SASI board member resigns, but not over record

WINDOW ROCK

A member of the Shiprock Associated Schools Inc. board has resigned, but not for the reason the Department of Diné Education wanted him to.

According to Virginia Nelson at the Navajo Election Administration’s Northern Agency Office, Charlie T. Jones resigned from the board the first week of September, citing conflicts with his work schedule. However, a letter from the Department of Diné Education dated July 19 attests that DODE has been trying to oust Jones for quite some time, based on the fact that he reportedly has an unspecified federal conviction involving drugs or alcohol.

The letter, from Darrick Franklin of DODE’s Office of Accountability and Compliance to SASI Board President Pete K. Atcitty, chides the SASI board for not performing a background check on Jones until June 25 of this year, two-and-a-half years after he was elected.

The Navajo Nation Code prohibits candidates from serving on school boards if they have any convictions involving “alcohol or illegal substance abuse.” The letter does not give any details of Jones’ conviction, and DODE officials did not return a phone call. A PACER search of federal cases only turned up one case for a Charlie T. Jones, and it was a traffic offense in Georgia in 1995.

The documents available on the internet did not include the defendant’s age or address, and it may not be the same Charlie T. Jones. In a telephone interview, Jones reiterated that his school board commitments were interfering with his job at Tacitus LLC. “I’d been wanting to resign for a long time, and it finally got to the point where I had to,” he said.

Jones declined to comment on whether or not he has an alcohol offense on his record. In the letter to Atcitty, Franklin wrote, “I strenuously advise you adhere to federal and Navajo Nation laws by discontinuing Mr. Charlie Jones in any further participation of school board meetings and school related functions until such time the Navajo Elections Administration provides a ruling on this matter.” Nelson, however, said she never received any documentation on Jones’ criminal record and never investigated the allegation.

Jones had stepped down as Tse Daa Kaan Chapter president last year. According to Nelson, work concerns played a part in that resignation as well. His opponent in the last election, James Pioche, is now serving as chapter president.

Nelson said Tse Daa Kaan and Gadii’ahi/Tokoi chapters, which Jones represented on the board, can make recommendations to the election administration as to whom they would like to fill Jones’ unexpired term. There will not be a special election because the term is more than half over, she explained.



About The Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at cyurth@navajotimes.com.