Here – finally – is PART 2 of the Navajo Nation Council special session on April 4, 2014, which is when the Council voted 12 in favor, 0 opposed to place Speaker Johnny Naize on administrative leave with pay.
Part 1 is Navajo Council Delegate Alton Shepherd presenting Legislation 0069-14, the removal of Delegate Naize as speaker, and Naize defending himself against 0069-14.
The Council later AMENDED 0069-14 by replacing “removal” with “administrative leave.”
Part 2 begins immediately after Naize finishes his defense. Speaker Pro Temp Delegate Edmund Yazzie calls on Delegate David Tom to be the first delegate to begin the debate on 0069-14.
When the Council took up 0069-14, Naize immediately announced that since 0069-14 was about his removal as speaker that tribal law mandated that a speaker pro temp be named to preside over the Council. Naize selected Delegate Yazzie, who was then reaffirmed by the Council.
Delegate Tom asked one question of Delegate Shepherd, “When we vote this down, are you going to bring it back up again?”
(MY NOTATION: I was not surprised by Tom’s question because the Navajo Nation Special Prosecutors filed 13 criminal charges against him that involve one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, ten courts of bribery, and two counts of making or permitting false Navajo Nation vouchers on May 6, 2013.
And yes, the 13 criminal charges are related to tribal Financial Assistance Program or discretionary funds, which are also the basis of Naize’s 12 criminal charges that the Special Prosecutors filed against him. Initially there were 11 charges filed in December 2013 but one additional bribery charge was filed in March 2014, which brought the total number of bribery charges to 12. Naize also has one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.)
Shepherd’s response to Tom’s question was: Yes if voted down, I’ll probably bring it again if matters continue. And I’ll continue to stand on my principles that every delegate has a right to choose legislation. And when the time comes, we’ll address it. But for me, tomorrow is a new day. Today is today. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. So for me to promise or say anything, I can’t give you a definite answer.
Delegate Katherine Benally, another staunch supporter of Naize, then questions Shepherd about his statement during his presentation that he “polled” some of his colleagues about 0069-14. She adds that Shepherd did poll the delegates and that he also made “promises” to them for their “Yes” votes because those delegates showed her text messages from Shepherd. “If you stand on integrity, you yourself, are buying votes. How much integrity is that?! There’s nothing integrity about that.”
Benally also recalls Shepherd’s statement that the Naize’s criminal charges involved a lot of financial resources of the Navajo people. “I know you went to extreme using legislative staff to get your legislation and whatever you had to do. So be careful of your charges (against Naize). And today I still stand on the stance that this is driven and motivated by (former Navajo Nation President) Joe Shirley. You were a staff of his. And he’s a (presidential) candidate. That’s why this is coming from. The very day I made that charge, his chief of staff, Patrick Sandoval, gave me a note and asked to speak with me. The very same day. Almost ten minutes later.
“I’m not one that believes in Facebook. I don’t even subscribe to it. But you made that sound like that’s holier than the holy Bible. That’s wrong,” Benally says.
As Benally was making her statement about Facebook, Shepherd called for a Point of Order and says that the Council legislative process for legislation mandates that legislation be based on facts, not ‘hearsay,” which is what some of the delegates are claiming about 0069-14. This legislation 0069-14 also belongs to the Council and I’m here as its sponsor. If I had more time, I’d respond to all the attacks on 0069-14.
Benally then calls for Point of Order and emphasizes that Shepherd had ample time to respond and prepare.
Delegate Leonard Pete is the next delegate to debate and he addresses Naize’s plea to the Council to let the courts handle his criminal charges, instead of the Council using the criminal charges to remove him. Pete says that the legal process could take a week, weeks, or months. How soon does Naize expect his case to go to trial?
Delegate Kenneth Maryboy is the next delegate to debate and his statements are supportive of Naize and Naize’s recommendation to the Council to focus on other important issues on the Navajo Reservation, instead of his removal.
I have the same question as Delegate Pete; how long will this matter be discussed. And the council has removed elected officials before and it brings stress to families.
We should be discussing housing needs and other issues instead of the concerns of the different media and people on Facebook. Legislation 0069-14 was brought to the Council because of legal concerns brought by the Special Prosecutors. And the first Special Prosecutor was hired and now he’s gone. And new Special Prosecutors were hired. Is that legal?
So we need to step back and look at the other needs of our people. which includes the millions of federal dollars that the tribe sent back to the federal government.
(MY NOTATION: By the way, Delegate Kenneth Maryboy has announced that he’s a tribal presidential candidate. Maryboy also sits on the Navajo Oil and Gas Board. The Navajo Oil and Gas Company donated a $30,000 tent in October 2013 for Maryboy’s Santa Claus Project.)
Speaker Pro Temp Yazzie then calls on Speaker Naize to answer Delegate Pete’s question. Naize says that the court has several Special Prosecutors’ cases.
Delegate Leonard Tsosie is the next delegate to debate 0069-14. I have never, never, never said that I was popular on Facebook. I don’t subscribe to Facebook, which is where “cowardly persons in some dark cave exchange viewpoints with bad information…It’s nothing but gossip. Someone sent me a copy of a Facebook post that said that Delegates made $700 each for each legislation that they sponsored. “And it went viral. And I thought how can people be that lacking in their questions and thoughts. How could they run with falsehood.” I know some of the delegates subscribe to it.
But during the days of Chief Manuelito, there was no two-third votes. Leadership was done by acclamation. When I worked at DNA Legal Services, we would talk about due process. And now some of us talk about returning to our true Dine’ (Navajo) government. And the Navajo people are divided about that.
