Tag Archives: Navajo Nation Council

6/13/2012 Rita Sebastian Re: Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Agreement FOR THE OFFICIAL RECORD

6/13/2012 Rita Sebastian Re: Legislation No. 0230-12 for the OFFICIAL RECORD“>6/13/2012 Rita Sebastian Re: Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Agreement: Harvard Native American Economic Development Project and Brandeis Heller School for Social Policy would be happy to support studies regarding Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Social Impact Assessment (SIA), and Economic Impact Analysis. Let science and careful policy analysis speak before you make any decisions to sell away water rights. Please let me know if we can be of any assistance.

6/14/2012 Naabikiyati (Navajo Nation Council) Budget & Finance Committee meeting: Navajo Hopi Little CO River Water Rights Settlement

6/14/2012 Naabikiyati (Navajo Nation Council) Budget & Finance Committee Special Mtg Agenda“>6/14/2012 Naabikiyati (Navajo Nation Council) Budget & Finance Committee meeting to discuss new Business: Legislation No. 0230-12: An Action Relating to the Budget and Finance, Resources and Development and the Nabikiyati Committees; Approving the Proposed Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Settlement Agreement Sponsor: Johnny Naize, Speaker

11/10/2011 Navajo Times: Funds available for Freeze families, panel says

11/10/2011 Navajo Times: Funds available for Freeze families, panel says By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times. WINDOW ROCK: The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission reports that it has nearly $4 million available to start helping Navajo families in the former Bennett Freeze area. “This is the latest funding for the recovery of the area,” the NHLC office stated in a recent report to the Navajo Nation Council. The money is from an escrow account. For 30 years, 1966 to 1996, Navajo families in the Bennett Freeze area were prohibited from making improvements to their homes because of federal restrictions put in place at the behest of the Hopi Tribe, which claimed prior rights to the land.

Meanwhile, land-use payments were held in escrow. In 2010, following a federal settlement lifting the Freeze, some $6.3 million was released to the Navajo Nation to benefit Navajos still residing there.

The land commission hasn’t yet approved the allocation of these funds, prompting the emergence of The Forgotten People, a grassroots group formed to demand an accounting of money spent and to push for needed improvements to the area.

The report to the Council said some $3.9 million of that $6 million has now been allocated to improve or replace dilapidated homes.

The commission also reported that lease fees from the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, which is building the Twin Arrows Resort Casino on land acquired under the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute agreement, are beginning to roll in.

Commission officials said the land had been purchased for about $7 million with the commission and the casino paying half of the cost. The land was then taken into ownership by the commission and the casino agreed to make annual payments to the commission for use of the land.

The first payment of $375,000 was made in June, said Raymond Maxx, director of the NHLC office.

10/17/2011 Navajo Times: Changes aim to protect cash from spending

10/17/2011 Navajo Times: Changes aim to protect cash from spending By Marley Shebala: There’s nearly $45 million in the tribe’s Undesignated Unreserved Fund but it may not be there for long if the Navajo Nation Council approves amendments to the Appropriations Act next week. Twelve members of the Nabik’yati’ Committee voted Tuesday to give the amendments a do-pass recommendation, making its passage a good bet during the Council’s fall session next week. The amendments, sponsored by Lorenzo Curley (Houck/Klagetoh/Nahata Dziil/Tse si’ani/Wide Ruins) would expand Ð instead of waiving – rules limiting the Council’s ability to spend the money, most of which is a one-time cash infusion from settlement of a lawsuit against Peabody Energy.

The intention is to protect the money from the chaotic methods of passing supplemental spending bills used in past years, said one Council leader, although some provisions would arguably reduce some restraints imposed under the current law.

The amendments moved at warp speed through the committee process, with the Budget and Finance Committee and the Law and Order Committee meeting during the Nabik’yati’ Committee’s lunch break to review the legislation, which they both gave a “do-pass” recommendation.

