Tom informed me about the former Election Board’s meeting after the Navajo Council’s Naabik’iyati Committee went into executive session today. I was standing outside the front entrance to the Council chambers when Tom approached with the news.
He explained that the former Election Board decided to meet because “the people still supported them.”
White also said that the former board directed Election Office Director Edison Wauneka to attend the meeting.
In a separate interview, Wauneka said that none of the former board members had directed him to attend the former board’s meeting.
He added that he would not be attending the meeting.
Wauneka also said that former Election Board member Lenora Fulton telephoned him and asked about using the Quality Inn Business Complex conference room and he told her that election office staff were using it to count ballots.
On Oct. 31, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court decided that the Election Board was in contempt of court for defying their order to obey the Navajo Nation Office of Hearings and Appeals order to remove presidential candidate Chris Deschene’s name from the presidential ballot for the Nov. 4 General Election, postpone the Nov. 4 election, move the next qualified presidential candidate into Deschene’s position, and reprint ballots with the new candidate’s name.
The OHA, in a default judgment, ordered that presidential candidate Chris Deschene was disqualified as a presidential candidate for violating the Navajo Nation election law when he lied on his affidavit that he spoke the Navajo language fluently, which is a requirement to be a qualified presidential candidate.
According to Navajo law, when an elected official is found to be in contempt of court, which is a misdemeanor, that official is no longer qualified to hold an elected position or run for an elected office.
The Supreme Court informed the election board’s attorney, Chief Legislative Counsel Levon Henry, that Election Supervisors Wallace Charley, Tom M. White Jr., Lenora Fulton, Frannie George, Ruth Watson, Jonathan Tso, Harry D. Brown Sr., Norman L. Begay, and Michael Coan were no longer election supervisors.
The justices also ordered Navajo Election Office Director Edison Wauneka to freeze the budget of the Election Board until a new Election Board is legally seated.
The Naabi Committee’s executive session came after the committee zipped through nine pieces of legislation, including proposed Council legislation to over-ride President Ben Shelly’s veto of the Council’s amendments to the election law regarding Navajo language fluency requirements for presidential candidates.
The Committee passed all nine pieces of legislation on their agenda, including the over-ride, which has to be approved by a two-thirds vote or 16 or more “Yes” votes of the Council. The Naabi Committee recommended the over-ride to the Council with no debate and with a vote of 12 in favor, 5 opposed.
Before the Naabi Committee approved their agenda, they voted to remove Legislation 0057-14, which was the Navajo Nation Public Health Act of 2014. Council Delegate Walter Phelps, the sponsor of 0057-14, asked the committee to remove it from the agenda.
The committee also did not take action on Legislation 0290-14, the appointment of new Speaker Pro Temp because its sponsor, Council Delegate Lorenzo Curley, was absent.
The Naabik’iyati Committee’s executive session was to hear a report from the Navajo Council’s Naabik’iyati Committee’s Gaming Task Force Chairperson LoRenzo Bates on the Navajo Nation Gaming Compact.
After the gaming report, which was accepted by the Naabi Committe with a vote of 12 in favor, 0 opposed, the committee adjourned.
Tomorrow, Nov. 13, is the first day of the Council’s two-day special session to finish up 19 pieces of legislation from their five-day Fall session agenda last month. And added to the COUNCIL’S PROPOSED AGENDA for the two-day special session is 0309-14, the over-ride of Shelly’s veto of resolution CO-47-14, which would be retroactive to when an individual filed to be a candidate in the 2014 primary elections. The amended language allows voters to decide with their vote if a candidate is qualified.
According to the proposed special session Council agenda, 0309-14 is the first legislation under New Business. Here is 0309-14 and attached to 0309-14 are comments in support of and in opposition to 0309-14. According to legislative staff, a petition with 92 signatures that is in support of 0309-14 was submitted during the five-day public comment period on 0309-14. The petition states, “We, the undersigned hereby file our support for the Navajo Nation Council Legislation No. 0309-14 to over-ride the veto action of the President of the Navajo Nation, Ben Shelly.”
Legislative staff also reported it received 84 comments in support of 0309-14, but according to their tally, Karletta Chief of Kayenta Chapter was counted twice and Elsie Benally of Forest Lake Chapter was possible counted three times.
And Al Henderson’s comment, which was clearly against a Council over-ride of President Shelly’s veto, was counted among the 84 comments that supported the over-ride. Henderson supported a referendum of all the Navajo Nation’s voters.
I didn’t have a chance to compare the names on the petition to the names that submitted comments. I also didn’t have time to read all the comments and double check the legislative staff’s count of those in support and those in opposition to 0309-14.
Legislative staff reported that there were 17 comments received that opposed 0309-14.
During the Naabi Committee meeting today, Committee members/Council Delegates Russell Begaye and Jonathan Nez recused themselves from voting on 0309-14 because they both had a conflict of interest.
After the Naabi Committee, Chief Legislative Counsel Levon Henry clarified that he advised Begaye and Nez that they should not vote on 0309-14 because they had a conflict of interest, as defined in the Navajo Nation Government in Ethics law. The conflict of interest exists because Begaye, as a president candidate, and Nez, as Begaye’s running mate, would benefit from the failure of the over-ride.
Tomorrow, is also when the Navajo Nation Office of Hearings and Appeals will have a 9 a.m. hearing on an ELECTION COMPLAINT filed by former presidential candidate Myron McLaughlin against presidential candidate Russell Begaye. The hearing will be held at the OHA office in Window Rock, Ariz.