Tag Archives: Government Corruption

10/27/2011 Navajo Times: Bogus bonuses – 2 Tuba City officials removed for scamming illegal bonuses

10/27/2011 Navajo Times: Bogus bonuses – 2 Tuba City officials removed for scamming illegal bonuses By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times: Two officials for Toh Nanees Dizi Chapter has been removed from office in the investigation into five officials accused of illegally paying themselves bonuses totaling over $80,000. Jimmy Holgate, who served on the chapter governing council, was removed on Tuesday when he failed to show up for a hearing before the Office of Hearings and Appeals. The hearing included witnesses who had traveled all of the way from Tucson. As a result of the default judgment, Holgate will have to reimburse the chapter $7,644 and cannot run for public office for five years.

Last week, Helen Herbert came to the tribe’s ethics Office and admitted she had defrauded the chapter.

She too was on the governing council. She agreed to reimburse the chapter $10,000 by paying $200 a month to the Ethics Office.

That still leaves the top three chapter officials facing hearings.

Robert Yazzie, council vice president, was scheduled to go before OHA on Oct. 20. He is accused of illegally taking $20,180.

Council President Max Goldtooth is scheduled to have a hearing Nov. 9 on charges of misappropriating $17,200.

The hearing for Secretary-Treasurer Charlene Nez, who is accused of taking $26,668, is scheduled Nov. 30.

All five are accused of giving themselves illegal bonuses for doing ordinary chapter business. For example, each got a $3,000 Christmas bonus as well as anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for signing ordinary resolutions approved by the chapter.

The charges filed by the Ethics Office said the officials also violated tribal law by failing to present the payments for approval by chapter members before the checks were issued

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.”

8/11/2011 Navajo Times: Deferred comp leads to IRS concerns, issues

8/11/2011 Navajo Times: Deferred comp leads to IRS concerns, issues By Bill Donovan: Special to the Times: WINDOW ROCK, Aug. 11, 2011: Many members of the Navajo Nation Council who were not re-elected last November received a lot less deferred compensation than they probably expected when they left office. Thank or blame the Internal Revenue Service for that. Under Navajo law, departing elected officials receive a nice little nest egg – or a big one, if they’ve been in office for a long time. In theory it’s pay they earned but was set aside in recognition of the fact that it may take them some time to find a new job.

But deferred comp can also serve as collateral for a payroll advance and many delegates took advantage of this opportunity more than once, borrowing up to $15,000. Sooner or later the advances would be repaid, ultimately by deducting from their deferred compensation if they had not already made repayment.

For those who didn’t repay their advances within a year, the IRS is saying they also owe tax on that money because it counts as income, according to Rodger Martinez, director of the tribe’s Retirement Services Department.

The deferred compensation program, which is administered by the JP Morgan Retirement Plan Services, has been around since 1973, providing millions of dollars in benefits over the years to not only elected officials of the tribe but appointees as well.

For elected officials, an extra 20 percent of their base salary is put into a special account that they can only receive when they step down from office. Appointees – those who serve at the pleasure of the president or the Council – receive extra pay equal to 10 percent of their salary.

The money is put into an account each pay period and collects interest throughout their time in office. Morgan account managers determine how to invest the money, in theory getting the best return possible.

What this means, said Martinez, is that a delegate earning $25,000 a year would get $5,000 a year extra with interest providing several hundred additional dollars. At the end of a four-year term, his or her deferred comp would be $26,000 to $27,000, depending on how must interest was earned.

Tapping the money: But in 1998, after mulling it over for many years, the Council made a major change in the rules. All that money was accumulating with no way to touch it.

Martinez said he explained to them that deferred comp was like a retirement fund, and letting it accumulate untouched was the whole idea.

He nevertheless got approached more than once to help a delegate use deferred comp as collateral for a vehicle loan. Martinez said he always refused, because if the person defaulted on the loan, there was no way the bank or the car dealer could get money out of the tribe’s deferred comp program.

The Council then decided to allow delegates salary advances from their deferred comp funds. These could be repaid through biweekly payroll deductions or in one lump sum when they left office.