The proposed amendments would add language to the Appropriations Act that would allow the Council to make supplemental appropriations earlier in the budget year.

The current budget year started Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2012.

The tribe’s spending law now prohibits the Council from making supplemental appropriations until projected revenues are met and the UUF, the tribe’s rainy day fund, has a minimum balance equal to 10 percent of the prior fiscal year’s budget.

In this case, that would be $17 million since the 2011 budget was $170 million.

The projected revenues for the 2011 budget were not realized until August, two months before the end of the budget year.

The Appropriations Act also mandates that any amendments to it must come from the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, of which Curley is a member.

In presenting his bill to the committee Tuesday, said the reason for the amendments is to update the law and move supplemental appropriations legislation more efficiently through the legislative review process.

“These amendments make it simpler and easier for the Council to serve the needs of more constituents,” he added.

B&F committee Chair LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad/Newcomb/San Juan/T’iistoh Sikaad/Tse Daa K’aan/Upper Fruitland) said in a separate interview that the move to streamline the process for supplemental spending began as soon as the delegates learned that the UUF, which for the last couple of years has been millions in the red, now contained close to $40 million.

Bates, who has championed spending restraint during his years in the Council, said the amendment process was initiated to prevent a repeat of past years where last-minute spending requests would come from the Council floor with little or no explanation or justification.

Approval depended more on the political clout of the sponsor than on the proposal’s merit, with massive expenditures involving a little sugar for every chapter being particularly popular.

Bates also noted that the law currently requires the B&F Committee to hold hearings on the annual budget and supplemental spending bills, although the Law & Order Committee recommended that this responsibility be ceded to the Nabik’yati’ Committee, to which all the delegates belong.

Bates said that the committee’s proposed supplemental spending process would set priorities for allocating funds, such as the Peabody settlement, that are a one-time windfall.

Among the potential competition for supplemental spending are all three branches of the tribal government, which got significantly less than their stated need in the current budget.

According to President Ben Shelly’s 2011 budget message, the executive branch is short by about $65 million.

The much-smaller judicial branch’s unmet needs totaled about $1.6 million, according to previous statements by Chief Justice Herb Yazzie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10/13/2011 Gallup Independent: Tribe: Public lands threatened by copper, uranium mining

10/13/2011 Tribe: Public lands threatened by copper, uranium mining By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – Representatives of the San Carlos Apache Tribe received support Tuesday from Navajo Nation Council delegates in their opposition to a bill which would allow a subsidiary of foreign mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to acquire more than 2,400 acres in Tonto National Forest for a massive underground copper mine. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.-1, is sponsor of H.R. 1904: Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011. The land exchange would require Congress to lift a decades old mining ban within the 760 acres of federal lands known as Oak Flat, which were set aside from mining in 1955 by executive order of the Eisenhower administration.

Impacts from the mining operation will result in the “wholesale desecration of the sacred site and traditional cultural property that is encompassed by the Oak Flat, Apache Leap, and Gaan Canyon area,” San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler stated in written testimony submitted in June to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

“Chich’il Bildagoteel,” or Oak Flat, is home to all powerful Mountain Spirits, or Gaan, and a place of ancient settlements and burial sites. Because the Apache people’s relationship to the land is intertwined with their religious and cultural identity, it is believed “the potential harms to be visited upon this holy place threaten the cultural extinction of the Apache.”

Steve Titla, San Carlos general counsel, and Susan B. Montgomery, special legal counsel to the tribe, presented Chairman Rambler’s concerns to the Nabik’iyati’ Committee. Rambler was in D.C. to meet with Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., on the mining issue to ask him not to hold a hearing on the bill when it comes to his committee, Montgomery said.

“We should be sending a strong message to Representative Gosar, saying, ‘You’re not going to have our vote if you continue pursuing this bill,’” Shiprock Delegate Russell Begaye said. He suggested that Navajo and other Arizona tribes make that same proclamation. “I think those types of action are in order.”

