Below is a letter written by Benjamin H. Nuvamsa to the Hopi Tribal Council. This letter has been submitted to be published in the Hopi Tutuveni. Used with permission.
November 6, 2013
Letter to the Hopi Tribal Council:
The startling news coming out of the Hopi Tribal Council meeting this week concerns the $22 million that Leroy Shingoitewa and you, Hopi Tribal Council, allowed Robert Lyttle to rack up on 45 of his attorney friends. We understand Shingoitewa and Lyttle advised the tribal council to not worry because they will “pay the tribe back” when they win the lawsuits. And we hear there is another $12 million more in invoices that still remain to be processed.
So why do you authorize the lawsuits, or do you? Is it so that Lyttle and friends can make money betting on the come that they will win the lawsuits? You know there are no guarantees that lawsuits will be won. The only guarantee is that Lyttle and his attorneys will get our money by racking up billable hours. And we lose.
While tribal members were surprised and aghast at the news, I was not surprised. Not at all! For some of us have been writing letters to you ever since Leroy Shingoitewa came into office and brought Robert Lyttle to the scene – around May 2010. We advised you of the excessive billings and all the attorneys that Lyttle brought to the tribe without the benefit of tribal council approval (council resolutions) and without attorney contracts. We know how Robert Lyttle works. We know what he did to several Arizona and California Indian tribes. Maybe you were not getting our letters, or maybe you were simply ignoring our advice, but this matter has now exploded into a very serious situation where there may be federal criminal violations committed. And our financial position is now in serious question. Certainly, the Hopi people are not happy.
We also advised you of the depletion of tribal accounts and the transferring of funds between accounts to pay the invoices because the other accounts ran dry. I advised you of the possible tax implications on the tribe (and Robert Lyttle and the attorneys). To this date, we don’t believe Lyttle has a legal contract with the tribe. Ask the question: is Lyttle and employee or is he a consultant? There is a big difference. Hard working and conscientious employees working in Finance have been summarily fired by Shingoitewa and Elward Edd for questioning the invoices. They were only doing their job. There are memos from Shingoitewa demanding the staff to pay the invoices. Our advice and complaints went into deaf ears.
The Hopi tribal constitution is very clear. It requires that attorney contracts be formally approved by the tribal council, by council resolution. The constitution also says the Tribal Treasurer cannot spend any money from the treasury unless authorized by tribal council resolution. We assume you, as council members, are aware of these provisions in our tribal constitution.
Because of our concerns about excessive payments to tribal attorneys and violation of tribal procurement policies by Shingoitewa, several of us exercised our right afforded us in the tribal constitution and requested to view the Treasurer’s financial records. As expected, we were denied our request so we filed a Writ of Mandamus in tribal court requesting the court to grant us access to the records. This matter is pending in tribal court.
So, now you have a decision to make. Your duty as tribal council members is to watch over our money. This obligation is spelled out in the tribal constitution. You are our fiduciaries. I advise you to hold off making any payments on the attorney invoices until and when you have completed an exhaustive investigation into this matter. In fact, I encourage you to withhold action on this matter until after the tribal election. But the questions remain the same: Are there authorizing tribal council resolutions for each attorney? Does each attorney have a legal contract with the tribe? Does each attorney contract have an identified (and approved) scope of work? Do the invoices contain the required information on what services were performed? Tribal accounts need a good look to see how much has been taken out and what the remaining balances are. I understand a tribal employee asked you the same questions at the October 29, 2013, tribal council meeting. He knows what he’s talking about.
We trust you will carry out your constitutional duties and protect our money; and hold people accountable.
Benjamin H. Nuvamsa
Village of Shungopavi
Former Hopi Tribal Chairman
The following report by Hopi Tribe Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa highlights his administration’s “major accomplishments over the past four years.” Click on the image to download the 10-page report.
Thanks to Micah Loma’omvaya, Chief of Staff for the Hopi Tribe, for sending me the following documents to post on BEYOND THE MESAS. Click images to download.
