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Judge orders Utah to provide data on Navajo Trust Fund

SHARE Judge orders Utah to provide data on Navajo Trust Fund

A federal magistrate has ordered the state to divulge an accounting of the troubled Utah Navajo Trust Fund, revealing its financial transactions dating back to 1975.

The state said it would challenge Tuesday's order immediately. A hearing before U.S. District Judge David Sam is scheduled Monday.If upheld, the ruling by U.S. Magistrate Samuel Alba will mark a milestone for Navajo plaintiffs who sued the state six years ago, said their attorney, Brian Barnard.

"It's progress," Barnard said. "To date, not one document has been produced, not one accounting record."

Two of the five Navajos who originally filed the suit have died while the litigation has been pending.

The trust fund was created in 1933 to hold 37 1/2 percent of the royalties from oil and gas drilling on Navajo land in Utah. The class-action lawsuit alleges the state is liable for mishandling millions of dollars from the fund.

A 1991 investigation by the Utah legislative auditor found Utah Navajos had been cheated out of an unspecified portion of the $52 million trust fund in the prior three decades. The state disputes figures in the audit.

This spring, Sam lifted a stay he had placed on the litigation, ordering the state to begin providing information to the plaintiffs.

Assistant Attorney General Valden Livingston argued Tuesday that a stay should be reimposed. The state should not be required to start providing documents until Sam determines how far back in time the plaintiffs can investigate.

"We're talking 60 years, back to (the fund's inception in) 1933," Livingston objected. "I've never in my life had a case that covers that length of time."

The state has argued the case should be limited to one or four years before the suit was filed in 1992.

Sam rejected similar arguments in March, when he ruled the plaintiffs were entitled to an accounting back to 1955. Livingston indicated an accounting back to 1975 is now complete, and Alba ordered him to provide it to the plaintiffs by July 6.

The state has argued tribal members had access to information about the trust through newsletters and open meetings, and money was spent with the approval of boards that included tribal members.

Sam granted class-action status to the suit this spring, allowing the three remaining Navajo plaintiffs to represent the interest of all tribal members who benefit from the trust.