Recall backers to petition Council

By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, August 9, 2012

Text size: A A A

T he movement to recall President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim has redirected its efforts to persuading the Navajo Nation Council to remove Shelly and Jim from office.

On Tuesday, the Remove Shelly-Jim Committee announced in a press release that it has decided to use the Navajo Nation Bill of Rights, which grants tribal members the right to petition the Council for removal of the president, vice president or any delegate from office.

The 12-member committee, which is headed by former Navajo Nation President Milton Bluehouse Sr., stated that after learning more about recall procedures from the Navajo Election Administration, the members decided tribal rules, written and unwritten, governing recalls are so restrictive they make success almost impossible.

On July 12, the election office nullified the committee on grounds that four of the eight members did not meet the statutory requirements to serve on it.

Recall committee members then asked the election office to educate them about the recall process, and announced their intention to recruit 100-150 more people to join the effort. However, after undergoing the orientation on recall rules, they decided to change course.

"First, the Navajo Nation recall process is much more restrictive for the Navajo people than for the citizens of any of the 19 U.S. states that have recalls," the Remove Shelly-Jim Committee said.

The tribal rules say only committee members certified by the election office can collect signatures, and they must get them from 60 percent of those who voted in the previous election. This is about two and half times the proportion required under Arizona law and five times more than California requires.

The press release cited Title 1, section 4 of the Navajo Nation Code, affirming the people's right "to petition the Navajo Nation government for a redress of grievances."

Title 11, section 240A authorizes the Council to remove a president, vice president or Council delegate for just cause. The law list eight reasons that constitute just cause, but also allows for petitioners to assert additional causes for removal.

The removal committee lists 11 reasons it believes the Shelly and Jim should go, most related the administration's push to pass the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Agreement and its enabling bills in Congress, despite widespread opposition within the tribal membership.

The reasons are: "Breach of transparency (openness) in government; gross disregard for 1849 and 1868 treaties; repeated violations of our human rights violations of free, prior and informed consent; violating Navajo traditional law; failing to follow values and principles of Navajo fundamental law; widespread use of false propaganda; faulty decisions on corporate leases and water rights; wasting the people's funds by pushing propaganda (via advertising and lobbyists); arrogant insults for youth, young adults and elders alike whose views differed from theirs; conspiring with the disloyal, deceptive and mismanaged (Navajo) Department of Justice; abuse of the people through threats, intimidation, and misuse of police, sniper presence, and unlawful searches at so-called "public forums."

In response to a request made Tuesday to interview Shelly and Jim for their point of view, their spokesman Erny Zah released this statement Wednesday: "Our Diné have the right to express their opinions about the state of the government and its leaders. We have an open door policy and will maintain such a position for Diné who have concerns about the stable leadership of the Navajo Nation."

The committee said in its release that a removal petition would be more "the Navajo way" than holding a recall election, and highlighted passages from Navajo Nation Supreme Court rulings in two 2010 lawsuits over voter initiatives, Nelson vs. Shirley and Shirley vs. Morgan, in support of the right to petition for removal.

"The removal petition is a pro-active effort for the people and against failing Navajo leadership," it said.

"Petition proponents are also against those who would unlawfully control our nation, who would unlawfully take away from the people the ultimate control of our government, who would minimize and give away our rights, who would give away our resources, and who would give away our future."

Removal advocates hope to gather thousands of signatures over the next six months.

"The signed petitions will be formally delivered to the Council, along with a re-stated petition request to redress grievances by removing Shelly and Jim from office," the committee stated.

The committee added that with the removal of Shelly and Jim, tribal law provides for the speaker of the Council to become president and appoint a vice president.

It went on to voice concerns about the current speaker, Johnny Naize, who sponsored legislation to approve the water settlement.

On July 5, the Council voted against the legislation and called for Naize to create a water rights task force of delegates and community members to re-negotiate the Little Colorado water rights.

Naize introduced legislation to create the seven-member task force on July 18, and it is on the agenda of today's meeting of the Naa'bik'iyáti' Committee, which has final approval.

Information: email, call 480-313-8070, or write P.O. Box 70, St. Michaels, AZ 86511.

Back to top ^