Saturday, July 20, 2024

Vince James: Embarrassing how Nation is moving forward: Debbie Nez-Manuel terminated as DHR executive director

WINDOW ROCK – Debbie Nez-Manuel was terminated as the Division of Human Resources executive director on June 27, 2024.

President Buu Nygren announced Executive Branch appointments on Jan. 9, 2023, selecting Nez-Manuel as the head of the DHR. Nez-Manuel said her termination was unexpected and confusing.

“The president called on me many, many times to do a lot of work,” Nez-Manuel said as she gave her exit report during a special Health, Education and Human Services Committee meeting last Monday. Nygren praised and acknowledged her extensive work during the meeting, yet she didn’t understand why she was released.

“The question that remains, ‘Did I get used?’” she asked. “Not only financially but my time, my talent. As a Navajo woman, did I get used?”

Delegate Vince R. James, the HEHSC chair, said the occurring of events taking place, it is embarrassing how the Navajo Nation is moving forward.

“I really don’t like the way this whole thing is being played out,” James said. Nez-Manuel and James believe a cover-up is happening at the president’s office.

As the DHR executive director, Debbie Nez-Manuel was asked to do certain things but given her position, she could not do them because she had to be impartial. Because of the numerous alleged allegations of corruption, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and high turnover at the president’s office, James said he couldn’t believe the way things have been going.

“I just can’t believe the way things are going with the chief of police (Daryl Noon), and then with you as division director,” James told Nez-Manuel. The way things have been unraveling, James said, is questionable.

James mentioned Executive Order No. 01-2024, the streamlining hiring processes, which Nez-Manuel claimed she was not involved with. He also pointed out human resources director Charlotte Bigthumb’s termination at the Department of Personnel Management. Bigthumb was later reinstated.

“It’s a big concern that we’re trying to address,” James said, adding the difficulty of filling vacant positions. “I say that because there’s a lot of turnovers at OPVP (the president’s office) as well.”

Nygren’s executive assistant and scheduler, Alray Nelson, resigned on June 24. The president’s data and technology director, Byron C. Shorty, also resigned in June.

There are 352 job vacancy announcements on the DPM website as of Wednesday (July 10) afternoon.

“What message do we proved to those people that are looking at the job vacancy listing?” Vince James asked. “When you do the comparison of the years and the experience and the educated people leaving OPVP office, it just doesn’t sit well with me.”

As allegations arise within the president’s office, James worries that it steers away potential young, educated, and experienced Navajo employees from working with the Nation.

This hurts the Navajo Nation, said James. “You guys were selected by the president and the vice president to be in those position,” he said of the Nygren Administration.

About The Author

Boderra Joe

Boderra Joe is a reporter and photographer at Navajo Times. She has written for Gallup Sun and Rio Grande Sun and has covered various beats. She received second place for Sports Writing for the 2018 New Mexico Better Newspaper Awards. She is from Baahazhł’ah, New Mexico.


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