Speaker Naize “disappointed” & “surprised” with legislation to remove him as speaker

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Council Speaker Johnny Naize at Shelly's signing ceremony for Navajo Generating Station lease renewal at the Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Ariz., on July 30, 2013. Photo by Marley Shebala

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Council Speaker Johnny Naize at Shelly’s signing ceremony for Navajo Generating Station lease renewal at the Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Ariz., on July 30, 2013. Photo by Marley Shebala

Navajo Nation Council Johnny Naize has issued two, yes two, press releases in response to Council Delegate Alton Shepherd’s proposed legislation that seeks to remove Naize as speaker because of Naize’s 11, yes 11, criminal charges involving his alleged funneling of emergency assistance money for the most needy Navajo people on the Navajo Reservation into his pockets through emergency assistance for his current and former wives and his children from his current and former wives.

Naize’s first press release was issued late last night. The second one was issued this morning. Both press releases carry his message that he will not step down. “I firmly believe that in time of adversity, a leader should step up and not back down to the challenges brought forth by the politics of others,” he stated.

And Naize, in his two press releases, also accuses Shepherd of breaking his heart and biting the hand that feeds him. “In regards to the legislation introduced by Delegate Alton Shepherd, let me first say that I am disappointed and surprised in my brother’s decision to proceed in this manner. As a person and as an elected official, I have always supported Mr. Shepherd in his professional and political endeavors,” Naize stated.

After wiping his tears, Naize takes a jab at Shepherd. “As a former law enforcement officer, Mr. Shepherd should have recognized and upheld the principle of ‘due process’ and the right of being presumed ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ but this is clearly not the case.”

Well, I’m disappointed and surprised that Naize, as Council speaker and Legislative Branch chief, is ignorant of Navajo laws that specifically mandate that the speaker must be in “good standing,” which means that it’s not a matter of presumed innocent until proven guilty. The Navajo Nation Special Prosecutors filed the 11, yes 11, criminal charges of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery against Naize on Dec. 3, 2013. Naize had every opportunity to educate himself about Navajo laws, especially since Council delegates are lawmakers.

So what is bribery? The legal definition involves the giving of money to specifically corrupt the behavior of a public official. The slang terminology for a bribe is “hush money” because it’s made to a person in a position of trust to corrupt his judgment.

Naize has ten criminal charges of bribery and one criminal charge of conspiracy to commit bribery.

And what is conspiracy? It’s a secret plan or agreement to perform together an illegal, harmful, wrongful, or subversive act, especially with political motivation. And the slang terminology for conspiracy is “in cohoots” or “to go into cahoots” or “cahoot with.”

So who or whom was Naize allegedly in cahoots with? According to the criminal charges, Naize was in cahoots with former Speaker Lawrence Morgan, former Council Delegates George Arthur, Raymond Joe, Elmer Milford, Orlanda Smith-Hodge, Andy Ayze and Leonard Teller and current Council Delegate David Tom.

And what they were they all cahooting about? A total of about $186,000 in emergency assistance for elders, students, veterans, families needing burial assistance, and other constituents experiencing real hardship unlike Council delegates, who receive an annual salary of $25,00, plus payment for attending Council meetings, committee meetings, chapter meetings, chapter planning meetings, agency council meetings.

On Dec. 27, 2013, after the Council approved legislation to make the Navajo Nation, aka Navajo elders, students, veterans and the most needy, co-signers for a half a billion dollars or $500,000 million dollars bond/loan for coal mining reclamation insurance and coal mining performance insurance for Navajo Transitional Energy Company, Naize handed out a huge turkey and a huge ham to each of the Council delegates, who thanked him. But Naize didn’t use his money to pay for the turkeys and hams. The payment came from the Legislative Branch budget, which is funded with the People’s money. I wonder if the turkey and hams could be called “hush money”? We’ll
all know the answer when the Naa’bik’iyati Committee and Council vote on Legislation 0003-14.

Well, in any event, Naize proclaimed his innocence in both of his press releases. “As I have stated many times, the charges against me are groundless and this will be demonstrated by the evidence that will be made known. I firmly believe that in times of adversity, a leader should step up and not back down to the challenges brought froth by the politics of others. With that in mind and as I have previously stated, I will continue to devote my best efforts to accomplishing the work of the Navajo Nation with the dignity and care that Dine’ citizens deserve,” he stated.

I find it very strange that Naize claims that he’s stated “many times” that he’s innocent. I asked him – face to face – in the Council chamber with a copy of the complaints, which number about 158-pages, for an interview and, or response to the criminal charges. That was a day after the criminal charges were filed against Naize. His response: ““I’m not about to talk about that. Please let me take care of this.”

And so I asked if he would issue a press release about the criminal charges. He hastily said, “Please, please, please, I got to take care of this thing.”

Nazie’s chief of staff, Jarvis Williams then wedged himself between me and Naize and so I asked him about getting an interview and statement. Williams, who serves at the pleasure of Naize, replied, “Right now we’re reviewing it.” And he said that a statement from Naize would be released after they reviewed it. Naize’s press release on Jan. 7 was the first time that I received an answer to my Dec. 4, 2013, questions.

On Dec. 4, 2013, I also asked Williams if Naize would resign as speaker, especially since the Council is in the midst of taking action on a $220 million bond or loan for reservation-wide community projects. “Any type of statement right now is premature,” Williams answered.

And Delegate Shepherd’s Legislation 0003-14, which is for the Council to remove Naize as speaker, is finally posted on the Navajo Council’s website even though Shepherd issued a press release about it on Tuesday, Jan. 7, and Delegate Russell Begaye include it in his Council delegate report to the Shiprock Chapter on Monday, Jan. 6. Also on Jan. 6, the Shiprock Chapter also voted 85 in favor, 0 opposed on a resolution for a legal opinion from Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie about whether Council delegates who are formally charged with crimes against the Navajo Nation should remain active on the Council.

If Shepherd’s bill had been posted on Jan. 7, the five day electronic public comment period would have ended on Jan. 12, which meant it would have been ready for the Naa’bik’iyati Committee and Council action on Jan. 13.


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