and the general public that Administration Building 1 would be closed from Sept. 1-6 because of health risks which were the result of black mold found in the heating ventilation and air conditioning system, another notification was displayed to notify that as of Sept. 9 the closing of the building was until further notice.

“This meeting is to update division directors what is going on with the remediation process,” Communication Director Laphillda Tso said. “We don’t know the real cause. Until we pinpoint every problem we will (not) have an estimation of how long the building will be closed.”

Administration Building 1, which holds many divisions, is the financial housing of the Navajo Nation and the closing has greatly impacted business flow for the tribe.

“The divisions have all been relocated,” Tso said. “Business has been slower but they are getting done. We are definitely keeping the public up to date.”

If Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran didn’t seize all the documents he needed for his probe of possible misuse of Navajo Nation funds during spring raids on the Office of the Controller and Contracts and Grants, it’s unlikely he or any future special prosecutor will get new information anytime soon.

Critical financial documents within the Office of the Controller, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of the Auditor General all are housed in Administration Building 1, “the heartbeat of the Navajo Nation,” as Herman Shorty, director of the Office of Environmental Health, called it Thursday. But those documents are off limits after discovery of black mold led to closure of the building Sept. 9.

Friday morning, immediate essential documents needed for the closeout of Fiscal Year 2011, which ends Sept. 30, and other documents necessary for the continuity of government services were to be retrieved, decontaminated, and distributed to the appropriate parties so government processes are not stalled.

“This is a crucial, bad time, but emergencies don’t know that,” Shorty said.

During a meeting Thursday with the Budget and Finance Committee, Controller Mark Grant said the remediation is expected to run about $1 million and continuity of services about $500,000. In the event a new building is required, the low-end estimate to “put up a shell” would be about $10 million.

“You have to think about what’s happening right now. We’re re-creating everything inside that building, outside the building,” he said. “We’re rebuilding offices, we’re buying computers, we’re rerunning telephone lines. … That’s not just for us. That’s for General Services, Insurance Services, Auditor General, Personnel – they’re all re-creating their offices on the outside, so that’s going to be expensive.”

Many offices, including the Controller’s, are now located in the Department of Dine Education. Building Maintenance is in the process of rewiring and routing the electricity, Grant said, “because we just keep blowing out the power in that building.” If that doesn’t work, they have contacted a service in Phoenix that will bring in a semi-truck with a generator and set it up overnight. “That’s going to run $5,000 a week if we do that,” he said.

Meanwhile, all Personnel Action Forms pertaining to the hiring and firing of employees, all contracts, state and federal grants, audits and investment information are housed within the contaminated building.

“They’re going to try to get some of the important documents out of there, but when they close the building, they said, that’s it. Nothing goes in, nothing goes out after that. All our little Teddy bears are in there, all our coffee cups are in there,” Grant said, adding that when the closure order was issued, employees “basically stood up, they grabbed what they could as they had to leave the building, and that’s all they brought out.”

His office had advance notice, so they tore down some of their equipment and brought out a lot of the computers, Grant said. “The problem they brought to our attention is we could have brought some of the mold out with it.”

As part of the emergency response action, “They’re talking about scanning all the documents in the building and then disposing of them afterward,” Grant said.

Ron Interpreter, emergency management specialist with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc., which is providing technical assistance, said the mold has a way of attaching itself to surfaces, so one of the solutions being explored is to scan all the documents and put them into an electronic format.

According to a news release, Operation Breathe Safe is an incident action plan of the steps that will take place starting Friday. The first step in Operation Breathe Safe will be to retrieve vital documents from Administration Building 1 and a team of 50 chosen individuals will take these documents, scan them for a period of three days and proceed to destroy them.

“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 – financial regulations – when it comes to auditing and so forth, to prove and show cause or reasons why those documents were destroyed,” Interpreter said. “Mr. Grant is aware of that process and he’s putting a purging policy in place.”

A lot of the information in the building is very critical to the Navajo Nation, Interpreter said. “The sensitivity of taking care of it, the sensitivity of making sure that all of the information is recovered appropriately is really, really important.”

All documents throughout the various departments in the Administration Building that are needed in hard copy format would have to be scanned and reprinted. “That will be expensive,” Grant said, and at the moment one item they don’t have is a copy machine. They are all inside the contaminated building.

“If you come over to the Education Building, you will see how we are set up in there. We just have big long tables set up across the room, just rows of tables and people. Some of our work is being processed at Properties in Fort Defiance,” he said.

Assessments to determine the cause of the mold were said to be due by 5 p.m. Thursday. The assessment would give information as to what biological sources, if any, were found, Tso said.

Policy director Michele Morris also said that after the contamination was identified, proper care would take place.

“After we ID the contaminant we will address the public what they need to know,” Morris said. “Our Navajo Nation designate doctor is on hand to review and correlate with employees who have been impacted.”

After the contamination assessment is delivered by Environmental Consultant Inc. on Friday, a contractor will be hired to work on any of the building’s structural problems, a news release stated.

Incident Management Team Commander Wilfred Keeto said they are looking at the structural integrity of the Administration Building due to issues of moisture penetration. While they are projecting 30 days for the cleanup, “this can also carry into six months; it can carry into a year. If we do fix the inside and forget the outside … we can be back in the same situation.”

Grant said it is being recommended they foam and seal the roof. “There’s water coming in on the north side of the building up by OMB. They found the most mold in that area – OMB and Accounts Payable,” he said. “When they looked up on top they found pools of water all over the building. They walked around, they looked at the tile. They said anywhere there is a stain on those tiles, on the other side is mold. They found that all over the building.”

Operations Chief Wilson Laughter said the cleanup will be treated similar to asbestos abatement and there are federal regulations that mandate how the removal process is conducted.

“Actual site removal activity is basically going to be like a bubble. Once they seal that, it’s designed to keep whatever the contaminant is inside. The workers will then go in and do what needs to be done. Whatever is contaminated will be removed, and they will triple bag it and seal it. That’s how it’s going to work,” Laughter said.

“I think it’s very critical what Wilfred said earlier, and Mr. Grant. We don’t want to have to do this drill again six months from now. Let’s get it right the first time.”