Does Legislative have internal controls?

WINDOW ROCK, March 6, 2014

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As I've been following the events occurring on Navajo concerning the misappropriations of funds within the Legislative Branch, I wonder, does the Legislative Branch have any internal controls?

For 11 years, I worked within the Navajo Nation government, and I remember listening to oversight committees chastise Executive Branch programs for not following policies and procedures. Council delegates would constantly talk about accountability and the need for internal controls. Now, I wonder, does the Legislative Branch have policies, procedures, or internal controls?

And do Council delegates follow those policies, procedures and internal controls? If they do have those controls, why aren't they following them?

Documentation should be provided for every request. And those documents should be retained in a secure place. Documentation is an important first step in following internal control procedures. A program without internal controls is set for failure especially where expenditures of funds are involved.

If Legislative Branch does have internal controls, have those controls been audited?

In order for controls to be effective, they need to be audited. More to the point, has Legislative's financial function ever been audited to determine if it is following its own "established" controls?

I wonder if the branch that creates the laws, enforces the policies, procedures and internal controls of all other government programs, is able to follow its own policies, procedures and internal controls. If they were following policy, procedures and internal controls, this issue of misappropriation would probably have not been an issue. Or if they were audited and the results made public, these elected officials would have already answered for their indiscretions.

Before a Council oversight committee should be able to issue any further sanctions upon any other Navajo government program for improper expenditure, they should submit themselves to an internal audit. Let's see if Legislative Branch is effective following its own policy, procedures and internal controls. Legislative Branch should be setting the standard.

I know that when the tables are turned, an audit would be requested.

Mark C. Graham
Gilbert, Ariz.

Rep. Jeff, don't blame the unions

I am writing to correct inaccuracies and falsehoods recently sent in a letter by Rep. Sandra D. Jeff to her constituents.

In the letter, Jeff touts the policies of PED (Public Education Department) Designate Hanna Skandera and Governor Martinez. She states, "There are those who don't understand this process."

Additionally, she says, "Please don't listen to the unions. They need to know that our children come first, not their interests." And lastly, "I have an ‘open door' policy, willing to listen and work with you."

While it is true that employee unions represent union members and the bargaining unit and work with employers [management] to negotiate contracts, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are unions in the education profession. As education employees, we spend most of the day with or around students. Our leaders are educators. We advocate for employees, the education profession, and for students.  K-3 Plus was a union initiative.

In fact, the Keep the Promise Coalition that sponsored statewide "grassroots" town halls, teleconferences, etc., that resulted in a vision/resolution for education and became Senate Joint Memorial 11, was spearheaded by unions.

The following is a partial list of Coalition members (note the parent, student, and educational organizations):

Albuquerque Interfaith
Clay Kodesh Arts and Learning
David Coss, mayor, Santa Fe
DFA – Democracy for New Mexico
Early Educators United
El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos
Families United for Education
Gallup-McKinley Schools
His Kidz Learning Center
Indian Educators Federation
Institute of Community Engagement
Interfaith Worker Justice - NM
LULAC New Mexico (League of United Latin American Citizens)
Native American Voter Alliance (NAVA)
NEA-NM NM Alliance for Retired Americans
NMFL OLÉ Progressive Action
New Mexico Public Health Association
Somos Un Pueblo Unido
Southwest Organizing Project
The Rural Progressive Voices For Children
Working America
Working Parents Association Plus other individual businesses/organizations throughout New Mexico.

Never before have so many educators, educational employees, administrators, parents, and students — school districts and union locals — been of the same accord and spoken with such singularity in regards to the education budget and policies. Even the New Mexico Superintendents Association was on the same page, and all but one democrat.

Why would anyone go against so many experienced in education? Perhaps it has to do with "wheeling and dealing" for education dollars or an agreement on a gaming compact. There is a lot of "horse trading" in politics.

While it was a good compromise, the principle difference was that it gave more "below-the-line" money to the governor. The original budget — in which Jeff was the deciding, "swing-vote" against — provided additional money to schools for at-risk students.

Moreover, Jeff walked with Republicans rather than vote on minimum wage. This would have provided much needed relief for working families in her district. Children living in poverty is an issue and has always been a major concern for educators.

Lastly, Jeff's statement on the "open door" policy and "willing to listen and work with you" was not exactly the reception our small group (including constituent) received in Santa Fe on Feb. 15. The group was ignored, and Jeff left her seat rather than speak to us.

It is quite easy and convenient — although rather cliché — to blame "the unions."

Ultimately, it will be for the constituents — voters — to judge the veracity of Jeff's statements and to decide who has whose interests at heart ... who better understands the process ... and who "got played."

Brian J. Bernard
McKinley County Federation of United School Employees Gallup, N.M.

Disappointed in Maryboy

Honorable Delegate Mr. Maryboy, I am a constituent from Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., and for the past two-three years, I have been active in Navajo government processes, including legislations. My participation has been in the form of submitting my opinion to the following newspapers: The Navajo Times, Gallup Independent, Farmington Daily Times, Albuquerque Journal, Santa Fe New Mexican, and The Free Press of Cortez. I have attended several Council sessions, meetings and forums at several chapters regarding Diné Water Rights and BHP mine/NGS/Power Plants.

