Recall leaders vow to expand signature effort

By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 19, 2012

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T he committee to recall Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim says it will not be stopped by the rejection of the Navajo Election Administration, and will be back to file a second certification request once it regroups.

On July 12, the election office notified the Recall Shelly and Jim Committee that it was "null and void" because four of the eight members did not meet tribal statutory requirements to serve on the committee.

Ed Becenti, one of the disqualified members, said Tuesday that the group plans to file a second request for qualification in two weeks.

And this time, said Recall Committee President Milton Bluehouse Sr., the committee will be 100-150 strong.

"It is strongly advised that Shelly and Jim step down to avoid lifelong public embarrassment, shame and humiliation," Becenti said.

Shelly did not comment directly on the NEA action, instead stating, "Our administration will continue to work hard to better the Navajo Nation. We were voted in by the people and will continue to work for them."

The Navajo Nation election law states that any five or more registered voters may start a recall by filing a notarized affidavit establishing themselves as a recall committee, responsible for circulating and filing a recall petition.

No recall petition may be circulated or signed until such affidavit is filed with the election administration.

Bluehouse noted that the disqualification of four of their committee members actually helped the group to understand the election law requirement that anyone carrying a recall petition and collecting signatures must be certified by the election office.

If all eight original members had been qualified, that would have meant only eight people would have been able to work on collecting the required signatures, Bluehouse noted.

The election code states that any elected official may be removed from office if 60 percent of the registered voters who voted for them in the last election file a petition seeking the official's removal.

The Shelly-Jim ticket received 33,784 votes; so 20,271 signatures would be needed to oust them.

Bluehouse and Becenti said committee members met with election office staff Monday to thoroughly understand the recall process before filing their second request.

Bluehouse said the reasons for disqualifying the four members varied and included not voting in the last presidential election and not listing their correct census numbers.

NEA Director Edison Wauneka declined to specify the reasons for disqualifying them on grounds that it would violate their rights as voters.

The recall group's original affidavit, filed July 10, stated: "President Shelly failed his oath of loyalty, accountability, and good faith to the people, and has proven incompetent and incapable.

"He repeatedly demonstrated:

"Non-transparency, shown by secret meetings with disloyal lawyers and outside interests to extort approvals on such sensitive matters as the Little Colorado River S 2109 Bill and Agreement, and the 'Confluence Development Project,' for a hajiinai (sacred place);

"Lack of responsible leadership;

"Choosing the wrong side when it comes to protecting our sovereignty and homeland;

"Infidelity to the values and principles of K'é and Diné bibeenahazaanii (fundamental law);

"Inability to properly communicate with the people;

"Disrespect for the will of the people;

"Disregard for our human rights of free, prior and informed consent on major issues;

"Personal misuse of the people's money, and wasting funds on public relations firms and lobbyists who work against the Navajos' best interests;

"Poor decision making on critical issues such as corporate lease renewals and water rights;

"Abuse of the people through misuse of the police, and violation of our Bill of Rights at his 'public forums',

"Total disinterest in protecting our natural, cultural, spiritual and environmental resources."

On July 11 Shelly said the recall leaders' motives were "purely subjective" and their charges lacking in "factual evidence."

"Their reasons seem to be more of an effort to settle personal vendettas from select few who feel my leadership is too strong against their personal agendas," he said.

The recall leaders accused Jim of complicity in Shelly's alleged misdeeds. He has not directly addressed the points in the petition, but joined Shelly in issuing a statement that the two are working for the betterment of the Navajo people.

Tribal election laws mandate that the recall petition meet requirements set by the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors, which include a stipulation that voters may only sign that portion of the petition designated for the chapter in which each is registered.

The signed petitions must be filed with the election office no later than 180 days after the recall committee files its affidavits.

Failure to file the signatures within the allotted time renders the recall null and void.

Once they are filed, the election office has 30 days to review the signatures and make sure they are valid.

If the number of valid signatures is insufficient, the NEA director must notify the recall committee of the findings.

Once the election office certifies a recall petition as sufficient, it must then set the date for a special election to choose new leadership.

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