Naize still speaker after close 12-11 Navajo Council vote
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Johnny Naize, the speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, survived an effort to oust him from the speakership Jan. 28 by a vote of 12-11, four votes short of the supermajority needed to remove him.
On Jan. 7, Council Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd submitted legislation seeking to remove the speaker from office because of criminal complaints filed by the special prosecutor, which alleged the speaker "violated Navajo Nation law by misusing Navajo Nation funds."
At the time, Shepherd said he respected Naize as a colleague and as a leader but he said the right thing to do for the speaker was to step down and take care of the charges.
"A leader will choose what is best for the Nation, in this case the Navajo Nation Council, and with his action to remain as Speaker, he is only dividing the Council," Shepherd said.
Naize said he hoped the council could move forward, remain united and work toward a better future for the Dine people.
"Today's decision by the Council brings a conclusive end to this issue and I ask that the Council's decision be respected," Naize said. "As a Council, we must move on from this and live by the words spoken today by my brother, Delegate Roscoe Smith, who urged each of us to remain our brother's keeper."
On Dec. 3, the tribe's special prosecutors charged Naize with 10 counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy in the district court in Window Rock. The prosecutors alleged council delegates including Naize misused the discretionary fund program, which was established by the Navajo Nation Council to provide financial relief to needy constituents.
The special prosecutors alleged that council delegates instead gave money from the discretionary fund to family members against Navajo Nation law and entered into a plan that they described as a "you scratch my back and I will scratch your back" plan where council delegates would authorize a certain amount of money to the family of another council delegate and in return would receive a similar amount of money for their family from those same delegates. Prosecutors allege in one part of the scheme, Naize's family received more than $36,000 from the discretionary fund.
Naize said he believes the charges against him are unfounded.
"I firmly believe in times of adversity, a leader should step up and not back down to the challenges brought forth by the politics of others," Naize said. "Stepping down would set a dangerous precedent for future leadership by establishing an atmosphere in which elected officials are expected to simply resign without having the full benefit of legal representation and 'due process.'"
Naize will be arraigned in March.
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