Martinez and others objected to this as well, pointing out that if the delegates were able to tap into their nest eggs early and not repay the money until they stepped down, it would defeat the purpose of the nest-egg program.

And then there was the matter of taxes. The IRS viewed payroll advances that were not repaid within a year as additional income, and therefore taxable.

Martinez said he kept stressing that the Council should not do anything that would hurt the integrity of the deferred comp program because it could hurt the tribe or those who benefit from it.

Despite these warnings, the Council approved the advances, first limited to $2,500 per delegate but increasing over time to $5,000, then $10,000 and finally $15,000 per delegate.

Martinez stressed that this was not a give-away because anything owed to the tribe would be repaid before the deferred comp was released.

But there was nothing to prevent a new delegate from borrowing the full amount possible – $15,000 – in essence borrowing against money they had not yet received. And if the person then left office early, the deferred comp program would have a hole to fill.

And, indeed, the IRS did take notice, saying that federal tax laws considered these payroll advances to be a “constructive receipt.” If not repaid within a year, it would be considered additional salary and the delegate would have to pay taxes on it.

More tax woes: This wasn’t the first time that people who received deferred comp found themselves in trouble with the IRS, Martinez added.

In the early days of the program, recipients had the option of taking all their deferred comp with them or having the tribe withhold the taxes they would owe on it. Many decided to take it all with them, and no matter how large the amount, most seemed to go through it in a matter of months. Then they had no money to pay the taxes.

“They would come back and complain that we didn’t tell them that they had to pay taxes on it, but we always did that,” Martinez said.

So many delegates found themselves in serious tax trouble over deferred comp that eventually the tribe took away the option and now withholds the taxes before cutting the checks.

For many of the 88 who lost their seats in last year’s Council downsizing to 24, their deferred comp was substantially reduced by tax withholding coupled with the belated repayment of cash advances, Martinez said.

The new Council has taken steps to correct the problems by tightening up the rules, he said.

Delegates can still get payroll advances but have to repay them within one or two pay periods. They can also get loans but they are required to repay them through payroll deductions within a year to avoid problems with the IRS.

This includes the 11 delegates who are carryovers from the previous Council. If they had outstanding advances, a repayment schedule was set up. If the loan was more than a year old, they are required to pay income tax on it. In either case, repayment is made through payroll deductions.

But the delegates may face still more heat from the IRS, courtesy of the charges involving millions in questionably spent slush funds.

In his legal filings, Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran claims that the delegates used millions of dollars of discretionary aid for their own personal benefit or that of their relatives.

Whether or not the claims are proven in court, the delegates and others who received large amounts from the slush funds could be taxed if the IRS agrees with Balaran’s findings.

8/11/2011 Gallup Independent: Ethics complaints filed against Tuba City officials

8/11/2011 Gallup Independent: Ethics complaints filed against Tuba City officials: By Kathy Helms Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Five To’ Nanees’ Dizi Chapter officials have been cited in complaints alleging violations of the Ethics in Government Law for allegedly paying themselves more than $84,000 in bonuses between Oct. 1, 2009, and March 10, including $3,000 each in Christmas bonuses. Lewnell Harrison of the Navajo Nation Ethics and Rules Office filed the complaints July 18 seeking immediate removal of the officials and asking that they be ordered to pay restitution. If found guilty, they would be prohibited from holding public office for five years. Harrison said if officials stipulate to the charges and forgo hearings before the Office of Hearing and Appeals, it will be considered an admission of guilt. The To’ Nanees’ Dizi Chapter is a local governance-certified chapter run by a Council of Naat’aanii. Named in the complaints are: Max D. Goldtooth Sr., president of the Council of the Naat’aani; Robert Yazzie, vice president; Charlene Nez, secretary/treasurer; and members Helen Herbert and Jimmy Holgate.

They are charged with conflict of interest; unauthorized compensation or benefit for official acts; unauthorized personal use of property or funds of the Navajo Nation; Regulations and Standards of Conduct for Elected Officials of the Navajo Nation, Section Four (D) conflict of interest, and Section Six, undue or improper influence; abuse of official position, and violation of trust.

