President Shirley placed on leave by Council
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - On Monday, the Navajo Nation Council voted 48-22 to place Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. on paid administrative leave pending investigations and possible prosecution of ethical, civil and criminal charges stemming from alleged wrongdoings by President Shirley and staff members of the Executive Branch. The remaining 18 Council delegates did not vote.
Vice President Ben Shelly will temporarily assume the role and duties of the Navajo Nation President during Shirley's absence.
On Oct. 19, the Council received reports on investigations performed by law firms contracted by the Office of the Attorney General relative to Navajo Nation dealings with the private companies OnSat Network Communications and Biochemical Decontamination Systems Manufacturing Co. (BCDS). The reports allege that certain Navajo Nation officials and employees may have breached their fiduciary trust to the Navajo people.
A total of three reports on OnSat Communications and BCDS have been referred to Navajo Nation Attorney General Louis Denetsosie, who has 60 days to decide whether or not to hire a special prosecutor to bring the case to court.
The first two reports involve OnSat Network Communications, a Utah-based company that provided satellite and wireless Internet service to the Navajo Nation. The company had allegedly overbilled for its services and the Nation paid for services that were not provided. This raised concerns within the Navajo Nation of wasteful spending and resulted in investigations by both the Navajo Nation and federal authorities.
The third report involved loans collateralized by the Navajo Dam Escrow Account to BCDS, a company based in Shiprock, N.M. In 2006, President Shirley signed a pledge agreement with JP Morgan Chase Bank authorizing the collateralization of the loan.
The President's Office has repeatedly refuted these reports. President Shirley himself expressed disappointment with the Council's decision to place him on administrative leave, but is convinced that this is in retaliation for his efforts to seek a special election to reduce the Council and allow the future Navajo Nation president line item veto authority.
"I certainly believe I'll be exonerated. We've got nothing to hide. I'm just very sorry this has happened," President Shirley stated, adding that he had not been informed of the specific allegations against him.
The Council's action to place President Shirley on leave was pursuant to Navajo Nation Code, 11 N.N.C. § 240 (C), which states, "The Navajo Nation Council may by majority vote of the Council, place the President, Vice President or any of its members on administrative leave, with or without pay, where there are reasonable grounds to believe that such official has seriously breached his or her fiduciary trust to the Navajo people and such leave will serve the best interests of the Navajo people."
President Shirley concluded, "All that's out there is hearsay. Something is wrong with this process, and I don't think it's right."
"It is ... now incumbent upon me, to ensure government [and] services to the Nation continue," Vice President Shelly stated. "The executive branch of the Navajo government [will resume] with no disruption."
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