While the following press release notes that the “Hopi Tribe” endorses the Little Colorado Water Rights Settlement, opinions and policies passed down from the Hopi Tribe do not reflect the opinion of all Hopi people or villages. Many Hopis are against SB 2109 and the Little Colorado Water Rights Settlement that Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa proposes here. Keep an eye on this space, as Hopi responses are sure to follow.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:
The Hopi Tribe, Office of the Chairman
Chief of Staff
Phone: (928) 734- 3106
Fax: (928) 734-6665
Hopi Tribe Endorses Historic Little Colorado Water Rights Settlement
Kykotsmovi, Ariz. (June 21, 2012) – The Hopi Tribal Council voted today to endorse a proposed water right settlement for the Tribe’s Little Colorado River water right claims. The proposed settlement would end decades-long water rights adjudication and is the first step in ensuring a dependable supply of clean water for the Tribe. “I am greatly pleased by the Council’s decision,” stated Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa. “For the first time since
our reservation was established we will be able to guarantee clean, reliable water supplies for our people.”
Council Representative George Mase, Chairman of the Tribal Council’s Water and Energy Team, agreed with Chairman Shingoitewa’s assessment: “After talking to the Hopi people and hearing their concerns, it is clear that the people want a clean and reliable water supply. Our team negotiated for years to reach a settlement, and I am pleased that the Council decided to endorse the settlement.”
The Hopi Tribe has claimed reserved water rights from four sources: on-reservation surface water and groundwater, surface water from the Little Colorado River, and surface water from the mainstem Colorado River. The proposed settlement would confirm the Hopi Tribe’s rights to on-reservation surface water and groundwater, reserve a quantity of water from the mainstem Colorado River for a future settlement the Hopi Tribe’s mainstem water rights claims, provide for the development of essential on-reservation water delivery infrastructure, and establish a framework for the sustainable management of the N-Aquifer which is currently threatened by unmanaged pumping. In return, the Tribe would waive its claims to the Little Colorado River and its damages claims for injuries to water rights or water quality that occur before the settlement goes into effect.
“The Little Colorado River is by far the least reliable of our four potential water sources,” explained Councilman Mase. “This is a fair tradeoff.”
Chairman Shingoitewa agreed with Councilman Mase’s assessment. “We are confident the benefits for the Hopi Tribe outweigh the risks of continued litigation,” explained Chairman Shingoitewa. “The settlement proposal provides a path to ensure a lasting supply of clean water for both tribes. Hopefully the Navajo Nation will endorse the settlement as well.”
In order to become effective, Congress also must ratify the settlement and appropriate funds for the development of projects specified in the settlement. The Hopi Tribal Council voiced its concerns about the proposed federal legislation, which was introduced before the agreement was reached. The Council has previously instructed Chairman Shingoitewa and Water and Energy Team’s Chairman Mase to co-sign a letter to Senators Kyl and McCain asking for changes in their proposed legislation. Specifically, the Tribal Council will be asking Senators Kyl and McCain to remove provisions related to the Navajo Generating Station and other items contained in the federal legislation.
“These provisions have nothing to do with our settlement,” explained Chairman Shingoitwea. “Therefore, we are asking Senators Kyl and McCain to remove them from the settlement legislation.”
The Hopi Tribe also will seek support for solutions to address water contamination at Moenkopi, First Mesa, and Keams Canyon. “These are important outstanding issues,” said Councilman Mase. “We aren’t waiting for the proposed Hopi Groundwater Project to get them resolved.”
Finally, if the proposed settlement is enacted, the Hopi Tribe will pursue its claims to mainstem Colorado River water to ensure a permanent homeland for the Tribe. “Our claims to water from the mainstem Colorado River are not affected by this settlement,” explained Councilman Mase. “We will pursue these once the Little Colorado River settlement is ratified by Congress.”
For more information about the settlement, visit the Hopi Tribe’s website at http://www.hopi-nsn.gov/, or call the Office of Chairman, at (928) 734-3106.
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