I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Navajo Nation leader Joe Shirley under investigation
The Navajo Nation’s president, Joe Shirley, Jr., was put on paid administrative leave by the Tribal Council Monday after it heard a report about possible ethical, civil and criminal violations concerning tribal contracts with two companies, OnSat Network Communications and the Shiprock-based Biochemical Decontamination Systems.
Details of the alleged violations found during the investigation haven’t been made public, but the Tribal Council passed legislation requesting that the Navajo Nation’s Attorney General decide within 60 days whether or not to appoint a special investigator.
Others also under investigation, according to the Farmington Times, are the president’s chief of staff, and the directors of the divisions of Economic Development, Community Development and Public Safety. Also included in the investigation are former Shiprock Chapter President Duane “Chili” Yazzie, and Ernest Franklin, former employee with the Division of Community Development. Navajo Controller Mark Grant had been included, but the tribal council voted to remove his name from the investigation.
The two companies in question are both sources of controversy within the tribe, according to the Farmington Times:
The Nation entered into a $1.9 million contract with the Utah-based OnSat Network Communications in 2001. OnSat agreed to provide satellite Internet services to all 110 chapters on the Nation, but service was disrupted after the tribe stopped making payments, claiming the company overbilled for services.
The Nation owns 51 percent of Biochemical Decontamination Systems, or BCDS, a corporation created to seek federal contracts for the sale of metal fabrication products.
The Nation in 2006 approved using the Navajo Dam Escrow Fund to back a $2.2 million loan to finance an expansion of the plant. But by 2008, the company was defunct and $4.7 million in debt.
Shirley’s spokesperson, George Hardeen, told the Arizona Republic he thought the action by the council was politically motivated, coming in advance of two December ballot measures that would lessen the power of the Council. One would reduce the size of the council from 88 to 24, and the other would give Shirley line-item veto authority.