Utah pays 3rd installment of Pelt settlement

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, June 19, 2012

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A s the state of Utah paid its second-to-last installment of a $33 million settlement into what used to be the Utah Navajo Trust Fund, there was no sign the dispute over whom should manage the fund was reaching any kind of resolution.

The state on Tuesday deposited $13.5 million into the Utah Navajo Holding Fund - the entity it created to hold the money, now up to at least $65 million, until Congress names the next trustee.

Two Senate bills appointing the Utah Dineh Corp. trustee have been lodged in committee while the Senate waits for the Utah Navajos and the tribe to come to some sort of agreement, but that doesn't seem likely to happen in the near future.

Council delegate Kenneth Maryboy (Aneth/Mexican Water/Red Mesa/Teec Nos Pos/Tólikan) and his brother Mark Maryboy created the UDC as a holding company for the trust, but Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and an Aneth-based group, Descendants of K'aayelii, want the tribe to hold the funds.

The trust fund was held by the state until 2008, during the Pelt v. Utah litigation, a lawsuit by some Utah Navajos who said the state had allowed the money to be misspent and had not kept proper financial documents.

The suit was settled for $33 million - payable to the trust in four installments - in 2010.

But in March of this year, a trio of Utah Navajos - Mary Benally, Terrance Lee and Marietta Tom - sued the state for abdicating its role before a replacement could be found. That suit is still before a Utah district court.

Meanwhile, the money is languishing except for ongoing projects.

The money comes from royalties on oil wells in the Aneth Extension, with 37.5 percent set aside for Utah Navajos and the rest going into tribal coffers.

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