Hopi Council approves reorganization plan, adds executive director

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - The position of "executive director" will now be a key component of a government reorganization plan recently approved by the Hopi Tribal Council. "Executive director" is a new title for the position of chief administrative officer, which has been funded by the council but has been vacant for more than three years.

The person hired for the position will be responsible for the daily management and administration of tribal departments, as well as administration and technical services. The executive director will answer directly to the council.

The resolution approved in a special meeting held Nov. 22 provides that until the position is filled-but no longer than 90 days-the vice chairman will assume the duties and responsibilities of the job.

Herman Honanie, who was elected vice chairman Nov. 18, will therefore assume the role of executive director until the position is filled.

Davis F. Pecusa, who headed the reorganization task team, said that he considers the executive director position "vital" to fill. He emphasized that the tribal council and the chairman and vice chairman all need to work together.

"We need to look at the organizational culture and make a change more toward service delivery," Pecusa said. "We can't get there if we continue to fight over power."

Last December, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ben Nuvamsa and former Vice Chairman Todd Honyaoma Sr. both resigned. The pair, whose terms would have ended next month, were often at odds with each other. The ensuing political turmoil led to a suspended appellate court and allegations of fraud and disrespect for traditional leaders. Council members were divided and some said it was difficult to accomplish anything because of the animosity.

"If you continue to have differences between the chairman and the vice chairman, it will be a problem," Pecusa said.

Under the new resolution, the tribal chairman would no longer be chief executive officer. Pecusa noted that the Hopi Constitution outlines the responsibilities of the chairman as the person who presides over council meetings and calls special council meetings, but has no independent authority. Rather, he said, it is up the tribal council to determine the chairman's authority outside his constitutional duties. Part of the vice chairman's job under the Hopi Constitution is to assist the chairman in his duties.

The chairman may issue executive orders, Pecusa said, but it was "not the intent" of the Hopi Constitution for the chairman to do so to further his own politics.

The Hopi Constitution does not establish a separation of powers among the legislative, judicial and executive functions of the government. The Tribal Council holds all such powers and delegates authority as it deems appropriate.

"People have been saying they want progress, they want transparency, they want to be involved," Pecusa said. "Sure we can have disagreements. I have no personal interest (in this reorganization) except I'm a member of the tribe. I just want to see things get done. There is more than enough for everyone to do."

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