Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Wed, July 08

More charges filed in Navajo Nation discretionary fund case
Former financial advisor charged with six counts of conflict of interest

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - A former financial advisor for a Navajo Nation discretionary fund has been charged with six counts of conflict of interest in the ongoing prosecution of former and current tribal members for the alleged misuse of the fund.

According to complaints the special prosecutor filed on March 20, Laura Calvin was assigned the responsibility and authority to oversee the use of financial assistance money distributed under the program by the speaker from 1995-2009. Her arraignment will be at 9 a.m. on April 21 at the Window Rock District Court.

The Navajo Nation Council established the discretionary fund to provide financial relief to needy constituents.

The special prosecutors allege that Calvin authorized payments from the fund for her biological family as well as the children of her husband and former Council Delegate Leonard Teller. Teller had a pre-trail conference on March 20.

In Feb. 2007, former Speaker Lawrence Morgan defined Calvin's responsibility for the program through a memorandum that stated, "I am designating you as the principal person to receive, evaluate and execute all documents necessary for the proper administration to these assistance programs."

In Nov. 2012, the special prosecutors interviewed Calvin regarding her role in the administration of the assistance program. She refused to answer special prosecutors' questions about her children or stepchildren and asserted her right to avoid self-incrimination, according to the complaints filed.

On March 20, 2013, the special prosecutors granted Calvin immunity and she was ordered by the court to provide truthful statements to the special prosecutor about the assistance program and, in return for her testimony, the prosecutor would not use those statements against her "unless Calvin was untruthful or refused to answer questions."

On Aug. 20, Calvin again refused to comply with the court order citing her right against self-incrimination.

A conflict of interest charge can be brought if a person knowingly and willfully uses or attempts to use any official or apparent authority of their office or duties which places "...their private economic gain... before those of general public, whose paramount interest their office or employment is intended to serve."

The special prosecutors allege that during her tenure as financial advisor for the program, Calvin signed approximately 87 financial request forms authorizing financial assistance directly to her stepchildren between 2007-2009. The special prosecutors contend that Calvin directly authorized over 100 financial assistance requests directly to her children and stepchildren.

"Altogether, ...Calvin's children and stepchildren received approximately $79,000 in Navajo Financial Assistance funds and Calvin approved of over half of that money for them," the complaint stated.

These charges are part of the ongoing investigation into former and current members of the Navajo Nation Council who the special prosecutors allege misused the discretionary fund by engaging in quid pro quo agreements to direct money from the fund to each others' family members.

On March 11, Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize pleaded not guilty to one complaint of conspiracy to commit bribery and 11 complaints of bribery. No trial date for Naize has been set.

The special prosecutor's office has filed criminal charges against 15 current or former council delegates and against one former legislative employee. In addition, the special prosecutor has filed complaints for violation of ethics in government law against 12 former and current council delegates.

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