Former Navajo Nation controller charged with false statement and abuse of office
FARMINGTON — The Navajo Department of Justice has disclosed the criminal charges filed in the spring on behalf of the tribal government against the tribe's former top financial officer.
According to a Department of Justice news release issued the evening of Sept. 29, Pearline Kirk has been charged with unsworn falsification and abuse of office for allegedly falsifying and misrepresenting relevant facts about a COVID-19 testing company to gain approval to hire them.
Both criminal complaints allege her actions violated tribal law. The court documents were filed in the Window Rock Judicial District on May 1.
However, details about the charges or the number filed were sealed by the court at the request of Attorney General Doreen McPaul.
The basis of the complaints was unsealed recently.
Kirk, 52, could not be immediately reached for comment. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges, the release states.
It is unknown if she has retained an attorney. The Navajo Nation Judicial Branch, which manages tribal courts, did not respond to a request for attorney information on Sept. 30.
In May, McPaul told the Navajo Nation Council that an investigation by the Justice Department revealed that millions were paid to Agile Technologies Group LLC for COVID-19 testing services from money the tribe received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
"Based on her material falsifications and misrepresentations, an unaccredited and inexperienced company was paid approximately $3 million of Navajo Nation funds," the release states.
Kirk is accused of not following the request for proposal process.
Court documents state that in November, Kirk represented to the Justice Department that Agile Technologies was the only company that could provide testing services for the controller's office, despite the tribal government already having a contract with another company for testing services.
The contract for Agile Technologies was in effect from Nov. 17, 2020 through Dec. 30, 2020 but the company continued providing services as recently as May 7, according to court documents.
Kirk is also accused of not seeking approval from the Navajo Department of Health and avoiding health department representatives after they raised concerns about Agile Technologies and its testing methods.
Her actions allowed the company to conduct testing and other related services and jeopardized the health, safety and privacy of tribal members, the Department of Justice release states.
According to the release, the complaints were filed under seal on May 14 "to avoid compromising ongoing investigations."
The Navajo Nation Council voted 13-10 in favor to remove Kirk on May 20. She had been in the office since February 2017.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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