Carl back in good graces with HUD

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

WINDOW ROCK, April 9, 2013

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is lifting its suspension of former Navajo Housing Authority CEO Chester Carl following his acquittal of federal corruption charges last Thursday.

"Once there's been an acquittal, the suspension is lifted fairly immediately," said HUD spokeswoman Donna White in a telephone interview.

She said Carl should be back in HUD's good graces by the end of today.

Carl had been suspended from any participation in HUD-funded projects since he was charged in 2009 with accepting a bribe of casino tokens from contractor Bill Aubrey.

Aubrey, Carl's co-defendant in the two-week trial in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., was convicted of two counts of converting funds from a tribal organization in connection with NHA developments built by his company, Lodgebuilder, Inc. He will be sentenced Aug. 7.

Carl could not be reached for comment on the lifting of his suspension, but in an earlier email he described the behavior of some HUD agents as "vindictive" and wrote, "I would not be surprised if they find another reason to renew my suspension."

Carl is not likely to go back to his old job at the NHA, which issued a statement that read in part, "NHA's issues with Chester Carl are not over yet."

The statement went on to note the NHA has a lawsuit pending against Carl in Navajo Nation District Court concerning the NHA's attempted purchase of a ranch from former NHA COO Leon Porter.

The NHA states Carl, who was still head of the NHA at the time of the 2009 deal, concealed "material facts regarding the leased land, the permitted uses of the leased land, the Lease, and the true value of the Porter Ranch" in proposing the purchase to the NHA.

In his statement, Carl responds the NHA had access to an independent appraisal of the property, and that the combination resort/housing development he had envisioned for the property would have provided jobs and housing for hundreds of Navajos.

Carl may have a job waiting for him with the Navajo Nation Council's Resource and Development Committee, which has discussed hiring him as a consultant in its attempted coup of the NHA's status as the tribally designated housing entity - the entity charged with receiving and distributing federal grant money for housing projects on the Navajo Nation.

The committee has scheduled public hearings on the NHA's Indian Housing Plan, which must be submitted to HUD by mid-July. It has also undertaking to replace members of NHA's board of directors who are serving on expired terms.

In his statement, Carl appears to support the committee's actions.

"I have a firm belief that if Tribal leaders are advised properly, they can make good decisions, because on any given day, each council member is dealing with so many different complex issues," he writes.

It appears the NHA, for its part, is not going down without a fight.

"The grounds for the filing of criminal charges against Carl are the reasons why the TDHE must be monitored by an organization that has the capacity to operate with accountability and integrity," the housing authority writes in its statement. "And, that is why we are so determined and protective of our TDHE status."

Carl's troubles with the federal government may be over, but it appears his battle with the organization he once headed has picked up where it left off when he resigned seven years ago.