Naabi now on Karis Begaye legislation

Motion by Delegate Ben Bennett and Second by Delegate Nelson BeGaye

DELEGATE OTTO TSO I bring to you today Legislation 0176-18: An Action Relating to the Naabik’iyati’ Committee; Recommending action to the President and Vice President regarding the Office of President and Vice President’s Legal Counsel
Legislation Description, to their agenda.

LEGISLATION 0176-18 recommends the Navajo Nation President and Navajo Nation Vice President take appropriate action regarding Karis Begaye’s incident involving a vehicle collision while reportedly under the influence of alcohol.

We have tried to find solutions. Karis Begaye is a politically appointee but she is still subject to Navajo laws and Personnel Policies and Procedures.

Everyone should be treated fairly. What if there were lives lost? I just want her to comply with Navajo laws, policies and procedures.

HERMAN DANIELS I know of other tribal government employees

DELEGATE EDMUND YAZZIE I understand the addiction of alcoholism and how people are victimized by this powerful drug. We know loved ones or someone going through alcoholism, drinking and driving, domestic violence. The thing I want to say is we need to encourage individuals to respect each other. We say K’e and tell kids how much we love them. But when someone goes through this, we get on our high horse and it puzzles me. When someone falls, it is so easy for us to judge. That to me is troublesome but that is human nature. Say to everyone here to support everyone that is fighting alcoholism. From this statement from President Begaye, there is a process ongoing. But there are no criminal charges or police reports attached to your legislation, Delegate Tso. So I want to ask tribal Justice Department that if Naabi passes this, how will it impact the legal process. Delegate Otto Tso sent a letter to the Council’s Law and Order Committee and we replied that the legal process is ongoing. Just want to say as leader that we need to continue to talk to our kids. I lost my sister because of alcoholism. Encourage people to stop drinking and not even tough that stuff. Say prayers. When return to our areas, talk to our people. I am asked how I stopped. I have been sober for 27 years. And I stopped because of my son. I say don’t try because it will grab a hold of you. And we also need to address tribal government travel policies because some of us and legislative staff use alcohol. I am voting yes on this because president needs to act and no one was hurt. But I address my question to tribal Justice Department and Chief Legislative Counsel Levon Henry.

DELEGATE BEN BENNETT in beginning we all took oath to protect Navajo interest. You see lot of wrongdoing and waste of tribal resources. also see tribal enterprise directors getting away with what we are addressing now. Communities looking at us and asking what are we going to do. There are Navajo laws, policies and procedures that we must uphold otherwise we should all step down. And Office of attorney general oversees all attorneys and if attorney general doesn’t step up for removal of attorneys that violate Navajo laws.

My proposed AMENDMENTS add vice president, strong recommends to president and vice president to resolve in ten days.

And my community passed resolution for president to remove Karis Begaye due to DUI. So what do we stand for? Do we want to stand up for Navajo law, policies and procedures. We all know alcohol bad and plaguing nation but we have inherent responsibility to put Navajo law first.


DELEGATE EDMUND YAZZIE I asked if we pass this legislation, how it would affect legal process regarding if any criininal charges files.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ATTORNEY page 3 of 3, letter B, strongly recommends that president and vice president take appropriate action and if criminal charges, that court would look at evidence and not this resolution.

DELEGATE NELSON BEGAYE I seconded because I support stronger language but I don’t want to micromanage executive office.

DELEGATE BEN BENNETT we should include Personnel Policies and Procedures regarding DUI’s which calls for first offense to be removal.

DELEGATE STEVEN BEGAY question to justice department regarding the difference between regular employees and political appointees.

DELEGATE TOM CHEE, who spoke entirely in Navajo, basically said that this issue regarding Karis Begaye is very controversial and sensitive. What are we getting into? There is no basis for this legislation because there are no criminal charges against Karis Begaye. We are being pressured to address this.

DELEGATE NELSON BEGAYE I talked with Speaker Bates about a position from Naabik’iyati because we are the oversight for Office of President and Vice President but he has not issued anything. And so that is probably why we are being bombarded with questions from community. So we need to inform Bates that we are following procedures which covers us as this goes through the legal process which is also why Delegate Tso sponsored this bill and now we are at odds with president’s office.

DELEGATE DAVIS FILDRED there use to a Northern Agency Caucus and the chair announced that he would be resigning because of controversial  news stories. (Filfred referring to news reports about the misuse of discretionary fund by Council delegates) When attend Christian Rivals, it is taught that we should not judge others because we will be judged by the King of Kings.

DELEGATE WALTER PHELPS my thinking is that second language there where red underlined, right after that, saying within ten days so big question is since this personnel issue and personnel process should be taking course and that process happening and we are adding ten line, is that amending Personnel Policies and Procedures? Are we actually saying that this is in addition to Personnel Policies and Procedures. Also looking at memo from Executive Office and its from communications director but should be from Chief of Staff regarding any personnel issues. So i’m assuming that personnel policies has timelines. I remember when tribal government program manager and I had to I implement personal policies several times so incumbent on supervisor or director and there is whole appeal process. I’m sort of wondering what exactly are we doing here.

