Former Navajo Head Start superintendent files grievance over dismissal

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation

FARMINGTON — The former superintendent for Navajo Head Start filed a grievance alleging tribal law was violated when she was dismissed from the program last month.

Sharon Singer also alleges she faced harassment, intimidation and a hostile work environment by her supervisor, Department of Diné Education Superintendent of Schools Tommy Lewis Jr.

Singer was removed on July 28 after an investigation revealed she engaged in misconduct and misused tribal funds, a press release from the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President stated.

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She filed her grievance on Aug. 10 with Lewis and the Navajo Nation Department of Personnel Management.

In a telephone interview today, Lewis denied the accusations and said the forensic audit showed financial abuse by Singer.

Singer's attorney, David Jordan, was unavailable for comment today.

The grievance states financial audits for Navajo Head Start are conducted annually and, within the last four years, there have been no disallowed costs identified.

Other claims listed in the grievance include Lewis intimidating Singer with disrespect and condescension and failing to provide Singer with support, guidance and annual performance evaluations.

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Singer alleges she was never informed about allegations that lead to her being placed on administrative leave on June 29.

The grievance also states her credibility has been damaged after social media became aware of her placement on administrative leave, which "began a series of defamation comments" and the "misconstruing of facts have led to erroneous and nasty allegations."

The relief sought by Singer includes being rehired, receiving back pay and reimbursement of costs, attorney's fees and other relief as appropriate.

As part of the grievance process under the tribe's personnel policies manual, Lewis said he met with Singer on Aug. 22 to discuss her dismissal.

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He added that he has not heard from her since last week's meeting and assumes she is working with her attorney about how to proceed with her grievance.

"We're determined to go all the way," Lewis said about addressing the allegations.

Under the tribe's personnel policies manual, an employee has up to 20 working days to file a written grievance with their supervisor.

From there, the supervisor must attempt to resolve the issue with the employee within 10 working days.

If the supervisor does not address the grievance or the employee disagrees with the decision, a written appeal can be filed with the human resources director.

Additional steps include conducting an administrative meeting and a grievance hearing in front of a hearing officer.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.