2021 in Review | No. 5: Former controller faces new charges
Former Navajo Nation Controller Pearline Kirk has a ways to go if she is to clear her name in the coming new year.
Kirk has had a distressful year. In May, she was removed from office by a vote of 13 in favor and 10 opposing.
She was removed on May 19, six days after she was formally charged with abuse of office and unsworn falsification. She had held the job since 2017 when she was hired by then President Russell Begaye.
Her attorneys, David Jordan and Justin Jones, announced in a Dec. 3 press conference in Gallup that the charges were dropped on Nov. 26. Kirk was present but did not speak.
Not long after, the Navajo Department of Justice announced in a news release that it had filed new charges against her.
Kirk now faces allegations of obtaining a signature by deception, paying or receiving Navajo Nation government funds for services not rendered, and unsworn falsification.
Before her removal, Kirk was responsible for administering funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act. The act was passed in March 2020 and allotted approximately $8 billion to tribes. Of that amount, roughly $715 million was received by the Navajo Nation.
Allegations of using money to hire an outside firm began surfacing. The original court documents contend Kirk gave more than $3.1 million to Agile Technologies Group LLC, a COVID-19 testing contractor.
The company provided testing services during first lady Jill Biden’s visit in April.
Jordan said Attorney General Doreen McPaul, the prosecutor’s office, Chief Prosecutor Brandon K. Bitsuie, and the special prosecutor committed perjury, referring to the former charges his client was facing. Jordan has not provided additional comments since the new charges were filed.
Kirk is now being accused of falsifying and misrepresenting relevant facts that misled and deceived tribal officials into approving a contract to hire Agile, according to the tribe’s Dec. 3, DOJ news release.
“Based on her material falsifications and misrepresentations, an unqualified company that was recommended by Ms. Kirk’s longtime mentor and confidant was paid approximately $3 million of Navajo Nation funds that would have never been spent but for her actions,” Navajo DOJ stated.
The news release does not specify Kirk’s longtime mentor, but according to the former charges filed against her, it mentions Roderick Martin, who is Agile’s chief managing partner. Martin was a witness against Kirk in the former court documents.
Jordan suggested that the Law & Order Committee, which Navajo Nation Council Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton chairs, and the Ethics and Rules Office, investigate if perjury was committed and if the Ethics and Rules Act was violated.
He added that the signature needed to approve any tribal documents is required to be the president’s.
“My client did not sign the contract. The president of the Navajo Nation signed the contract,” Jordan said on Dec. 3.
“Haʼtʼíísh nidazhniłʼin? Attorney General’s office, prosecutor’s,” Jones said. “Office of the president, Navajo Nation Council, haʼtʼíílá ndanołʼin? Haʼtʼíísh nidanołʼingo díí kweʼé naaltsoos baa danohchiįʼ? Jó áhótʼé éí ahxaniiyé.”
A court date has not been set.