And Speaker Naize knows that there is a solution for this matter, which is for Naize to push for his trial on his criminal charges as soon as possible. It can be done. I implore Naize to do that. “The stability of the government is at stake. The integrity of the government is at stake. The integrity of the Navajo Nation is at stake. To me those are all good reasons to ask a court of law to bring the trial up – even to next week. But I don’t know what your lawyer has told you. I’m sure the lawyer advised you that it’s better to delay it.”
But I respectfully ask you to not listen to your lawyer because this matter will go into the upcoming tribal elections and it’ll cause a “blemish” on that and forward into the tribal government. That’s what “frustrates” people. And none of my constituents have asked me to vote no on this legislation. But they have talked a lot to me about their concerns and so I’ll be voting “yes” and it won’t be out of “spite.”
Delegate Katherine Benally then speaks again. “My last comment would be. If it indeed, the sponsor and others were really pushing for the integrity of the government with the leadership of the government then why are you selectively persecuting or prosecuting our speaker, when in fact, the president of the Navajo Nation (Ben Shelly) and the vice president of the Navajo Nation (Rex Lee Jim) plead guilty on the very first day that they took their oath to lead this nation. Why? That’s where you should have started. They plead guilty! So there’s nothing integrity about what you are doing. You’re selectively going after this individual, personally. Thank you.”
As soon as Speaker Pro Temp Yazzie then announces that there are no more delegates that wish to speak, some delegates start calling very loudly from the Council floor for a vote on 0069-14. But then Delegate Lorenzo Curley asks to debate.
Curley says he’s “re-thinking” his support of 0069-14 because he also feels that other issues needs addressed, such as the Navajo Nation Supreme Court Chief Justice and other delegates that are facing criminal charges. Curley does not explain why he wants Chief Justice Herb Yazzie included in 0069-14. He adds that until the Council gets serious about including the chief justice and those delegates facing similar criminal charges as Naize in 0069-14 then he won’t vote “yes” on 0069-14.
Curley then asks the Navajo Department of Justice attorney for legal advice regarding an amendment he tried to make on 0003-14, which was the first legislation sponsored by Shepherd to remove Naize as speaker. The legal advice he requests is for the identification of other tribal laws, such as the ethics law, to remove Naize, the chief justice and other delegates facing criminal charges.
Tribal Deputy Attorney General Dana Bobroff explains that the removal of Delegate Naize is completely within the power of the Council. Bobroff reminds the Council of a law that they approved, which authorized the removal of a Delegate/Elected Official from his or her position if he or hse is convicted of an offense to the tribal Board of Election Supervisors. And so if the speaker is convicted then his removal would be almost automatically, she added.
Delegate Curley then repeats his concern for the Council to include the other delegates that are facing criminal charges and the chief justice to 0069-14.
Delegate Mel Begay then enters the debate and immediately notes that 0069-14 is the second legislation that Shepherd has sponsored for the removal of Naize as speaker. Begay also reminds Shepherd that he said that 0069-14 belongs the Council. “That’s a very interesting comment,” he says. “To me that is self entertaining.” You’re entertaining yourself by watching the Council fight over 0069-12.
Begay then says that Shepherd’s sponsorship of 0069-14 must be because the communities he represents have no needs, unlike his communities who are in need of infrastructure, housing and roads. “Those are the important things to me,” he says. That’s what should be important to the Council.
And Begay predicts that if the Council removes Naize that it’ll “jeopardize” the entire “structure” of the Legislative Branch, which will also hinder services to the Navajo people, and it’ll also take an enormous amount of time to re-structure and stabilize the Legislative Branch. And he notes that Naize only has eight months left in his administration.
“So I think the important thing to say is we have a court system that handles these things…Let’s have our trust in the court,” Begay said.
He also recommends that the Council support the recommendations of Samuel Pete of Shiprock, who is calling for a re-organization of the Council.
(MY NOTATION: People who are sitting in the gallery with tribal presidential candidate Donald Benally clap briefly for Begay. Benally is from Shiprock. And both Benally and Pete were supporters of former Chairman Peter MacDonald Sr. At the time of the tribal administration of MacDonald, Pete was his chief of staff and Benally was a Council delegate representing Shiprock. At one point, during a political dispute between the Council and MacDonald, Bo Bowman, a MacDonald supporter and rodeo announcer, who was illegally sworn in as a tribal judge, gave the illegal oath of office to Benally to be chairman in front of the Council chamber. Benally had his right hand on the Bible and his left hand raised. At the time, MacDonald was on administrative leave.
According to FEDERAL court documents, the federal government filed criminal charges against MacDonald, Benally, and eight other Navajos for their involvement in the July 20, 1989, riot at the tribal administration building in Window Rock, Ariz., where two MacDonald supporters killed. MacDonald supporters also violently confronted tribal police. Several tribal police were assaulted and injured and their police vehicles were vandalized. Supporters entered the finance building, ransacked it and stole documents.
The criminal charges included conspiracy and various counts of assault, robbery, kidnapping and burglary. The trial began on July 9, 1992, and lasted four months. On Nov. 12, 1992, the jury decided that all defendants were guilty. Some of the charges were dismissed.
What I find very interesting about this 1992 federal prosecution, which was brought to my attention by Delegate Mel Begay’s reference to Samuel Pete, is that the defendants claimed that their actions were the result of a tribal political dispute and that none of their actions, including MacDonald’s, were illegal because the Council illegally removed MacDonald.
And today, or rather April 7, Naize filed legal action against the Council for illegally putting him on paid leave. Delegates, who support Naize, are also making the same claim.
Delegates Katherine Benally and Charles Damon II submitted a WRITTEN request to Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie on April 8, 2014, for tribal attorneys or money to hire attorneys to represent them and the other delegates to invalidate the unlawful actions of the 12 Council delegate on April 4, 2014, to put Naize on paid leave.)