YouTube Video, “How will the Navajo Council use $554 m. settlement? And will the Navajo People be involved?

YouTube Video, “How will the Navajo Council use $554 m.? And will the Navajo People be involved?”

The Navajo Nation Council has started making plans for the $554 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by the tribe in 2006 against the United States for mismanagement of tribal trust funds and tribal resources.

And those plans could include changing Navajo laws and establishing another Task Force or Subcommittee of the Navajo Council to create legislation that would contain the plans on how the $554 million would be used. That legislation would be approved by the Council and then it would go to President Ben Shelly for his signature or veto. If Shelly does not veto it, then those Council plans – whatever they are – become Navajo law.

During a June 4, 2014, signing ceremony of the Council’s approval of the $554 million settlement on May 30, 2014, I asked President Ben Shelly, and Speaker Pro Temp LoRenzo Bates, the hosts of the signing ceremony, about how the $554 million would be used and if there would be public hearings on how the $554 million would be used. Shelly basically said that my question was premature. Bates didn’t give an answer.

Tribal Justice Deputy Attorney General Dana Bobroff explained that unlike past federal settlements, the federal government didn’t require the tribe to have a plan on how to use this settlement, which is the $554 million. Bobroff added that the settlement mandates the federal government to deposit the $554 million in the tribal treasury in 120 days.

During the Council’s special session on June 6, 2014, Speaker Pro Temp Bates announced to the Council that there would be another meeting on the Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan on Monday, June 9, 2014, at 10 a.m. in the Council chambers in Window Rock, Ariz. Bates said that the directives from the other meetings would be presented on Monday.

The Five-Year CIP is part of a legal requirement for the Council to spend the interest on the Navajo Nation Trust Fund. The interest is about $28 million and the Trust Fund is about $1.2 billion.

Bates also made a second announcement to the Council on June 6.

He informed the Council, “The second bit of information is that now that there will be $554 million less in attorneys fees, I think that there are some fundamental things that we all need to be aware of as those dollars come in.

“Every dollar that comes into the nation is subject to certain statutory requirements. And if Council feels that things need to be changed prior to those dollars arriving, is what we want to provide that information to you.

“And again, if the Council wants to do otherwise then we’ll line up that fundamental information. And that information will be provided to you at the next Naabik’iyati Committee on June 13, 2014.

“And I put that as a suggestion to this body. And as the Honorable Keeswood indicated it’ll be a major task on how those dollars are guna e invested, one way or another.

“As such, my thought, and I put this on the table and I’m up for suggestions is the possibility of creating, if you want to call it, an Investment Committee, so to speak, to start looking at the alternatives and options to legislation to a subcommittee and would basically be similar to the Task Force but an investment in looking at all the possibilities that are out there.

“And this body can select your colleagues to go out and look at this and at some point bring the final recommendation to council. So I put that out on the table and for your consideration and move it forward in that manner.

“And again, as Keeswood indicated it’ll be a real task to do this. And 120 days, the clock is ticking, as soon as those dollars hit is when things start to get a little bit more exciting moving forward so and I’ll leave that out there as a suggestion to move forward,” Bates said.

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