Gosar also drew criticism Wednesday when he and Sen. John McCain along with other Arizona and Utah congressional leaders introduced the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, which would bar the Department of the Interior from withdrawing approximately 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon from mining consideration for the next 20 years, as proposed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in June.

The effect of the bill would be to allow uranium and other mining operations to go forward as soon as possible.

“Senator McCain and Congressman Gosar have turned their backs on thousands of constituents living in northern Arizona who oppose uranium mining,” Roger Clark of Grand Canyon Trust said.

“Havasupai object to their sole source of water being contaminated. All five of the Native nations surrounding the Grand Canyon have banned uranium mining due to its lethal history in the region. And hundreds of businesses, local governments, ranchers, and sporting groups support Secretary Salazar’s proposed ban on new claims because it protects their livelihoods. Who are these elected representatives protecting, other than foreign-owned nuclear industries?” he said.

In respect to copper mine, Begaye said since the Navajo Nation deals with BHP Billiton, they should send the company a resolution or letter to say, “We are opposing your desecration mining in this area.” The bill allows for the company to voluntarily withdraw from the land exchange, effectively terminating the land withdrawal, he said.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Forest Service would convey the 2,400 acres to Resolution Copper in exchange for company-owned land of an equivalent value. Of the company land, about 1,200 acres would become part of the National Forest System while about 4,200 acres would be administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

The bill also directs the Forest Service to sell around 550 acres to the town of Superior, Ariz. Proceeds from the sale, estimated at roughly $1 million, would be spent to acquire other lands. Begaye said purchase of the land by the Nations could deter part of the proposed action.

Resolution Copper has circulated various job figures related to the mining project, however, “The job number changes as often as I change my suit,” Montgomery said. “We do think the jobs would be minimal at the location and minimal for the residents of Arizona.”

Montgomery said it is speculated that Resolution will employ a fully automated “mine of the future” technology, similar to what Rio Tinto recently launched in Australia, which allows it to control 11 mines with robotized drilling, automated haul trucks and driverless ore trains from an operations center 800 miles away.

“We are speculating because they keep a lot of this very close to the vest,” she said. “It will probably be run out of somewhere in Utah where Rio Tinto’s operations are. This is not going to be jobs to benefit the local people very much.”

In the same vein, Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva challenged Gosar, McCain and other Arizona mining bill co-sponsors “to explain why they support polluting the Grand Canyon area for the sake of mining company profits that rarely stay in Arizona and in some cases flow directly overseas.”

“The only people who support this are mining industry lobbyists and a handful of lawmakers ready to carry their water,” Grijalva said. “It’s cynical to tell the people of Arizona in a down economy that this bill will help them when we all know these jobs won’t be local, the profits will go out of state or overseas, and the uranium will be exported to the highest bidder.”

Titla said Begaye’s idea of sending a message to Gosar was a great idea. “I think that we can make a renewed effort to tribes to send that kind of message to Representative Gosar because in the recent redistricting, the San Carlos Tribe stood with all the other tribes in the state legislative district. I think that if those maps are passed by the Department of Justice … once we get that done we can stand together and send that kind of message.”

Thirteen tribes in addition to Navajo oppose H.R. 1904 or its predecessor bills, including Hopi, Zuni, Hualapai, Jicarilla and White Mountain Apache nations. Resolution has sought passage of the bill since around 2005.

Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize, who was asked to sponsor a supporting resolution, said, “This issue is very, very important to us. As you heard, we are also fighting for the San Francisco Peaks, Dooko’oo’sliid … We stand on what we believe, and we believe in all our sacred sites.”

