Slush fund cases near settlement, prosecutor says

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 7, 2012

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T he ordeal of being a defendant in a civil suit claiming misuse of discretionary funds may soon be over for some of the 77 men and women who have been sued by a special prosecutor.

Eric Dahlstrom, a member of the Santa Fe law firm that was appointed special prosecutor after Alan Balaran's contract ended, has informed Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry that his firm continues to negotiate and is in the final stages of reaching a settlement in some of the cases.

Dalhstrom indicated that these cases are expected to be settled in a matter of weeks.

More than 80 present and former members of the Navajo Nation Council were originally charged with misuse of discretionary funds in the fall of 2010 by Balaran.

Several of the cases were settled by Balaran in the early stages of his investigation with the person agreeing to repay the funds alleged to have been misappropriated.

President Ben Shelly, who was a member of the Navajo Nation Council from 2002 to 2006, and Vice President Rex Lee Jim, who was in the Council up to 2010, both agreed to repay the amount they were alleged to have misused through a payroll deduction plan over a period of several years.

Balaran later dismissed the criminal charges and refiled them in a civil suit that, for the first time, accused several former and current officials for not stepping in and stopping the misuse of funds.

These included former president Joe Shirley Jr., the current controller, Mark Grant and the former and current attorney general, Louis Denetsosie and Harrison Tsosie.

A separate investigation - dealing with Shirley's involvement in the BCDS and OnSat scandals, which cost the tribe millions of dollars - is still active, according to Abbie Fink, a public relations official working with the special prosecutors.

Dahlstrom indicated to the Window Rock court that these investigations are nearly over as well.

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