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Published On: Mon, Mar 4th, 2013

Navajo Lawmakers slam Navajo Attorney General over Title 18

Staff member and Johnny Naize, Window Rock, AZ

Johnny Naize bill got whacked by Pro Tem Chair Elmer Begay on Feb 28, who ruled the law “out of order” Now lawmakers are raising questions over the appointment of the task force appointments made by President Ben Shelly.

Speaker Naize is the bill sponsor.

According to the Navajo Nation Speakers office, they issued a press release that said, ‘the negotiating task force appointed by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly was not formulated in accordance to Title 18 of the Navajo Nation Code.’, adding ‘Title 18 provisions guide the selection of the negotiating team members who are charged with negotiating minerals leases or other energy agreements on behalf of the Navajo Nation.

Now Navajo lawmaker Alton Joe Shepard said he would like the Navajo Nation Attorney general Harrison Tsosie to provide additional documentation detailing how the negotiating team was established.

He slammed the AG over title 18, “The Attorney General is supposed to be abiding by the law, and I want to see the documentation as far as section 105, Title 18,” said Delegate Shepherd.

Harrison Tsosie fired back and said “At that time, there was a lot of transition that occurred, and this particular reference to Title 18, this particular negotiating team was developed in 1985 for a very specific purpose,” and added, at that time the Peabody mine royalties were being re-negotiated, explained Attorney General Tsosie in the press releases provided by the speaker’s office.

Council Delegate Shepherd said section 101 of Title 18 mentions energy agreements plus mineral leases. “I don’t know where the AG is coming from. The laws are here, and for him to change my mind to say [this law] was written way back then, ‘we’re not going to abide by it’, but we have laws,” said Delegate Shepherd.

According to Attorney General Tsosie, the lease negotiating task force was not assembled according to Title 18 provisions, but was assembled by President Shelly “specifically for engaging in these particular activities.”

Council Delegate Dwight Whitherspoon also got into the initiative and pressed Tsosie, “So what you’re saying is that the president is not following the law in terms of the negotiation for mines or minerals according to Title 18,” questioned Council Delegate Dwight Witherspoon (Black Mesa, Forest Lake, Hardrock, Pinon, Whippoorwill).

As for the NGS lease agreement, it didn’t go anywhere. Elmer Begay placed the discussions on hold for further review.

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Navajo Lawmakers slam Navajo Attorney General over Title 18