10/12/2011 Gallup Independent: Hopi opposes groundwater use at Arizona Snowbowl

10/12/2011 Hopi opposes groundwater use at Arizona Snowbowl By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau,Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – A Navajo Nation Council resolution supporting the use of groundwater to make artificial snow at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff is under fire by the Hopi Tribe. “The Hopi Tribal Council does not join or support a recently proposed Navajo Nation Council resolution recommending the use of groundwater for snow-making on Nuvatukyaovi,” the Hopi name for the sacred mountain, Hopi stated Tuesday in a press release. Hopi believe the only water appropriate for Nuvatukyaovi is natural water as provided by rain and snow. “There can be no exceptions,” they said.

“The Hopi Tribal Council, all known Hopi religious practitioners, the Hopi Tribe and its people are still, and always will be, opposed to the use of any snow-making operations on Nuvatukyaovi,” Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa said. “The Navajo proposal is not a solution to the issues facing the tribes with respect to Arizona Snowbowl’s expansions on Nuvatukyaovi.”

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Walter Phelps, sponsor of the resolution, said Tuesday that the Nation does not have an official position on the use of groundwater and the resolution “will stimulate discussion on the issue. We just need to get some of that clarified. We also need to discuss alternatives.”

One possible option in discussion is to buy into the Snowbowl.

“There’s an offer by the developer. He’s willing to sell a portion back to us,” Delegate Katherine Benally told Steve Titla, general counsel for the San Carlos Apache Tribe, during Tuesday’s meeting of the Nabik’iyati’ Committee.

San Carlos representatives came to ask for Navajo Nation support in protecting Oak Flat, one of its sacred sites threatened by copper mining. Benally asked whether San Carlos would be interested in “sharing resources” to buy into the ski resort.

“That is a very interesting proposal that I will share with my Chairman,” Titla said.

Splitting the $15 million cost for a 30 percent stake in the Snowbowl with other interested Arizona tribes which hold the mountain sacred would give them an equity stake and a seat at the table on discussions of artificial snow-making.

Navajo first began discussing purchase of the ski resort two years ago when the price stood at $48 million. Since then, the cost of subsequent legal cases has been attached to the selling price and has driven up the cost to $52 million.

In the alternative, Phelps’ resolution supports the use of groundwater as opposed to reclaimed or recovered-reclaimed water in the snow-making process on Dook’o’oosliid – the Navajo name for the sacred mountain – to prevent its desecration.

“Water – regardless of its source – is a limited and critical natural resource in the Southwest and the Hopi Tribe continues to oppose any artificial snow-making by these means,” according to Louella Nahsonhoya, Hopi public information officer.

Hopi filed suit in August against the city of Flagstaff, challenging its September 2010 decision not to amend or cancel the contract for sale of 1.5 million gallons per day of reclaimed wastewater to the Snowbowl for artificial snow-making.

Hopi said the city already is using more than its fair share of water, and any plans to sell water to the Snowbowl would only worsen the problem. “In addition, the sale of water for snow-making so that a select few can benefit, violates the public interest in wise water use for our region,” Hopi said.

Nuvatukyaovi is an important, sacred place for the Hopi which holds a central and essential role in Hopi culture, traditions and way of life. For Navajo, Dook’o’oosliid has a unique religious significance and a “complete connection with daily songs and prayers to their supernatural beings.”

Navajo, Hopi, the Havasupai Nation, the Hualapai Tribe and others sued to protect the mountain, but in 2008, the 9th Circuit Court failed to recognize the sacred stature of the mountain and allowed the U.S. Forest Service to issue a permit to the Snowbowl for the manufacture of artificial snow from reclaimed water. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, which allowed the 9th Circuit opinion to stand.

Phelps’ resolution was posted on the Navajo Nation Council website last Friday. Tuesday was the final day for public comment before the bill can be considered by the standing committees, however, legislative counsel stated last week that the public is free to provide comments at any time, including at committee meetings.

Phelps said he does not expect the resolution to go before the Resources and Development Committee until the last week of October, so it will not make Council’s fall session agenda.