TRIBAL JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ATTORNEY Regular status are work 40 hours and At Will have two categories, supervisor can charge for any reason or no reason without notice. But At Will employees not have same rights as regular employees. There are those that serve at pleasure of president and Council. The other are those that serve at pleasure of division director, such as tribal justice attorneys, who serve at will of Attorney General. My understanding is Karis Begaye At Will but I would like to see documents regarding her appointment.

DELEGATE BEN BENETT I don’t see how political appointees are treated differently especially when defending tribal laws, personnel polices and also tribal Motor Vehicle Review Board.

TRIBAL JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ATTORNEY You have to look at every policy and if look at motor vehicle code it says all employees so applies to everyone.


DELEGATE STEVEN BEGAY I am concerned like everyone else. In my community, there is annual event that remembers twin who were killed by a DWI driver. They are called the Peshlakai Angels. What would are we saying to them? We are never going to see them again. The person that took their lives had five DWIs and now he is in prison.

Karis Begaye is the president’s daughter and she introduced herself to us as the executive office attorney.

We address each other

DELEGATE NELSON BEGAYE I have elderly constituents who came to President’s office to ask for new home because their home is overrun with rodents. I proposed legislation for new laws that increase penalties for bootlegging, etc. How will this ben when I introduce and we do nothing here. And that elderly couple also asked me why I was not doing anything to help them. they said it was probably because we were all drinking here. And is vice president Karis Begaye’s supervisor. Chief Legislative Counsel Levon Henry also has memo that says that this legislation requires two-third vote by Council but this bill only assigned to Naabik’iyati. And Executive Office issued press release that Karis entered treatment but has she. My communities are asking. 90 percent of people that called me said this does not look good for the Navajo Nation. And I was just shown Facebook of one of those big trucks that had “Navajo” and now it has photo of Karis. We are a mockery now. Other political appointees who committed similar offense were immediately let go. and the people don’t see any difference between regular employees and political appointees.

DELEGATE JONATHAN PERRY thank you Delegate Tso for brining this bill to Naabi because we need to have this discussion. My communities have questioned me about this and it is a very serious issue, not only face of tribal government but Navajo Nation entirely. Appreciate Delegate Nelson Begaye statements regarding a position from Council on this. I am asked what is the position of Council. This morning I was attending Headstart graduations because asked to be speaker and I was looking at children and I talked about importance of protecting children. Each of us are here, including president and vice president, for the people. We need to be careful about language in resolution because children watching us. As we move forward, it is important to get position out from Council. Responsibility of president and vice president to also deal with this. I had relatives wanting to be my legislative district assistant but I said no because issues like this regarding Karis Begaye could happen and did happen. And because of this we also need to address Navajo laws, policies regarding what happened to Karis Begaye as a political appointee arrested for DWI because she was involved in a traffic accident with a tribal government vehicle. We do need our position as Council known to our community members. Let’s move this forward and respond to people’s concern. We are all adults, appointees and staff, and we know what we are doing. We make choices and those choices can be positive or negative. I feel for Karis Begaye but I must also respond to the wishes of my communities.

DELEGATE NATHANIEL BROWN could we get copy of tribal Motor Vehicle Board decision regarding Karis Begaye. Two of my chapters passed resolutions calling for no tribal funds to be used on repair of tribal vehicle demolished by Karis Begaye. It should be her own funding. Also we are hearing, any other tribal employee that did this,what would happen to them. Glad this being brought up. It is sensitive. I am looking at laws and Dine’ Fundamental Law. We don’t want this to happen to anyone. Wish Karis best in her treatment but laws clear that when reckless actions done, there are laws in place. I am sitting here looking at resources available. Chilchinbeto very adamant because lost young teen due to alcohol. Our people are asking for some sort of resolution so not setting precedent for employees in three branches and that no one above the law. i’m not saying that we are singling out one person. Graduation upon us and we hear of graduates getting in fatal accidents. What are we going to learn from this? What policies to change? Cheesy analogy: where does fish rot from? From the head. Our actions as Council speak louder than words. We show people we stand for integrity.

SPNSOR DELEGATE OTTO TSO bottom line is al li want is get administration to comply with current policies because we have to answer to our constituents. Alcohol is a very terrible thing when family abuses. I have in my family. somewhere we have change this and step up to the plate and do what is right. WE have law. we are a nation of laws. we have policies.

I remember talking with President at Economic Summit in early May at Twin Arrows and he did not say anything about what happened to Karis. We did not find out until the media published stories. that bothers me that they “conspired” not to tell us.

TRIBAL JUSTICE DEPARTMENT the decision by Motor Vehicle Review Board was done in public but discussion was in executive session. Justice department could request copy of decision but under privacy law, the justice department would need to redact any personal/confidential information.

DELEGATE EDMUND YAZZIE, I ask that you, Speaker Pro Tem Damon, issue press release about how Delegates debated and how we support our people struggling with alcoholism and encourage them to seek treatament.


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