NHA officials blame Republic articles

‘Inaccurate statements’ reported by newspaper led to removal effort


Aneva Yazzie on Wednesday said she has accepted the fact that her days as CEO of the Navajo Housing Authority are numbered.

Exactly what that number may be is still uncertain but she and other officials at NHA expect her removal will take place when a new board of directors is named and it has the its first meeting.

And as she prepares to leave and go back to a life as a private consultant, she has also accepted that her removal stems from a series of what she called inaccurate statements that were published over the last few months by two Arizona Republic reporters as a part of an investigative series on the housing authority.

The impact of those articles has been enormous, she said. They have directly led to Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Speaker of the Council LoRenzo Bates calling on the NHA board members to fire her.

When the board refused, Yazzie said the fallout from mistakes made by the two reporters led to the Council removing the current members of the board and appointing a new board solely for the purpose of getting her removed as head of the housing agency.

But it doesn’t end there, she said.

U.S. Sen. John McCain read the articles and became so concerned about the figures published in the article he proposed that the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs hold special hearings to discuss the concerns.

“All of the articles (published by the Republic) contain a lot of inaccurate information and half-truths,” she said.

The editors of the Republic have stood behind the reporting and have so far refused to make any corrections.

But Yazzie and other high ranking officials of the housing agency, as well as members of the board, have been trying, with little success to convince tribal officials that they should not rely on the statements made in the articles as a basis for views of how well Yazzie and others are doing their job.

What has especially been damaging to Yazzie and the reputation of the housing agency were statements in the articles on the supposed amount NHA paid to build each new unit and modernize existing units.

According to the Republic, NHA reported spending $54.9 million in fiscal year 2016 to modernize 50 dwellings at an average price of nearly $1.1 million per unit, according to calculations made by the Republic.

The newspaper went on to say that NHA records show $19.6 million was spent last year to complete 26 new homes, for a price tag of roughly $750,000 each.

Both Begaye and Bates used these figures as justification for Yazzie’s removal. But Yazzie said that these figures were misleading, adding that NHA officials explained this to the Republic reporters who decided not to include this information in their article.

Both NHA and reports made public by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provide forms that show how much money is spent each year on building new houses and modernizing older units. The forms also note how many houses were built and how many were modernized.

What these figures don’t show, however, is the fact that a large portion of the these funds were also used in building new units and modernizing homes that hadn’t been completed by the end of the year.

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Categories: News

About Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.