Four of the officials, with the exception of Holgate, are alleged to have paid themselves $3.000 Christmas bonuses on Nov. 8, 2009, and $2,000 bonuses between Nov. 15 and Nov. 17, 2010. Holgate allegedly received Christmas bonuses of $3,000 in 2009 and $1,000 in 2010. Money to pay the 2010 bonuses was transferred from a “Power Line Extension account” to a “Bonus Pay account” per an approved legislation.

According to the complaints, which lists dates and check numbers, Nez is alleged to have received 21 unauthorized payments between Oct. 1, 2009, and March 10, totaling $26,668.50, drawn on the account of the To’ Nanees’ Dizi Chapter. She was primary signatory on two of the checks and primary approver for 16 checks.

Yazzie allegedly received 15 unauthorized payments totaling $20,180 between Nov. 8, 2009, and March 10. Yazzie was the primary signatory on nine checks and the primary approver for 15 checks.

Goldtooth allegedly received 13 unauthorized payments during the same time period totaling $17,200. He was the primary signatory on six checks, and primary approver on 13 checks.

Herbert is alleged to have received $13,000 in unauthorized payments, and Holgate, $7,644, also during the same time period, through checks drawn on the chapter account.

On Jan. 13, 2010, all but Holgate received $3,000 each in bonus payments for “TND Tax Code Referendum,” and six days later, on Jan. 19, all but Holgate received $1,000 each in bonuses for “2010 New Project Incentive.” The officials allegedly received thousands of dollars in “Business Site Lease” bonuses while other payments simply were labeled “Bonus payment.”

In addition, Nez allegedly received a $1,000 year-end bonus for Fiscal Year 2009 on Oct. 1, 2009, and a “FY-10 Year End Bonus” of $2,500 on Aug. 17, 2010 – the same day she also received $2,000 for “TNDBSL Approval,” apparently related to To’ Nanees’ Dizi Business Site Lease approval.

On Nov. 8, 2010, she allegedly received three payments totaling $2,500 which included a $1,000 bonus for “Amendments to CON&EM local government,” or Council of Naat’ aanii and Executive Manager, and $1,000 for “Successful Completion of FY-2010 Financial Statement Audit.”

On Dec. 14, 2010, officials were paid bonuses for chapter projects related to “Shadow Mountain Powerline and Fair/Rodeo Ground Reconstruction.” Nez and Herbert allegedly received $1,000 each; Goldtooth, $1,500; and Holgate, $500. On the same date, Yazzie allegedly approved a check for himself in the amount of $1,500 for “Compensation per 26 N.N.C., Section 103 (E) 11.”

On Dec. 30, under the heading of “Approval of NBOES Special Election for CON & EM Amendments, also 120 Days Report to the NEDC for TND Business Site Lease,” Goldtooth and Yazzie allegedly paid themselves bonuses of $1,000 each, while Nez received $500, Herbert $300, and Holgate $200.

As elected officials, members of the Council of Naat’aanii receive stipends of $250 to attend regular, special, and agency council meetings. Reimbursement for expenses such as travel is provided. The governing ordinance does not permit chapter officials, in their official capacities, to receive any other form of compensation.

Herbert is scheduled for hearing on Oct. 11; Holgate, Oct. 18, Yazzie, Oct. 20; Goldtooth, Nov. 9; and Nez, Nov. 30.

Executive Manager Priscilla Littlefoot was out of the office Wednesday and a chapter spokesperson said they would have no immediate comment.

Deenise Becenti of Navajo Tribal Utility Authority said Shadow Mountain is a 12.5 mile project that would provide electricity to 22 families between Cameron and Tuba City. The federal project, which is projected to cost around $731,000, requires a 50 percent match from the chapter.

“The project is ready to proceed, however, we are waiting for the chapter to come up with the $365,000 match,” Becenti said. Until then, it is on hold. “NTUA would not give money to the chapter; they would just apply it directly to the construction.”

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Joshua Lavar Butler, who represents To’ Nanees’ Dizi Chapter, said, “If they indeed misspent money intended for our community, I think they have every obligation to abide by whatever recommendation is recommended by the Office of Hearing and Appeals as well as the Ethics and Rules Office.

