Bates now Speaker Pro Tem
By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
WINDOW ROCK, April 7, 2014
This means that Council Delegate Lorenzo Bates is now Speaker Pro Tem. It also means that Bates replaces Johnny Naize as Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council.
Last Friday, during a special Council session, members voted 12-0 to place Naize on paid administrative leave for allegedly misusing more than $37,000 in discretionary funds. Evidence of Naize conspiring with other former and current Council delegates, specificially with former Council Delegate Raymond Joe pleading guilty to his charges in connection with Naize, was enough for Council to place their leader on paid leave.
Naize faces one count of conspiracy and ten counts of bribery.
Immediately after voting in favor of placing Naize on paid administrative leave, Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie certified the legislation. Yazzie was appointed by Naize to be the Speaker Pro Tem of Friday's deliberations.
According to the resolution, which has since become law with Yazzie's signature, "the Navajo Nation Council can, at its discretion, remove or put the Speaker on administrative leave at any time during his or her term of office of the Speaker."
The resolution also cites Title II of the Navajo Nation Code in which "The Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council shall be a member of the Navajo Nation Council, in good standing."
With the certification of the bill, Bates now indefinitely serves as the Speaker Pro Tem. This action comes after Council Delegate Danny Simpson issued a directive last Friday to appoint Bates as speaker pro tem. Council voted 12-0 in favor of the directive.
Meanwhile, in response to the actions by Council, Naize issued a statement late Friday evening, saying that he would challenge the decision by his peers in tribal court.
"As Speaker, I have no choice but to seek an immediate declaration from the Navajo Courts that today's vote is illegal," Naize said on April 4. "This includes an injunction to prevent this handful of delegates from continuing to violate our laws and otherwise prevent me from performing my legally required duties both as Speaker and as a Council Delegate."
The Speaker even mentioned how these 12 Council members are physically taking over the Office of the Speaker, and that he's confident in the courts protecting the "Nation's institutions and laws from what amounts to an illegal overthrow of our government."
On Monday, Naize followed through with his word and filed a civil temporary restraining order in Window Rock District Court against the 12 Council members, including Bates and Tom Platero, executive director for the Office of Legislative Services.
With Bates and Platero, Council Delegates Alto Joe Shepherd; Nelson Begaye; Russell Begaye; Josh Lavar Butler; Lorenzo Curley; Jonathan Hale; Jonathan Nez; Leonard Pete; Danny Simpson; Leonard Tsosie and Dwight Witherspoon are listed in the complaint.
Over the weekend and since Friday's actions, political junkies and environmental grassroots groups like Diné Water Rights posted on their social networks that Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie had changed the locks of the Speaker's Office and that Bates had fired all of Naize's politically- appointed staff.
According to Jared Touchin, the spokesman for the Office of the Speaker, neither did Tsosie change the locks to the office or Bates fire Naize's politically appointed staff.
In fact, Bates held a meeting with Legislative Branch officials Monday morning informing them to continue carrying out their functions on behalf of the Navajo people, Touchin said.
"Speaker Pro Tem just told everyone to carry on as usual," Touchin said. "Our job is still to work for the Navajo people."
As of 2 p.m. Monday afternoon, Bates and some of the 12 members listed in Naize's civil complaint had been meeting with Harrison Tsosie, attorney general, at the Navajo Department of Justice headquarters.
For more on this story, buy a copy of this week's April 10th Edition of the Navajo Times.
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