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Updated Jan 28, 2014 - 2:56 pm

Navajo council speaker survives removal attempt

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, who is facing
bribery and conspiracy charges, has survived an attempt to remove him from the
post.

Tribal lawmakers were split almost evenly Tuesday, 12 to 11, on a bill to oust
Johnny Naize as the legislative leader. The bill fell short of the 16 votes, or
supermajority, required for approval.

Naize has denied wrongdoing in what prosecutors said was a scheme to divert
public money to the families of tribal officials. He urged colleagues
meeting in Window Rock for their winter session to adhere to the Navajo
principle of kinship in respecting one another and remaining unified.

Naize told The Associated Press before the vote that whatever the outcome,
“you have to forgive people. Whatever happens, you have to leave it in the
past.”

The council recessed for the day after the vote that had delegates debating
scripture, due process, personal vendettas, integrity and the chain of events
that led to Naize and others being charged in an investigation into the use of
tribal discretionary funds. Naize, whose term ends in January 2015, reassumes
his role Wednesday in presiding over the session.

Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd, who sponsored the legislation, said his intent was
to preserve the integrity of the speaker’s post and the image of the Tribal
Council.

“This isn’t a matter of due process,” Shepherd said. “Due process is being
afforded to Mr. Naize through a court of law.”

Prosecutors said Naize conspired with several other current and former council
delegates to divert more than $73,000 from the discretionary spending fund
intended for student financial aid, people facing extreme hardship, assistance
for elderly Navajo and other uses. They said Naize’s family received $36,550 in
exchange for his providing $36,900 to members of other families.

Naize is scheduled to be arraigned in March on 10 counts of bribery and a
conspiracy charge.

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