“If anything, this will really encourage the community to be more involved in their local government, which is very much needed,” not just in Tuba City but at all 110 chapters, he said. “Also, the notion of promoting transparency and accountability is very important. If they’re found innocent, so be it. If they’re found guilty, they have to answer to the people.”

8/3/2011 Gallup Independent: Dine´officials answer special prosecutor's allegations

8/3/2011 Gallup Independent: Dine´ officials answer special prosecutor’s allegations By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Former Navajo Nation Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan and former Attorney General Louis Denetsosie have denied breaching their fiduciary duties to the Navajo people as alleged in a complaint filed last week by Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran. Attorney General Harrison Tsosie was out of the office Tuesday and unavailable for comment. Controller Mark Grant said he had no comment, and former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. has not yet responded. Balaran has alleged that Morgan, acting in concert with other delegates, “unlawfully manipulated his position” to encourage other delegates to award approximately $50,000 in discretionary funds to some of his family members.

“I can attest that I’ve never encouraged anyone or delegate to cater to my family. I’ve never gained any money from the discretionary fund, nor gave money to any organization disguisely,” Morgan stated in an e-mail.

“But I would assure that each Council delegate had assisted the Navajo individuals sincerely for their (clients) benefits – in education, household utilities, livestock, etc., etc. Those should be exposed too. That would truly outweigh these negative allegations,” Morgan said.

Denetsosie, who along with Tsosie is alleged to have breached his fiduciary and ethical duties by approving payments to a law firm to defend Shirley against the special prosecutor’s investigation into OnSat, issued a statement, saying, “There is no merit whatsoever in the claim made against me by the Special Prosecutor.

“I will contest this claim vigorously, with the thankful recognition that people who know me and know the accomplishments of my lifetime of work for the Navajo Nation are giving me their full support.” He said he has devoted his time and effort selflessly to protect the proprietary and governmental interests of the Navajo Nation.

Denetsosie – who served as attorney general for eight years and is now general counsel for Navajo Oil and Gas – said that at his request the special prosecutor was granted jurisdiction initially by a Special Division established under Navajo law to prosecute persons involved in the OnSat and BCDS matters and the expenditures of discretionary funds administered by the Navajo Nation Council.

“Later, again at the request of my office, the Special Division enlarged his authority to include investigation of discretionary funds administered by the Office of the President/Vice President and activities of the Tribal Ranch Program. To date, the Special Prosecutor has not obtained a conviction against any person in connection with these matters, although he has reportedly spent over a million dollars of Navajo money in his brief tenure here.”

Balaran said last week that in order to prosecute the case, money had to be expended toward computer forensic experts, accounting forensic experts, other lawyers and staff and that he has not just pocketed the $1.1 million the Nation was billed, as was being portrayed by delegates at a press conference last Friday in response to the complaint. Though there have been no convictions to date, several of those charged last October have settled their cases, including President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim.

Denetsosie stated that without the approval of the Navajo Nation Department of Justice required under Navajo law, the special prosecutor sought to expand his own authority. “Rather than focus on the non-Navajos who have apparently absconded with Navajo money, the Special Prosecutor focuses on Navajo leadership, alleging that I and others breached our fiduciary duties to the Navajo Nation. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“Notably, the Special Prosecutor does NOT allege that I acted in any way for personal gain; rather, he misunderstands the role of the Attorney General with respect to the Navajo Nation Council (which has its own legal representation) and with my decision to permit President Shirley to have independent legal representation where the Navajo Nation Department of Justice could not ethically provide such services.”

Denetsosie also said that while the claim against him states that the OnSat matter involved a “scheme to enrich OnSat officials,” that this is the initial matter the special prosecutor was supposed to look into, “but he has not brought one lawsuit to recompense the Nation for this ‘scheme.’”

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)

7/28/2011 Navajo Times: 142 face charges in slush fund scandal Delegates: Special prosecutor overstepped authority

7/28/2011 Navajo Times: 142 face charges in slush fund scandal Delegates: Special prosecutor overstepped authority By Bill Donovan Special to the Times: WINDOW ROCK, July 28, 2011: he Navajo Nation’s special prosecutor on Thursday carried through with his plans to file civil suits against members of the Navajo Nation Council in connection with allegations that they converted millions of dollars in discretionary funds to their own use. These replace the criminal charges Alan Balaran filed earlier against 77 former and present members of the Council and then dismissed them.

