Letters | Five market sheep ‘excessive’
It concerns me that the Navajo Nation and its leadership have not taken a larger step to gain further explanation from Navajo Nation President Nez regarding his excessive purchase of sheep lambs at the recent Navajo Nation Jr. 4H/FFA Livestock Show and Sale.
On the surface, it seems the purchase was overindulgent and lavish. I mean, spending $107,000 on five sheep does raise eyebrows.
At the recent U.S. Department of Agriculture Video Sheep Video/Internet Auction held on Sept. 14, 2022, in Cottonwood, California, there were 960 head of sheep with an average weight of 103 pounds, each sold for an average price of $106 per head. The market weight requirement for a Market Lamb is 80 pounds.
The USDA National Direct Sheep Report for Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, stated that the average weight of the market sheep was 101 pounds with an average price of $103.90 per head.
There is not much difference in pricing with the mentioned reports from the USDA. When there is a difference in pricing, there can be several reasons for the price change, such as an under or oversupply for that auction, condition of the lambs, seasonality of demand, holidays, or celebrations occurring soon.
However, this time of year, there is an oversupply of sheep, and owners want to reduce their herds as they prepare for the purchase of winter hay or grass shortages. This means that the price of the animal will decrease due to the oversupply.
Based on that information, the purchase of five sheep lambs should have been approximately $500, not $107,000. President Nez’s acquisition of five market sheep lambs was excessive and lavish.
AP writer Felicia Fonseca wrote a story on March 3, 2016, titled “Navajo Nation discretionary fund cases drawing to a close.”
She wrote about how 77 Navajo lawmakers were charged with fraud, abuse of office, and theft. The charges were later dropped and filed as civil lawsuits where the lawmakers were then accused of defrauding the tribal government, which led to the erosion of the public’s trust in its government.
Fonseca asked the NN discretionary case prosecutor, Eric Dahlstrom, about the goal of the prosecutions of tribal leaders. Fonseca wrote that Dahlstrom said he wanted to send a message to prevent other people from stealing.
On Oct. 4, 2018, the late Bill Donovan wrote a Navajo Times article titled, “Allegations against Nez include use of plane, P-card purchases.” The allegations were filed on Sept. 14, 2018, with the Ethics and Rules Office of the Navajo Nation.
The allegations included that then VP Nez took his family on vacation to Disney World and used more than $600,000 in tribal funds in his campaign for president. No further articles were found indicating what the outcome of the Ethics and Rules filing was.
My point in this letter is to raise the concern that when an elected leader purchases five sheep for $107,000, the Navajo voters and leaders should ask if that was a violation of the law or an abuse of the office, or defrauding the tribal government because we have learned that those actions in the past have eroded the public’s trust in the government.
The convicted lawmakers used tribal money when they abused their leadership position. President Nez used tribal funds to purchase five market sheep lambs for $107,000. On the market, those sheep would cost an average of $106.
Did President Nez abuse his position by spending $107,000 for five sheep? Did he defraud the Navajo Nation government? Did he steal the Navajo people’s money to benefit his campaign by purchasing five sheep for $107,000?
The Ethics and Rules office should take this up. Perhaps a special prosecutor? Surely, the Navajo voters need to say something.
The election is on Nov. 8, and Navajo voters should be allowed to know before they cast their ballots.
The erosion of public trust in the government is no small matter.