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Navajo Controller Pearline Kirk Reportedly in the Hot Seat

Navajo Controller Pearline Kirk Reportedly in the Hot Seat
May 19
05:43 2021

 Navajo Council Debate Could Spark Kirk’s Removal

By John Christian Hopkins

Pearline Kirk

During a special session on May 14 the Navajo Nation Council debated the future of Controller Pearline Kirk.

Following a report from Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen McPaul and Chief Legislative Counsel Dana Bobroff – discussing concerns and irregularities with a COVID-19 testing contract between the Navajo Nation Office of the Controller (OOC) and Agile Technologies – the council deliberated emergency Legislation No. 0083-21 to remove Kirk as the controller of the Navajo Nation and request Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez to immediately appoint an acting controller.

The contract has resulted in a Cease-and-Desist Notice issued by the Navajo Nation Department of Justice. McPaul also discussed a Legal Preservation Notice issued to OOC employees and other tribal programs.

“We take notice anytime it is brought to our attention that our people’s safety and information has been compromised by anyone,” Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon said. “We are grateful for the Department of Justice and our Legislative Attorneys for their work to ensure these issues are handled fairly with a holistic understanding.”

The council debated the issue until midnight but did not take final action before the time scheduled for the special session expired.

Deliberations on the bill, as well as further reports, will resume during the next Council Session, which begins today (Wednesday).

McPaul reported that a NNDOJ investigation into a Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) Funds contract between OOC and Agile Technologies revealed Agile was paid over $3 million in advance to provide COVID-19 testing using methods not approved for use on the Navajo Nation.

Additionally, Agile did not report their test results to tribal health authorities, did not providing contact tracing, and failed to protect personal health information with their test samples.

McPaul indicated that when she was informed of the results of the investigation, she immediately issued a Cease-and-Desist Notice to Agile Technologies on May 7, 2021. She also revealed that the results of NNDOJ’s investigation were shared with federal attorneys.

“In looking out for the health, safety and welfare of the Nation we issued this notice to immediately stop the testing that was occurring to Navajo Nation employees and the public despite express disapproval from our Health Command Center in December of 2020,” McPaul said.

According to Bobroff, after the Notice to Cease-and-Desist was issued to Agile on May 7th and information came to light that documents were being removed from the OOC, NNDOJ issued a Legal Preservation Notice on May 12th to the OOC employees and contractors, as well as other tribal programs to ensure that CARES Funds related documents were not lost or destroyed.

The report was accepted with a 19-3 vote.

Council Delegates Pernell Halona and co-sponsor Edison J. Wauneka urged the removal of Kirk.

“It is my belief that the Navajo Nation would be better served if a different person would be appointed as controller of the Navajo Nation’s matters in light of the recent events,” Halona said.

Concerns were shared by Delegate Carl Slater over the sensitive personal health information that has since gone unaccounted for at the hands of Agile Technologies and the controller.

“We have Navajo citizens out there who have lost their information at the hands of the controller and I feel incredibly let down,” he added.

Other delegates asked for more information regarding communication from Nez and the effect firing Kirk would have on current CARES expenditures and future ARPA allocations and expenditures.

Following further discussion on the Navajo Nation’s contracting process, Delegate Herman Daniels, Jr., motioned to amend 0083-21 to place Kirk on paid administrative leave for 180 days or until the conclusion of the investigation.

Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay, Jr. wanted to know how much Kirk would be paid during her proposed 180 day administrative leave.

She would continue to receive her annual salary of $225,014, according to McPaul.

Language in the proposed amendment was changed from administrative leave to investigatory leave after Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty said there was no language to indicate why the amendment includes administrative leave.

Delegate Charlaine Tso motioned to table the legislation for 14 days over concerns about a lack of consultation with relevant parties and to further review the documentation. However, Tso’s motion’s failed and discussion on the legislation continued until time expired at midnight. 

Navajo Controller Pearline Kirk Reportedly in the Hot Seat - overview

Summary: Navajo Council Debate Could Spark Kirk's Removal

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