This time he charged all members of the 21st Navajo Nation Council who served in office between 2007 and 2011, as well as former President Joe Shirley Jr., former Attorney General Louis Denetsosie, the current attorney general, Harrison Tsosie, and the controller, Mark Grant.

He also lists “John Does 1-50,” unknown individuals and employees who had a part in the illegal distribution of discretionary funds.

The total number of individuals facing charges is 142.

Discretionary funds were money allocated to delegates and the president’s office to provide assistance to citizens in need.

The suit goes after the former and current members of the Navajo Nation government for actions that “covertly manipulated and converted Navajo, federal and state funds resulting in a disparity of wealth whereby the vast majority of the Nation lives precipitously on the edge of poverty while those in positions of authority have amassed considerable wealth.”

In short, instead of promoting the well-being of their constituents, the civil suit claims they practiced the “art of self-dealing, ineptitude and secrecy.”

According to the suit, each member of the Navajo Nation Council received approximately $250,000 between 2005 and 2010, which they “unlawfully appropriated to themselves, their families, friends, other delegates and their friends, resulting in a total unlawful expenditure of tens of millions of dollars of the Navajo Nation.”

The lawsuit also indicates that the Council delegates may have also violated federal IRS laws when they adopted a policy a month after the fund was created that eliminated the requirement that the awards be reported to the IRS.

“In one sampling of awards, the (delegates) gave more than $2 million to 130 recipients with little regard to the beneficiary’s indigency,” the suit states. “These recipients were given checks in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $54,000.”

Another sampling showed that family members of 14 delegates received awards ranging from $51,000 to $130,000.

Shirley was named because he did not carry out his fiduciary duties to the Navajo people when he was president by approving the resolutions passed by the Navajo Nation Council that allowed the council delegates to acquire the discretionary funds.

Grant was also named because as controller he had a duty to see that tribal funds were handled in a proper manner.

He was also accused of promoting incompetent fiscal management, which resulted in the tribe having to return more than $100 million in federal and state grants between 2005 and 2009.

Denetsosie’s charges stemmed from signing contracts with the law firm of Gallagher and Kennedy to provide legal services for Shirley in his dealings with the special prosecutor. By doing this, he acted outside his scope of employment and tried to impede the special prosecutor’s investigation.

Tsosie’s charges stemmed from signing of the same contracts.

Within hours of the charges being filed, several members of the Council went on the attack, holding a noontime press conference Friday in front of the Council Chamber.

Speaker Johnny Naize said after looking at the language in the lawsuit he felt that Balaran’s charges were cast so broadly “that almost anyone doing business with the Navajo Nation government is guilty, from tribal employees to constituents.”

He said he had strong suspicions of why Balaran is targeting the tribe’s leadership and it has to do with the money he is making as special prosecutor.

So far, Naize said, Balaran has billed the tribe more than $1.1 million which has “only netted a group of allegations that were reduced from criminal charges to civil charges.”

So far, Naize said, no tribal court has acted on them and all of these charges continue to sit in limbo.

He stressed that despite all of Balaran’s attempts to undermine the tribal government, the government continues to operate.

Delegate LoRenzo Bates said he felt Balaran’s lawsuit exhibits vengeance against those who acted against him.

He also pointed out that since this is a civil suit, it could go on for years and become a drain on the Navajo people’s money at a time when funds are needed for other purposes.

Delegate Katherine Benally said she was so upset at Balaran’s false accusations against her that she was considering filing a countersuit against him.

Delegate Leonard Tsosie disagreed with the lawsuit’s figures that each Council delegate received $250,000 in discretionary funds, saying he never received that much.

He and others argued that Balaran exceeded his authority as special prosecutor and has failed to do what he was originally hired to do – look into the misuse of funds in the BCDS and OnSat scandals.

This was also pointed out by another delegate, Jonathan Nez, who said that in the BCDS scandal, a non-Indian made off with $4.4 million and is now vacationing on the tribe’s money and Balaran is doing nothing about it.

