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Speaker issues statement regarding Las Vegas photo

Speaker issues statement regarding Las Vegas photo

By Donovan Quintero and Krista Allen
Navajo Times


Speaker of the 24th Navajo Nation Council Seth Damon did not admit or deny he may have been allegedly intoxicated during the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Damon issued a statement on Thursday evening stating he was on a “private vacation” when an unapproved photograph was taken of him.

The photograph depicts Damon sitting at a slot machine in a casino, allegedly under the influence.

The Bááhááli, Chéch’iltah, Manuelito, Red Rock, Rock Springs, and Tsayatoh representative said: “accountability and transparency” are values he holds high.

“Taking ownership for your actions is important to me,” Damon said in his statement.

Damon explained he and his family were in Las Vegas — not on tribal business — attending the INFR, which concluded on Oct. 22, when an “unauthorized photo” was taken of him. He did not say which casino he was in when the picture was taken.

The speaker’s statement went on to state that he understands the significance “of truth” and admits “wrongdoing.”

“I send my apologies to the Navajo people and the communities I represent for any ill-will or embarrassment this photograph caused,” his statement read.

On Wednesday, Damon’s colleague Paul Begay told the Navajo Times that Damon and the Council held a teleconference meeting on Tuesday evening to address an “impropriety” that involved the speaker.

Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton, who represents Shiprock, said Damon talked about the photograph and indicated that he wouldn’t make excuses nor say “there’s a conspiracy.” She said Damon admitted he was in Las Vegas and the individual in the photograph was him.

“He asked if we (delegates) had seen it,” Charles-Newton said. “Then he asked if we had any questions.”

Charles-Newton said she asked Damon how he would address the matter.

“What I stated was, ‘The integrity of Council is in question right now and that one delegate messing up is a reflection of the entire 24th Navajo Nation Council,’” Charles-Newton said. “We entrusted him––being a good speaker to represent the Navajo people.

“We cannot turn a blind eye and say it didn’t happen. It’s about accountability, (and) we hold the president accountable; we hold the division directors accountable––we even hold each other accountable.”

“The speaker left it up to the Council to do whatever the council wants to do,” Begay said.

Begay, who represents Coppermine, K’ai’bii’tó, LeChee, Tonalea-Red Lake, and Bodaway-Gap, said some delegates said to Damon that he should seek help.

“Some delegates suggested or recommended he seek help,” Begay said.

He did not specify what kind of help Damon needed, nor did he know if he was on administrative leave. However, the speaker stated he’d be discussing what “corrective actions” the council could take.

“Our leaders should be held accountable, and I accept responsibility for this incident. I made a mistake as an elected leader, and it will not happen again,” Damon’s statement read.

Damon is serving his second term on the Navajo Nation Council and is currently running unopposed. If re-elected, it will be his third term.

Public intoxication in Las Vegas is not considered a crime. However, a person who is impaired could still face other crimes that involve alcohol that is punishable by jail and a fine of up to $1,000, according to Nevada law.


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