Possible violation of executive session rule leads to tabling motion
The Navajo Nation Council debated a possible breach of executive session rules by an appointee to the Commission of Navajo Government Development during the fall session on Oct. 19.
The appointees were Anslem Morgan, to represent the Eastern Navajo Agency Council and Zane James, who was appointed by President Jonathan Nez.
Council confirmed James’ appointment with no debate, 16-7.
However, Morgan’s appointment brought up a concern regarding a violation of executive session rules by Loretta Seweingyama, the Western Navajo Agency representative with the commission.
As a result, Council tabled the appointment of Morgan until the winter session.
Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton said she was concerned about Morgan’s appointment because of another meeting on Sept. 28, held in executive session between Council and the commission, when she said the contents of the executive session were discussed outside of the session.
Charles-Newton, reading from the meeting minutes, quoted Seweingyawma as saying, “I was the one who was very concerned to what was said in the (Naabik’íyáti) and in the executive session.
According to Charles-Newton, Seweingyawma said, “It was shocking and new to me to learn from Delegate (Amber) Crotty report about a possible relationship between the chairwoman and the director which leads me to understand why things occurred and transpired the way they did.”
Charles-Newton said the quote was damaging to a woman’s marriage and reputation.”
She also discussed the Council’s rules of order.
Rule 23 states that executive discuss issues that may require confidentiality and/or be of a sensitive nature. The rule states there shall be no recordings and the door to the session must remain closed.
Charles-Newton said if the Council confirms Morgan, then Council would be allowing a violation of executive sessions rules.
“I think it’s really unfair that government development had talked about what was discussed in executive session and on their meeting minutes,” Charles-Newton said.
Morgan said he was there only for the first session and did not attend the second session. He also said he was not a part of any other discussion, and he did not make a comment during the Council’s executive session.
“My issue is not so much the role of government development and the quasi power they have, my concern is when we’re talking about the sanctity of Council and we’re talking about keeping things in order,” Charles-Newton said.
She also said that she worries about going into executive session if board members are allowed to talk about what was said during the session.
“We should not be talking about what was said in executive session, so I don’t agree with that and for that reason, I’m going to vote red for you Mr. Morgan,” Charles-Newton said. “I don’t believe that we should talk about what was said in executive session, especially among Council.”
Delegate Jamie Henio agreed with Charles-Newton and said Council should take the issue seriously and involve the Department of Justice to look at the breach of confidentiality.
“We need to put this (the confirmation) aside until we get answers to this issue of a breach of confidentiality,” Henio said.
Delegate Carl Slater questioned the accusation of a violation in executive session and the actions of his fellow Council delegates. He said he did not see anything in the rules that stated who could make the determination of a violation and what the repercussions are.
“We had a presentation before the Council today about bullying and to me this just seems like a steamrolling, bullying attempt,” Slater said.
He said that in notes he had, they indicated how commissioners feel intimidated and threatened by Council delegates.
He also said that he thinks “it’s no secret that it’s hard to recruit anyone to work for this Council in any capacity,” because of the reputation that certain delegates have.
He told Council that they need to be careful in this situation because there is a possibility that they could scare away any talent and anyone who wants to participate in the legislative branch.
Legislative Counsel Dana Bobroff said what is in the rules seemed to apply to only Naa’bik’iyati’ Committee members and did not seem to encompass any other people that were in the executive session. Violations of executive sessions do not include any penalties, she said.
Speaker Seth Damon said he understands that the discussion and questions that are referred back to the appointment and told the Council to refer those questions to Bobroff.
“Mr. Morgan, as you can see, we have a crisis in institutions and government all across the world and in this country, now it’s leached into the Navajo Nation,” Slater said. “Jiní runs rampant, it’s seductive and it’s killing our democracy and our government.”
Slater said some delegates are colluding with Facebook to kill debate through demagoguery and populism.
He said they claim to speak for the people but anyone that says anything critical are labeled enemies of the people. He also said that these same people are the enemy of democracy, the Nation’s government, and traditional ways.
“As we all heard, what is happening right now, which is a lot of questions legally, a lot of reports, charges possibly pending that are going to be filed because of the legislation that we’re hearing right now,” Delegate Edmund Yazzie said.
“So, in order to save the integrity of what we are voting on,” he added, “I would like to make the motion to table this legislation in order to come back during the winter session. Hopefully by then we can squeeze out and iron out the problems.”
The motion to table passed 15-8