10/11/2011 Gallup Independent: Navajo hopes to regulate uranium ore transport

10/11/2011 Navajo hopes to regulate uranium ore transport By Kathy Helms Gallup Independent, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – A resolution opposing the transport of uranium ore and product across the Navajo Nation, with the exception of hauling legacy waste to a disposal facility outside Navajo Indian Country, has been approved by the Law and Order Committee and is making its way to the Navajo Nation Council. The resolution sponsored by Delegate Duane Tsinigine of Bodaway/Gap would amend the Navajo Nation Code to regulate the activity of non-Navajos on publicly granted rights of way across Navajo land. “This is mainly regarding the health and welfare of the Navajo Nation, bottom line. It’s a protection act,” Tsinigine said.

Cold War-era uranium mining left a legacy of radiological contamination and sickness on the Navajo Nation. Now, ore from Denison Mines north of the Grand Canyon is being trucked to the White Mesa Mill in Blanding, Utah, and on the New Mexico side of the reservation, there also is the prospect of future uranium mining.

“There is transporting of uranium going across Navajo land without much enforcement. This will bring the enforcement,” Tsinigine said.

The Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency and the Division of Public Safety, subject to approval of the Resources and Development Committee, would develop regulations necessary to implement the intent of the law, such as designating reasonable license fees, bonding requirements, curfews, and route restrictions for the product being transported across the Navajo Nation.

Greg Kelly, an attorney with the Navajo Department of Justice’s Natural Resources Unit, helped redraft the resolution to avoid conflicts with federal law. The original resolution was introduced during the 21st Council by Delegate Thomas Walker Jr., and reintroduced by Tsinigine in May with modifications.

When Tsinigine’s resolution initially went through DOJ, they flagged four issues, Kelly said. “One of those issues is that there is uranium byproduct on Navajo trust lands that we want to be able to transport and dispose of and get off of Navajo Nation trust property. So the legislation needed to be changed to reflect that that would be a permissible transport.

“Second, we did not want to be seen necessarily as ceding our jurisdiction,” he said. “The way that the legislation was drafted at the time suggested that our jurisdiction over non-Indians on the Navajo Nation was limited by case law. We wanted to put it forth in a positive way in which we have jurisdiction over non-Indians when the health, welfare and safety of the Navajo people are at issue.”

In addition, transportation of hazardous substances, including uranium, is fully preempted by the federal government and federal law. “In order to at least withstand litigation over legislation, we have to tailor our legislation to be within the federal requirements,” Kelly said.

Though the resolution as drafted calls for advance notice of 120 days by any carrier of uranium ore or product, that requirement conflicts with federal regulations, which stipulate seven-day advance notice to a governor in writing, or four days actual notice in advance. Kelly recommended that language be changed to conform with federal law.

“The reason we reference the state governor and local law enforcement officials is because that’s what the federal regulations do,” he said. “They require that states get notified, but not tribes … and as little as four days’ notice is legally permissible. If we have a 120 day requirement, I’m pretty confident that would not stand should anybody challenge that in court.”

Chairman Edmund Yazzie had questions regarding Eastern Navajo Agency. “On the Arizona side it’s strictly 100 percent Navajo Reservation, Navajo land. Now when you think of the eastern side, you have your checkerboard area,” he said, which is multi-jurisdictional, particularly in areas such as Churchrock, Mariano Lake and Pinedale.

“I do support this legislation because there have been threats in the Churchrock area, saying that they’re going to come on and get some more uranium. The people said no and the Nation said no,” Yazzie said. “If a non-Indian rolls three semis in, and they start shipping the uranium, how much jurisdiction does that give our Navajo Nation Police? We need to give the local law enforcement authority also to stop these trucks.”

By promulgating regulations, Kelly said, Navajo could designate which officials must be notified by transporters in lieu of a governor or particular law enforcement official. “My understanding is that as part of the permitting process for these transporters, they have to give notice to whoever is on file with the federal agency that’s permitting them,” he said.

