Tag Archives: Mark Grant

9/28/2011 Navajo Times: New special prosecutor to replace Balaran

9/28/2011 Navajo Times: New special prosecutor to replace Balaran By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times: A new special prosecutor for the Navajo Nation is expected to be named within the next 10 days. Dana Bobroff, deputy attorney general for the Navajo Nation’s Department of Justice, told Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry on Monday that the Special Division of Window Rock District Court overseeing the special prosecutor’s assignments was discussing the selection of someone to replace Alan Balaran.

Balaran was hired about 18 months ago by DOJ after members of the Navajo Nation Council decided that a special prosecutor was needed to investigate then President Joe Shirley Jr. because of alleged misconduct in two failed business deals that cost the tribe millions.

Then Attorney General Louis Denetsosie later asked the court to extend the scope of Balaran’s authority to include investigation into alleged misuse of tribal discretionary funds by Council members. Balaran would later file criminal cases against 77 of the 88 members then serving.

Most of the cases were later dropped in favor of civil suits against the same people, plus additional officials including Denetsosie, Shirley, and the tribe’s current attorney general, Harrison Tsosie, and the controller, Mark Grant.

Bobroff, who works for Tsosie, said she met with Special Division officials Monday morning but did not go into detail about what was discussed or whether the court will look in-house for the next special prosecutor or bring someone in from outside the tribe, as with Balaran.

Balaran’s last day is Friday, Sept. 30, but he said he is continuing to work on the cases up to the end, and is making arrangements so that when a new prosecutor is named, that person will be able to pick up where he left off.

9/16/2011 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.”