TUBA CITY, Ariz.-The town hall meeting on Feb. 17 regarding the To'Nanees'Dizi Chapter drew a large number of community members to listen to the status of the chapter. Some people were seated and others stood, lining the walls of the chapter. Others still, stood outside the door and took note of the proceedings.
Joshua Butler, council delegate for To'Nanees'Dizi Chapter, began with introductions of staff members from the Local Governance Support Center (LGSC), Department of Justice (DOJ) and Division of Community Development (DCD). Arbin Mitchell, director of DCD, was joined on stage with Regina Allison of the western agency LGSC and attorney Brian Lewis of DOJ.
Butler said Allison and her staff were instrumental in guiding him through the process regarding the chapter closure and reopening. "We cannot go into full details because it is a personnel matter and it's confidential," Butler said.
He explained that four of the five chapter officials of To'Nanees'Dizi Chapter were removed by the Office of Hearings and Appeals - the result of a one-year investigation by the Ethics and Rules Office - which was initiated by chapter secretary-treasurer Charlene Nez, the last remaining chapter official. "During the months of October to November, four of the officials were removed," Butler said. "We currently have two officials that have appealed and are filing grievances to the Navajo Nation Supreme Court."
The two officials from the Council of Naat'aanii appealing their removal are former president and vice president, Max Goldtooth and Robert Yazzie. As a result of their grievances, the chapter cannot hold an election for the two positions until clarification from DOJ allows the vote to take place. The other two officials, Helen Morez Herbert and Jimmy Holgate remain out of office.
Nez agreed to repay $20,000 back to the Navajo Nation through payroll deduction, at a rate of 25 percent of her paycheck. She will serve no more than 60 days in the interim, which is scheduled to end on April 7, or until the five officials are elected and seated into office by special election.
Butler said Nez would still serve as secretary-treasurer to keep the chapter operational in the interim. "I'm happy she's still here to get the chapter back on track. If it wasn't for her, we would have never known what's going on in our chapter," he said.
On Feb. 7, Nez served termination notices in Window Rock to executive manager Priscilla Littlefoot and executive assistant Noreen Parrish. The chapter was closed on the same day as a precaution by the LGSC because of the risk of documents and equipment being removed from the chapter by the former employees.
The chapter reopened on Feb. 10 in a limited capacity, only issuing wood permits and sale of wood in the chapter yard. Presently, the LGSC has administrative control over To'Nanees'Dizi Chapter.