They all questioned whether Balaran was actually working to benefit the Navajo people and whether he was just another non-Indian who is trying to acquire as much Navajo money as he can before he heads back home.

7/29/2011 AP Washington Post: Lawsuit accuses 78 current and former Navajo Nation Council members of fraud in use of funds

7/29/2011 AP Washington Post: Lawsuit accuses 78 current and former Navajo Nation Council members of fraud in use of funds: WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — A special prosecutor filed a lawsuit against 78 current and former Navajo Nation Council members alleging massive fraud in their use of $36 million in discretionary funds intended for Navajos in need. The lawsuit filed Thursday accuses the council members of unlawfully taking about $36 million belonging to the deeply impoverished American Indian reservation from 2005 through 2010 to benefit themselves and their families. The council receives millions of dollars a year through supplemental budget appropriations to dole out to elderly Navajos on fixed incomes, college students, organizations in need or Navajos looking for emergency funding. Any member of the nation can seek financial help from a single lawmaker every six months.

The nation’s Supreme Court put on hold the discretionary until rules were established on how they could be doled out.

The civil case comes after all or nearly all of criminal cases against council members for alleged misuse of the money were dismissed. The lawsuit seeks the recovery of the money and accuses council members of ignoring their responsibility to keep tight controls over the nation’s money.

“These officials have divested themselves of their duties of honesty and transparency, choosing instead to perfect the art of self-dealing, ineptitude and secrecy,” said the lawsuit filed by special prosecutor Alan Balaran.

Tribal Council Speaker Johnny Naize, one of the lawmakers who was sued, said the lawsuit was a shoddy piece of legal work by the special prosecutor. “He is throwing darts again trying to see if any will stick,” Naize said.

David Jordan, an attorney who represented dozens of lawmakers in the criminal cases, said Balaran has billed the nation for $1.1 million for his investigation and came up empty handed.

Balaran didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Friday afternoon.

The lawsuit said that one sampling of the misspent money found that council members gave more than $2 million to 130 recipients with little regard over whether they were poor. The recipients received checks ranging from $10,000 to $54,000.

Another sample found that family members of 14 council members received $51,000 to $130,000. Additionally, millions of dollars went to Navajo Nation employees, even though they were ineligible to receive them, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said Joe Shirley Jr., the nation’s president from 2003 to 2011, sanctioned the passage of dozens of unlawful budget appropriations that resulted in the illegal conversion of tens of millions of dollars belonging to the nation.

Shirley approved resolutions which appropriated money to the discretionary fund and to a charitable contribution fund and which were falsely touted as emergency legislation, the lawsuit said.

The filing accuses Shirley of supporting appropriations knowing the money would be spent to enrich delegates, their families and other ineligible recipients.

“It’s outrageous that you could sue President Shirley for signing off on a budget,” said Jordan, who has advised Shirley on the investigation by the special prosecutor.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

7/29/2011 Gallup Independent: 'Brazzenness' Navajo officials charged with misusing millions

7/29/2011 Gallup Independent: ‘Brazzenness’ Navajo officials charged with misusing millions By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – A lawsuit charging current and former top-level officials of the Navajo Nation – including former President Joe Shirley Jr. – with breach of fiduciary responsibility was filed Thursday with Window Rock District Court by Special Prosecutor Alan L. Balaran. The complaint alleges the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state grant and contract funds and the associated loss or drastic curtailing of programs vital to children, the elderly, and the indigent. “I filed a complaint against almost every delegate – except for the three or four that settled – against the ex-president, against the current and former attorneys general, against the controller and against the speaker,” Balaran said late Thursday. He also requested that those still in office “be removed from their jobs, do a full accounting, give up their salaries for those times that they were stealing from the people, and return everything.”

Fifteen of the 16 delegates from the 21st Navajo Nation Council who are now part of the 22nd Council, including Speaker Johnny Naize, are being sued solely in their individual capacity as having acted outside the scope of their authority. Charges also were filed against former Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan, former Attorney General Louis Denetsosie, current Attorney General Harrison Tsosie, Controller Mark Grant, and John Does 1-50.