I am disappointed you have not attended the many Council sessions related to our Diné resources. I am especially appalled at your vote to waive all liabilities to BHP damages to our Diné land, including your vote to purchase the 50-year-old BHP Navajo Mine. If you are a businessman, which you have claimed, you would have questioned the reason BHP was selling the mine.

With two units shut down at the Four Corners Power Plant, which APS will not retrofit, several Navajo employees will be forced to retire or be laid off due to a decrease in production at the mine, a number without benefits.

Do you really care for Diné resources and the Diné people?

Sylvia Clahchischilli
Teec Nos Pos, Ariz.

K'e is a double-edged sword

I have read a few letters published in the Navajo Times concerning the failure of our Navajo leadership and the pending charges against current members of the Navajo Nation Council. The letters skirt around the issue and do not directly address the situation. I know that we as Navajos should be humble and remind ourselves of the concept of K'e (kinship), but I believe there lies part the problem we are facing.

I for one am sick and tired of the actions and conduct of our leaders. The criminal intentions and dishonest corrupt activities seem to go hand in hand with being a Navajo leader and politician. This type of indiscretion and corruption needs to stop immediately. Being elected to a public position, board member, or commission does not give the individual celebrity or royalty status and should not be expected. Being elected to such a position carries an extraordinary responsibility. Responsibility requires traits such as integrity, discretion, transparency, character, ethics, morals, and honesty. It seems as of late our chosen leaders have displayed few or none of the listed characteristics.

Corruption is rampant on the Navajo Reservation. Navajo Nation Council members (former and current), Sage Memorial Hospital and Fort Defiance IHS head the list of acts of blatant double-dealing and deception. When are we going to demand accountability? When are we, the voters going to stand our ground and oust the politicians that need a career change? How long can the circus continue and allow the clowns (leaders) to continue playing tricks of illusion and sleight of hand? What will it take for people to take heed and realize that our current leaders are antiquated that calls for a drastic political change on how we conduct business in the future?

If we go to the kinship tree and trace who our relatives are, I could have had some chunks of green paper with dead presidents printed on them. I am sure that I am related to many of the former Council members who were doling out cash to relatives. K'e? So how far does K'e go?

Evidently greed precedes K'e because I didn't get my cash from my clan brothers and sisters when the Unreserved Discretionary Fund was raided. Now when someone is in trouble of some wrongdoing, it is quite convenient for politicians to use the concept of K'e to ask for pity. They call these kinds of people "white collar" criminals in the real world, and here on the Navajo Nation we call the Shi'Nali, Shi'Chei, or Shi'Ma Yazhi. Our punishment for such acts on the Navajo Nation is non-existent and weak. Until the criminal statutes get some real teeth and prosecute the offenders, the free-for-all will continue. It would not be a surprise if the federal government steps in and takes over our weak government. It may be a wise move because we as the Navajo Nation and Navajo people do not seem to be wise enough to progress. The government may once again imprison us to save us from ourselves.

Ervin Tsosie
Ganado, Ariz.

Diné Marriage Act should be repealed

On July 13, 2013, an article in the Navajo Times entitled "A question of human rights" by journalist Shondiin Silversmith, wrote about how same-sex marriage is prohibited and void on the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Nation Council members have passed this bill, The Diné Marriage Act on the day of 22nd in April 2005, but then President Joe Shirley vetoed it.

Recently in other articles among the United States of America has reported numbers of increase that same-sex is allowed in their state such as New Mexico has passed the same-sex marriage, but it would not be recognized on the Navajo Nation land even though the Navajo Nation is a part of the state of New Mexico.

In other words, Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act believes "The word ‘marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

I disagree with DOMA's view that marriage should not only be between one man and one woman as a husband and wife because as recent research has shown, that the Supreme Court has ruled it over to "unconstitutional" on July 26, 2013.

I also disagree with the Diné Marriage Act because the Navajo Nation needs to understand that there are a lot of people on the Navajo Nation who are LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) who struggle to be either recognized or not as being different with respect. Navajos today face the idea of being accepted into their own family or as a human being because of the traditional value and clan system. It is said that there are different beliefs among the Navajo people.

Though I concede the Diné Marriage Act, I still insist that it should be unconstitutional too. I believe love will always win, either it be one man or one woman, including the family value, and clan system. I do not believe it should only be one man and one woman because I know there are same-sex that love one another out there on the Navajo Nation or the outside of the reservation.

I agree with Ben Shelly's statement, "My position has always been that it's up to the couple. If they love each other we don't have the right to say they can't," and "If you love a person, same sex or opposite sex, that's what love's all about. We love who we want and choose who we want."

When it comes to family value and clan system, it takes away the idea of whom we should love or marry. Multiple times it gives the Navajo a struggle. Among the Navajo community there are a lot of people who are always unaware of whether they are related or not. It is confusing at times, but it also becomes harder when families do not believe in equality. I believe our clan system ruins that as a tribe. There are other tribes in other states who allow it.

There are some solutions to resolve this problem on the Navajo Nation. Alray Nelson suggests his statement that states, "One is to take it before the Navajo courts and challenge it as discriminatory. Another way is to have the Council repeal or amend the law to ensure it is inclusive to same-sex couples, and the third is to take it before the Navajo people for a vote."

I also believe another way to resolve the problem is to talk to your family or partner about the idea of this topic that will help family understand that it is acceptable and have their respect. Sit down and talk about it without a single explosion in the sticky situation.

Colin Derek Denny
Piñon, Ariz.

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