A federal judge has declined to modify or set aside an earlier ruling that orders the state to provide an accounting of millions of dollars it held in trust for Navajos in San Juan County.
The state had asked U.S. District Chief Judge David Sam to stay a magistrate's order requiring an accounting going back to 1975 by July 6 even though it has already compiled the in-for-mation.But Sam, who first ordered the accounting in March, declined to overrule the magistrate. In a brief ruling issued Tuesday, the judge said there was no evidence the state would be harmed by providing the in-for-mation.
The accounting was requested by a group of Navajos who filed a lawsuit in 1992 alleging that the state had mismanaged the Navajo Trust Fund. Created by Congress in 1933, the fund receives 37.5 percent of oil and gas royalties derived from tribal lands to provide health, education and general welfare services to tribal members.
About $61 million had gone into the fund by 1992, yet it held only $12 million, according to the Navajos' attorney, Brian M. Barnard. A properly managed fund would have grown substantially over the years, possibly topping $100 million, Barnard said.
Sam's March 11 ruling lifted an earlier stay of discovery that had barred the plaintiff's from seeking a full accounting of the state's management of the fund. Tuesday's ruling knocked down a state objection based on an asserted four-year statute of limitations.
Noting that the state insists the plaintiffs have had access to the information all along, Sam said he found it difficult to see what harm the state would suffer, even if it is ultimately determined that a lesser period of time is at issue because of the statute of limitations.