Navajo Nation brings new set of charges against former controller
GALLUP — The former top financial officer for the Navajo Nation is facing new accusations that she lied to tribal officials to hire an outside company for rapid COVID-19 testing services and misled officials to use federal coronavirus pandemic relief funds to pay the business.
The Navajo Nation Department of Justice announced on Dec. 3 that criminal complaints were filed against Pearline Kirk. The complaints allege Kirk misrepresented information about Agile Technologies Group LLC to hire them to test personnel in the controller's office and for other services related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The new allegations come a week after a tribal court judge dismissed two charges the Department of Justice filed against Kirk based on similar claims.
The news release states that Kirk has been charged with obtaining a signature by deception, paying or receiving Navajo Nation government funds for services not rendered and unsworn falsification – all violations of tribal law.
"The Navajo Nation alleges Ms. Kirk falsified and misrepresented relevant facts that mislead and deceived Navajo Nation officials into approving a contract for over $3 million to hire a COVID-19 testing company to serve the approximately 110 employees of her office, approximately $27,000 per person to be served," the release states.
It also states that the company's chief executive used the payments to fund an "extravagant and luxurious lifestyle" that included the purchase of a British sports car and rent for a penthouse.
Neither Kirk nor her lead attorney, David Jordan, responded to a request for comment about the latest filings.
Hours before the Department of Justice issued the news release, Kirk joined Jordan and co-counselor, Justin Jones, at a press conference in Gallup to talk about the charges that were dismissed on Nov. 26.
Kirk has not spoken publicly about the court cases because a gag order was issued when the charges were filed in May. However, she maintained that silence on Dec. 3 at the advice of her attorneys, who explained they were concerned the tribal government would take further action against their client.
They maintained that Kirk did nothing wrong and that her overall concern was protecting employees because they were deemed essential workers.
Personnel in the controller's office reported to the worksite last year without knowing if someone was infected with COVID-19, Jordan said.
Although testing was available by the Indian Health Service, results took days to receive so when Kirk became aware of Agile Technologies, she suggested that some of the employees look into the company as a possible source for testing services, Jordan explained.
"The staff looked into the Agile business, they had communications with the Agile company and the decision was collectively made to go forward with the contract," he said.
Documents used to secure services from Agile Technologies were not signed by Kirk, Jordan said.
He added that the written request for emergency procurement was signed by an employee in the controller's office and the services contract between the tribe and Agile Technologies was signed by tribal President Jonathan Nez.
Copies of the documents were provided to reporters after the press conference.
The controller's office also followed the administrative review process to obtain services from Agile Technologies, entities included in the review were the tribe's Department of Justice and business regulatory, Jordan said.
He said the complaints filed in May were false then he accused the attorney general, prosecutor's office, acting chief prosecutor and special prosecutor of committing perjury and false statements in pursing those court cases.
Such action includes untrue statements made by the acting chief prosecutor in an affidavit for a search warrant, he said.
"Through lies and perjury, my client has been prosecuted by the Navajo Nation in what appears to have been a conscious effort and a political assassination," Jordan said.
The same month that the two charges were filed, the Navajo Nation Council voted 13-10 in favor of removing Kirk from office. Kirk, who is certified public accountant and earned a juris doctor degree, had been the controller since February 2017.
Jordan said Kirk had been making sure federal and tribal laws were followed as the tribe disbursed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding, but for reasons not understood, the tribal government has made it a "priority" to destroy her reputation.
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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