Shelly still president, approves special run-off election and pardons election board

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly remains in office as president after he took the oath of office and was sworn into office again at an inauguration ceremony Jan. 13 in Fort Defiance, Arizona.

Sixteen members of the current and new council, Shelly, Navajo Nation Council Speaker Pro Tem LoRenzo Bates, attorneys from the Navajo Nation Department of Justice and the chief legislative council fashioned an agreement Jan. 9 to allow Shelly to remain in office past noon on Jan. 13.

The agreement was necessary because a new president has not been selected yet through an election and there was disagreement between the Navajo Nation Council and the Department of Justice on who should be president after Jan. 13.

The terms of the agreement are:

• Shelly, as the president of the Navajo Nation, will maintain all power and duties under the provisions of the Navajo Nation Code.

• The Navajo Nation Council agrees to not take legislative action to affect the agreement, notwithstanding a delegate's privilege to introduce legislation on this matter, prior to the 2015 Winter Session.

• Shelly and the members of the 23rd Navajo Nation Council will meet to discuss the best interest of the Navajo Nation by the 2015 Winter Session.

• Shelly will take an oath of office on January 13, 2015.

Representatives from the legislative and executive branches agreed that the primary concern was the stability of the Nation's government beyond Jan. 13.

"In order to maintain the structure and integrity of the Navajo Nation government the executive branch and legislative branch have talked things out and reached an agreement regarding the office of the president," the written agreement said.

Inauguration ceremony

Members of the incoming 23rd Navajo Nation Council were sworn into office at an inauguration ceremony Jan. 13 at the Fighting Scouts Events Center in Fort Defiance, Arizona.

"On behalf of the Navajo Nation Council, I am honored to invite Diné Citizens to join us for this memorable event to welcome members of the incoming council," Bates said, before the event.

Former Miss Navajo Nation Jocelyn Billy-Upshaw (2006 - 2007) served as the Mistress of Ceremonies. The welcome address was provided by Bates. Dr. Jennifer N. Denetdale delivered the inaugural address.

The 24-member council will consist of 11 returning delegates and 13 new delegates. Returning delegates are: Bates, Mel Begay, Nelson BeGaye, Jonathan Hale, Jonathan Nez, Leonard Pete, Walter Phelps, Alton Joe Shepherd, Leonard Tsosie, Dwight Witherspoon and Edmund Yazzie.

The 13 new elected delegates are: Kee Allen Begay, Jr., Norman Begay, Benjamin Bennett, Nathaniel Brown, Tom Chee, Amber Kanazbah Crotty, Seth Damon, David Filfred, Lee Jack, Sr., Jonathan Perry, Tuchoney Slim, Raymond Smith and Otto Tso.

The newly elected Navajo Board of Election Supervisors and the Navajo Board of Education were also sworn in at the event. Shelly was sworn into office at a separate event.

Special run-off election approved and board of election supervisors pardoned by Shelly

Shelly signed the special run-off election legislation passed by the Navajo Nation Council into law Jan. 10. He also signed the bill that granted a pardon to the members of the Navajo Nation Board of Election Supervisors who were placed in contempt and stripped of their offices on Oct. 31 by the Navajo Nation Supreme Court Chief Justice Herb Yazzie.

"It is in the best interest of the Navajo people that we give the thousands of voters a new opportunity to choose their next leaders," Shelly said. "There have been too many discrepancies over the last several months. A new election will restore some hope among the voters and the people that their voice will be heard."

The legislation nullified the August 2014 primary election and clears the way for a new special run-off election in 2015. The run-off election will take place in June and the special general election will take place in August, with a new president sworn into office in September.

The proposed schedule in the legislation is:

• March 3: candidate filing opens;

• April 3: filing deadline;

• June : primary election;

• Aug. 4: general election; and

• Sept. 9: oath of office administered to president-elect and vice president-elect.

The legislation also provided $317,000 to the Navajo Nation Election Administration to put on the new 2015 elections.

The 17 candidates who were candidates in the 2014 primary election are eligible to reapply as candidates for president. The two candidates with the highest votes will proceed to the special general election in August.

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