Last October, weeks before the General Election, criminal charges alleging conspiracy, fraud, theft, forgery and abuse of office – relating to how the Speaker’s Office managed its discretionary fund program – were filed against 78 delegates of the 21st Council. Balaran withdrew those earlier this year in anticipation of Thursday’s filing.

Each person charged “has a fiduciary duty to protect the Nation and to do everything in their best interest,” he said. “Clearly their actions were antagonist to those of the Nation and instead were simply selfish moves to further their own personal gain.”

According to Title 2, anyone who violates ethical rules can be incarcerated, forced to pay restitution, and removed from their job, he said.

President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim settled their cases earlier this year. Also not named in the new complaint are 22nd Council Delegate Roscoe Smith and 21st Council Delegates Jerry Bodie, Herman Daniels Sr. (deceased), Tom LaPahe (deceased), Lawrence Platero, and Harold Wauneka. Delegates not charged last year but whose names appear in the new complaint include LoRenzo Bates, Katherine Benally, Naize, Jonathan Nez and Leonard Tsosie.

Balaran alleges that the senior officials acted in concert and that the “brazenness” demonstrated by them demands not only monetary redress but the appointment of a Financial Receiver to assume the responsibilities of the controller, as well as the immediate removal and replacement of those delegates still occupying positions of authority.

Between 2005 and 2010, each delegate was given $250,000 in discretionary funds which they are alleged to have unlawfully appropriated to themselves, their families, friends, and other delegates and their families, “resulting in a total unlawful expenditure of tens of millions of dollars of the Navajo Nation.”

Balaran claims that those unlawful appropriations and expenditures by delegates could not have been carried out without the assistance of the other named defendants, “either acting in concert with the delegates or recklessly refusing to exercise their own powers to stop the delegates’ massive fraud upon the Navajo Nation.”

Supplemental appropriations were unlawfully approved by using two strategies, according to Balaran, including falsely casting the appropriations as “related to an emergency,” or by waiving all Navajo Nation laws which might have impeded the appropriations or expenditures.

Those charged Thursday include: Alice W. Benally, Amos F. Johnson, Andy R. Ayze, Benjamin Curley, Bobby Robbins Sr., Cecil Frank Eriacho, Charles Damon II, Curran Hannon, Danny Simpson, David B. Rico, David Shondee, David L. Tom, Davis Filfred, Edmund E. Yazzie, Edward V. Jim Sr., Elbert R. Wheeler, Elmer P. Begay, Elmer L. Milford, Ernest D. Yazzie Jr., Ervin M. Keeswood Sr., Evelyn Actothley, Francis Redhouse, George Apachito, George Arthur, Gloria Jean Todacheene, Harriett K. Becenti, Harry H. Clark, Harry Claw, Harry Hubbard, Harry J. Willeto, Harry Williams Sr., Herman R. Morris, Hope MacDonald Lone Tree, Hoskie Kee, Ida M. Nelson, Jack Colorado, Jerry Freddie, Joe M. Lee, Johnny Naize, Jonathan Nez, Katherine Benally, Kee Allen Begay Jr., Kee Yazzie Mann, Kenneth Maryboy, Larry Anderson Sr., Larry Noble, Lee Jack Sr., Lena Manheimer, Leonard Anthony, Leonard Chee, Leonard Teller, Leonard Tsosie, Leslie Dele, Lorenzo Bedonie, LoRenzo C. Bates, Lorenzo Curley, Mel R. Begay, Nelson BeGaye, Nelson Gorman Jr., Norman John II, Omer Begay Jr., Orlanda Smith-Hodge, Pete Ken Atcitty, Peterson B. Yazzie, Phillip Harrison Jr., Preston McCabe Sr., Ralph Bennett, Ray Berchman, Raymond Joe, Raymond Maxx, Roy B. Dempsey, Roy Laughter, Sampson Begay, Thomas Walker Jr., Tim Goodluck, Tommy Tsosie, Willie Begay, Willie Tracey Jr., Woody Lee, Young Jeff Tom, Louis Denetsosie, Harrison Tsosie, Joe Shirley Jr., Mark Grant, Lawrence T. Morgan, and John Does 1-50.