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.”