Council puts Naize on paid administrative leave

(Times photo - Donovan Quintero)

Navajo Nation Speaker of the Council Johnny Naize speaks about the bill to place him on administrative leave on Friday at the council chamber in Window Rock. After a lengthy debate, his colleagues voted, 12-0, to place him on administrative leave.

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, April 4, 2014

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(Times photos - Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Navajo Nation council delegate LoRenzo Bates was immediately voted in to serve as the pro-tem speaker of the council by unanimous vote, 9-0, on Friday afternoon in Window Rock. Johnny Naize was placed on administrative leave by a vote of 12-0.

BOTTOM: Speaker of the Council Johnny Naize raises his hand during a meeting about him on Wednesday in Window Rock. Naize was placed on administrative leave, 12-0.

B y a unanimous 12-0 vote the Navajo Nation Council placed Speaker Johnny Naize on paid administrative leave for allegedly misusing tribal discretionary funds, a controversial account delegates maintained to provide for their constituent's needy.


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Naize is alleged to have conspired and bribed former and current delegates with monies from these discretionary accounts. He is accused of misusing almost $37,000 in discretionary funds and faces one count of conspiracy and ten counts of bribery.

Last month Naize pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, but court documents allege that he conspired with former Council Delegate Raymond Joe, who pleaded guilty to misusing discretionary funds and providing payments to Naize.

These were the reasons for why Council Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd sponsored a bill to remove Naize as speaker, pursuant to Title II of the Navajo Nation Code. Tribal law requires the Speaker needs to be in "good standing."

It took nearly four hours Friday, with an executive session and an amendment to the legislation from Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie, before the legislative body voted to place Naize on paid administrative leave rather than to remove him outright.

Council had convened in special session to consider Shepherd's removal bill, but instead voted in favor of Tsosie's amendment to the bill and placed their leader on paid leave.

"At the end of the day that's what we've gotten (transparency and integrity)," Shepherd said. "We actually treaded on waters that weren't there before."

According to Shepherd, Naize is still a Council Delegate and can sit in on legislative action items at the committee and before the full Council; it's just his administrative duties as Speaker that were removed.

"Now, we can go forward," Shepherd said, before adding that a companion bill to appoint a Speaker Pro Tem for the rest of the term is still in the legislative process and could be reintroduced.

During the vote, Naize walked out of the Council Chamber followed by some of his loyal supporters, including Council Delegate Katherine Benally.

After their vote took place, members also voted 12-0 to make Council Delegate LoRenzo Bates Speaker Pro Tem. Bates is expected to serve as Speaker Pro Tem once Council delegate Edmund Yazzie, who served as the Speaker Pro Tem on Friday, certifies the bill.

Yazzie told the Times that he would certify the bill by Monday.

"It may take up to Monday when it's ready," Yazzie said. "I'll be pro tem until then. Everything has to be correct."

And so as soon as Yazzie certifies the bill, Bates will replace him a Speaker Pro Tem. Bates called the nature of events "brand new.".

"This is the first time this ever has been done to protect the integrity and credibility of Council," Bates added. "This is all brand new."

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