No layoffs for 2013

By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, September 6, 2012

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T here will be no layoffs when the 2013 Navajo Nation operating budget goes into effect Oct. 1.

That was the decision of the Navajo Nation Council's Budget and Finance Committee Aug. 27 and the committee reaffirmed their decision Aug. 30.

B&F Committee Chairperson LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad/Newcomb/San Juan/T'iistoh Sikaad/Tsé Daa K'aan/Upper Fruitland) informed the Navajo Times that the committee's decision and announcement of no layoffs resulted after the committee read an Aug. 30 news story in the Navajo Times about President Ben Shelly's announcement in an Aug. 27 press release that he had reduced the proposed layoffs of 150 employees to 28.

Bates recalled that during the committee's hearings on the proposed 2013 budget, the committee met with Shelly Aug. 27 and Shelly assured them that there would be no layoffs.

He noted that Shelly's promise of no layoffs came after B&F Committee Vice Chairperson Jonathan Nez (Navajo Mountain/Oljato/Shonto/Ts'ah bii Kin) informed Shelly about his concerns regarding possible layoffs in the executive branch's proposed 2013 budget.

The president oversees the executive branch as its branch chief.

Bates said that Nez also informed Shelly that during the committee's review of the 2012 executive branch budget, the committee found more than 900 job vacancies.

He added that Nez recommended to the committee that a condition of appropriation be added to Shelly's executive branch budget that would direct the president to eliminate all layoffs through the use of the more than 900 vacancies.

A COA is used in the legislative process during the annual budget session only. It is attached to a specific budget and indicates conditions put on expenditure of funds that must occur within a certain timeframe.

But Bates recalled Shelly informed the committee that a COA was unnecessary because he would implement the committee's instruction through a memorandum to all executive branch divisions and programs to move any possible layoffs into the vacant positions.

In most cases the enforcer of the COA becomes the Office of the Controller, which has the authority to freeze the specific budget if the conditions are not met. Once the conditions are met, the budget is unfrozen.

But on Wednesday, Executive Office Chief of Staff Sherrick Roanhorse said that the B&F Committee failed to approve a COA on the president's budget.

Roanhorse added that the only assurance that the president gave to the B&F Committee was that he would follow the B&F Committee's mandate, which was for the executive branch to live within its $2.3 million 2013 budget cut.

He also noted that he didn't know where the committee's more than 900 vacancies came from.

Those vacancies could be funded by the state and federal government, he said.

"I have to study that a little more," Roanhorse said.

He noted that the proposed layoff of 150 tribal employees in the proposed 2013 executive branch budget, which the president announced in his press release on Aug. 28, were positions funded by tribal funds.

But Roanhorse said those layoffs were reduced to 27 through a presidential directive to division directors to cut their travel and special transactions budgets and to abolish 48 vacant positions.

"The mandate from the president is not layoffs," he emphasized. "Today we have 27 proposed layoffs."

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