Delegates blast special prosecutor
By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times
WINDOW ROCK, Aug. 4, 2011
(Times photo - Althea John)
The lawsuit filed by Alan Balaran claims that the delegates and officials acted either in collusion or in violation of their fiduciary duties to defraud the Navajo Nation of tens of millions of dollars.
Five of the Council delegates named in the suit sharply criticized Balaran, claiming the lawsuit he filed was "shoddy," filled with numerous typos and totally unfounded.
Pointing out that Balaran has already received $1.1 million for his investigation, a couple of the delegates labeled him as just another non-Indian attempting to get rich off the Navajo Nation.
The five spoke at a press conference held in front of the Navajo Nation Council Chamber last Friday. All five were named in the civil suit.
Speaker Johnny Naize, who was named in the lawsuit for his years of serving as a Council delegate between 2005 and 2010, agreed that the way the Council distributed discretionary funds was "flawed" but by 2010, "It was determined that the policy was not working and discretionary funds were ended."
In actuality, the disbursal of the funds ended when the Navajo Nation Supreme Court issued a ruling pointing out that the way the program was being handled was in violation of tribal law and ordered that no more funds be approved out of the fund.
Naize pointed out that despite spending $1.1 million, no tribal court has yet to act on any of the charges and "they continue to sit in limbo."
"Now he is throwing darts again, trying to see if anything will stick," Naize said.
While no district court judge has yet to hear of the charges, some of the original criminal cases filed by Balaran have been sent to Peacemaker Court, where they have been heard or in the process of being heard.
Several of those cited in the original criminal complaints, including the current president and vice president of the Navajo nation, have reached plea agreements with Balaran and the courts and have agreed to repay over time the amounts they were alleged to have misappropriated.
LoRenzo Bates, chairman of the Council's Budget and Finance Committee, also questioned Balaran's motives, indicating that greed and not justice may be behind the latest lawsuit.
"He has apparently found a deep pocket within the Navajo Nation," he said, adding that Balaran is guaranteed a large income from the tribe for years to come because civil suits sometimes take that long to get through the court system.
This lawsuit, he said, will continue to be a drain on the Navajo Nation.
Balaran's current contract with the tribe ends in mid-September and he has given no indication to the tribe as to whether he will be asking for it to be extended.
Bates said he was also upset about the image the lawsuit gives to people outside the Navajo Nation that Navajo government officials are not capable of handling their own affairs.
He pointed out that Navajo leaders oversee a portfolio of more than $1.4 billion (with federal and state grants and the various trust funds, it is actually more than $2 billion) and said Balaran's lawsuit is nothing more than "an attack on the tribe's integrity and credibility."
Two of the other speakers, Council delegates Leonard Tsosie and Katherine Benally, asserted their innocence of any wrongdoing and argued that Balaran's figures in the lawsuit are not accurate.
Tsosie said the figures cited in the lawsuit that he received $250,000 in discretionary funds between 2005 and 2010 were inaccurate. He was not a Council delegate in 2005 but he did not say how much he did receive in discretionary funds. He was also not among the 77 former and current Council delegates who had criminal charges filed against him by Balaran in the original suit.
"We have a prosecutor who is not a Navajo, was brought in to help us and is now going out of bounds," Tsosie said. "I think it is time we re-examine his work and recoup some of the money the Navajo Nation has paid him because he has done shoddy work."
Benally said that she was cited by Balaran because she was one of those who criticized him for not carrying out the duties that were originally assigned to him by the Council, namely to investigate the OnSat and BCDS controversies.
"This is nothing more than vengeance against me personally as well as against the Navajo Nation council," she said.
She said she resented the allegations because she has not benefited "one penny" from the fund. The charges against her claim that she used more than $130,000 of the money she received from the program to benefit her family and various businesses and organizations that she dealt with.
Benally said she was so upset that she was strongly considering filing a countersuit against Balaran to get some of the money the tribe paid to him returned.
Jonathan Nez, the last Council delegate to speak last Friday, continued the attack on Balaran for being a non-Indian who he said plans to "load up on the funds from the Navajo Nation and then leave."
He said the Navajo government is "not going to take that."
Among the dozen or so people who attended the press conference was David Jordan, the Gallup attorney who had represented at one time more than 20 of the Council delegates who had criminal charges filed against them by Balaran.
He was also critical of the lawsuit, saying a second year law student could have done a better job.
He said Navajo Nation officials should be particularly concerned about the charges filed against Shirley because if the courts agree that Shirley was in the wrong, it would put a terrible burden on future leaders of the tribe because they could be held personally responsible for any violation of a tribal law by anyone connected with anything they had signed into law.
It would make it impossible for them to sign anything into law without having to worry about the consequences.
Since he represented a lot of delegates during the period when criminal charges were filed, he was asked if he would be doing the same thing with the civil case. In the criminal cases, he was limited by the courts on how many of the cases he could handle but in civil cases, there is no limit.
He said that was still up in the air since it hasn't been determined as to whether the officials would be eligible to be represented by the tribe or would have to get their own attorney.
The lawsuit, however, states that the charges against all the officials were in connection with actions beyond the scope of their duties to the tribe which would require them to get their own attorneys.