Utah Navajos may be closer to settling trust case

AP News
Posted: Dec 08, 2009 2:19 PM

Lawyers for Utah's 7,500 Navajos say they're close to settling a lawsuit alleging Utah failed to properly manage a trust fund that collects royalties on reservation oil wells.

Settlement talks have been active since a federal judge appointed a mediator in June.

Brian Barnard, one of the Navajo's lawyers, sketched the broad outlines of a possible settlement last weekend in a visit to the reservation. He says Navajos are eager to put the 17-year-old case behind them. It's holding up payments from the trust fund.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Phil Lott confirmed negotiations were ongoing but refused to characterize them.

Word of a possible settlement in Utah came as Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a $3.4 billion proposed settlement in a similar national case on Tuesday.