Former, current Navajo Nation Council members accused of misusing nearly $186K in discretionary funds
Farmington — The current and former speakers of the Navajo Nation Council are among those facing charges for allegedly misusing discretionary funds.
Speaker Johnny Naize was charged with 10 counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy, according to criminal complaints the tribe's special prosecutor filed Tuesday in Window Rock District Court in Window Rock, Ariz.
Former speaker Lawrence T. Morgan and former delegates George Arthur and Lena Manheimer were each charged with six counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy.
The criminal complaints accuse the four of misusing $185,950 in discretionary funds.
Discretionary funding is financial assistance the council appropriates to provide emergency and hardship assistance to tribal members.
Arraignment for Naize, Morgan, Arthur and Manheimer is scheduled for March 11 to 12 in Window Rock District Court.
According to court documents, delegates appropriated about $32 million for discretionary funding to assist tribal members between 2005 and 2009.
Delegates could authorize financial assistance to eligible tribal members, but Navajo law prohibits delegates from authorizing financial assistance to "a family member (or) a business associate in accordance with the Ethics in Government Law."
Former special prosecutor Alan Balaran uncovered information that showed members of the former 88-member council allegedly used discretionary funds to benefit family members. He filed criminal charges against 77 of the delegates in October 2010.
Balaran's contract was not renewed, and, in October 2011, the Special Division of the Window Rock District Court hired the current special prosecutors, the law firm of Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom and Schoenburg of Tempe, Ariz. They have continued the slush fund investigation and have continued to file criminal charges against former and current delegates, tribal officials and Legislative Branch personnel.
Their investigation has revealed that delegates developed arrangements to circumvent tribal ethics and laws.
One such arrangement explained in the criminal complaint filed Tuesday had Delegate A authorizing money to a family member of Delegate B, with the understanding that Delegate B would, in return, authorize an equivalent sum of money to Delegate A's family member.
The criminal complaint states that Naize issued $36,900 in discretionary funding to family members of current delegate David Tom and former delegates Morgan, Arthur, Raymond Joe, Elmer Milford, Orlanda Smith Hodge, Andy Ayze and Leonard Teller.
In return, Naize's family members, including his wife, received $36,550 in discretionary funding from the same eight delegates, according to the criminal complaints.
The money Naize's family received went toward school tuition, household expenses, vehicle repairs, traditional ceremonies and travel.
Jared Touchin, spokesman for the Office of the Speaker, said that Naize is aware of the situation but has not been served.
"Until we see documentation we will not comment on the matter any further," Touchin said.
In January, Naize was elected to serve his second consecutive term as speaker. He represents the Arizona chapters of Blue Gap-Tachee, Cottonwood-Tselani, Low Mountain, Many Farms and Nazlini.
Lawrence T. Morgan
Morgan, the former speaker, served four terms and represented Iyanbito and Pinedale chapters in New Mexico.
From 2006 to 2009, Morgan's family members received $17,550 in emergency assistance from Naize and former delegates Hoskie Kee, Young Jeff Tom Sr. and Ernest D. Yazzie Jr., according to the criminal complaints.
The amounts issued to Morgan's family members ranged from $200 to $1,500. Morgan's son received the $1,500 amount for vehicle repair, according to the documents.
Some of the reasons money was issued was to cover expenses like, "safety vest for calf riding and steer riding and football cleats," "travel funds from California to enroll at UNM" and "help with car payment," the complaint states.
In return, Morgan issued $17,850 in assistance to family members of Naize, Kee, Tom and Yazzie, the complaint says.
From 1999 to 2011, Arthur represented the New Mexico chapters of Nenahnezad, San Juan and Tiis Tsoh Sikaad and served as chairman of the former Resources Committee.
The criminal complaints states that Arthur issued $25,900 in assistance to family members of Naize and former delegates Norman John II, Ervin Keeswood, Elmer Milford and Leonard Teller from 2006 to 2009.
In return, Naize and those four delegates issued $25,900 in assistance to Arthur's family members for vehicle repairs and educational, medical and utility expenses, the complaints states. The highest amount was issued by Naize for $1,200 in December 2007 to Arthur's son for "housing materials."
Manheimer served on the council from 2007 to 2011 and represented Navajo Mountain and Ts'ah bii Kin chapters in Arizona.
She provided $12,650 in financial assistance to former delegates Willie Begay, Jack Colorado, Orlanda Smith Hodge, Edward Jim Sr. and Raymond Joe, the complaint states.
The complaint alleges that in return, the five former delegates provided $12,650 in emergency funding to Manheimer's family members, including her husband, sons and daughter.
The amounts given to her family members range from $300 to $1,000 and were requested to pay for items such as rent, a cellphone bill, home improvement materials, computers, tuition and travel.