Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Mon, April 06

Shirley nixes two pieces of legislation
Shirley cites concerns about illegal bribes, self-interest in elections laws

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., vetoed two pieces of legislation last week, expressing concern that one may have been influenced by offers of illegal bribes to Navajo Nation Council delegates, and the other had the appearance of being self-serving and counter to the public interest.

President Shirley vetoed Resolution No. CO-42-10, which would have approved the Sempra/IPP term sheet for the development of the Grey Mountain Wind Farm in Cameron, Ariz. He also vetoed Resolution No. CO-43-10, which would have amended the Navajo Election Code to prevent anyone with a felony conviction from ever running for elective office, but eliminated a misdemeanor conviction as grounds for removal or for seeking elected office.

In his Nov. 8 veto message to Navajo Nation Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan, President Shirley cited several problems with the Sempra/International Piping Products, Inc., term sheet but said he was most troubled by an allegation that Council delegates may have been offered bribes for their votes to approve it.

"On Oct. 21, Council Delegate Norman John stated on the floor of the Navajo Nation Council that on Sept. 23 he was offered 'campaign funds' to vote green," President Shirley said. "He said he had not voted on Sempra during that morning's Resources Committee meeting, and did not want to vote after the offer was made without being advised by the Legislative Counsel."

President Shirley said he was concerned that John's statement was not immediately addressed, but that the Council instead proceeded to a vote on the term sheet legislation.

"I cannot stand by to allow such questionable activities and possible violation of the Navajo Ethics and Government Law to dictate this important policy decision that will have long-term impacts on the Navajo Nation and our natural resources," he said.

Other problems with the legislation included the lack of required review and approval by the Resources Committee, and a failure to have terms negotiated by the Executive Branch as required by Navajo law.

The legislation would have granted exclusivity to a non-Navajo entity to gain and maintain complete control over a Navajo resource encompassing 45,000 acres of Navajo trust land for up to 75 years. The Sempra/IPP term sheet would not allow the Navajo Nation a controlling ownership interest of 51 percent-plus in the Cameron wind project, he said. That omission would have permitted Sempra/IPP to control and decide all assignments and subleases without Navajo approval.

The term sheet would also have waived all applicable Navajo taxes, and Sempra/IPP would be under no obligation to comply with the Navajo Nation Procurement and Employment laws.

By comparison, the Big Boquillas Wind Project, which involves the Navajo Nation, NTUA, Edison Mission Energy, and Foresight Energy, uses only 4,500 acres of land and is a Navajo Nation project. Through the use of a for-profit affiliate, NTUA will be a 51 percent owner of the project. The Navajo Nation negotiated with NTUA to complete the agreements with the project company consistent with the requirements of Navajo law.

Regarding his veto of Resolution No. CO-43-10, the President said the amendments would change the Election Code to create an inconsistency.

Currently, if a person is convicted of either a felony or misdemeanor, he or she is subject to removal from office or would not be able to seek elected office for five years. Under the amendments, a felony conviction would prohibit a person from running for any elected office forever.

That prohibition would be universal, applying to the offices of Navajo Nation President, Vice President, Council, chapter offices, and other elected offices (farm board and grazing committee positions).

However, the amendments would eli-minate a misdemeanor conviction as grounds for removal from office or from seeking elected office for top elected officials (President, Vice President and Council delegates) but not for other elected offices. That would hold chapter officials to a higher standard and is thus an inconsistent application of the law.

Although the intent of the legislation is to provide consistency related to felony convictions for all elected officials, President Shirley found that the elimination of the penalty for a misdemeanor conviction for top elected officials would be self-serving.

Title 11 of the Navajo Nation Code defines convictions of misdemeanors as matters: "involving deceit, untruthfulness, and dishonesty, including but not limited to extortion, embezzlement, bribery, perjury, forgery, fraud, misrepresentation, false pretense, theft, conversion, or misuse of Navajo Nation funds or property, and crimes involving the welfare of children, child abuse, child neglect, aggravated assault and aggravated battery."

By contrast, a misdemeanor conviction for all other Navajo elected positions at the chapter level would constitute grounds for removal from office or from seeking elected office for five years.

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