“I think we could address the jurisdiction issue in Eastern Agency simply by saying, ‘It’s Navajo Indian Country, federal agency. Here’s the people that we want to have notified, and you have that obligation.’ We can’t necessarily ensure that they will follow through on that, but I think they would.”

Law and Order’s Alton Shepherd recommended notification be given to the Nation’s president, local law enforcement and Navajo EPA. He also offered an amendment to strike the ‘no less than 120 days’ notice where it appears in the resolution, which was approved by the committee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10/7/2011 Navajo Nation Council – Office of the Speaker FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Speaker attempting to solve issues stemming from line item vetoes:

10/7/2011 Navajo Nation Council – Office of the Speaker FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Speaker attempting to solve issues stemming from line item vetoes: WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – A week and half after President Ben Shelly line item vetoed portions of the FY2012 Tribal Operating Budget, the Speaker is left with the task of solving the problems that have ensued as a result of Shelly’s contradictory action.  In addition to the line item vetoing of funding for the Little Folks Day Care Program, five Navajo Area Agency on Aging offices, the Navajo Green Commission, the Resources Committee, and the Legislative District Assistants for the 24 Council Delegates, the President vetoed personal travel and operating supplies from both the Office of the Speaker and the Office of Legislative Services.

In total, the Legislative Branch lost $2.8 million. Included in that amount, $397 thousand was vetoed from the Office of the Speaker and $1.9 million from the Office of Legislative Services.

The line-item veto of the Speaker’s travel budget directly impedes on essential roles and responsibilities of the Speaker. It disavows the Speaker of his ability to connect with Diné people on matters that are most important to them; to represent the people on issues that affect their daily life; and to attend to relationships at the state and federal level.

Earlier this week, Council was able to offer key testimony to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) and shortly after the testimony, the commission moved to adopt a proposed congressional map that was consistent with the Navajo Nation’s position.

Without the travel budget, travel to vital meetings such the AIRC hearing are not possible.

The vetoing of operating supplies further impedes on necessary daily operations by eliminating the budget for supplies such as postage, paper, software, printing, binding, and photocopying. In his memo to the Speaker, the President stated that the vetoes were necessary because they were “excessive.”

In addition, Council Delegates are left wondering about the Legislative District Assistants who were intended to assist with such tasks as tracking resolutions; compiling and analyzing data for special projects; serving as liaisons and addressing individual inquiries; attending and reporting on chapter meetings; composing correspondence; preparing written reports; and preparing information for presentations. For the time being, Council Delegates will have to continue with their hectic work and travel schedules.

It has been previously argued that US senators typically cover more land and serve more people in their daily work so Council Delegates should also be able to do the same. But, the needs of Diné people are different because communication between Diné elected leaders and community members are more complex and K’e based than elected leaders outside of the Navajo Nation.

The effect of the line item vetoes were detailed in a memo by Marcelino R. Gomez, Assistant Attorney General, “As a result of the line item vetoes by the President on September 22, 2011, a portion of the annual revenue projection is left unappropriated for Fiscal Year 2012. This portion is available for appropriation for Fiscal Year 2012.

“In addition, it is available for appropriation for recurring expenses because it is based on a recurring revenue projection. As a result, it is not limited by the limitations on supplemental appropriations as stated in 12 N.N.N §820(L). These amounts may be appropriated either by amendments to the 2012 Navajo Nation Fiscal Year Budget of by Supplemental Appropriations under 12 N.N.C §820(L).”

The Speaker is now tasked with alleviating the problems introduced by President Shelly’s line item vetoes, which were initially intended as a ‘checks and balances’ and not as a device for crippling necessary daily operations.

Before further actions are taken, the Speaker is patiently waiting for a productive response, from the President, to his inquiries to resolve the matter. Without prior communication, there is still substantial risk the President will veto any actions taken by Council to restore full operation.


Contact: Jerome Clark, Communications Director
Phone: (928) 871-7160
Cell: (928) 637-5603
Fax: (928) 871-7255