FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A judge has denied a request for a temporary
restraining order that would have placed Johnny Naize back at the helm of the
The Navajo Nation Council voted last week to place Naize on paid administrative
leave over allegations that he diverted tribal funds to his family. Naize has
pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges.
Attorneys for Naize are asking a tribal judge to declare the vote invalid. They
also claim that Naize was denied due process. They said the action of tribal
officials constituted an illegal takeover of the legislative branch that has
destroyed relationships and created disharmony. The request named 13 people as
defendants, the 12 lawmakers who voted to place Naize on leave and the executive
director of legislative services.
“Defendants’ conduct shows a low respect for Navajo law and a low likelihood
of complying with Navajo law from here forward,” the request read.
Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry denied the request for a temporary
restraining order and scheduled a hearing on the issue Tuesday morning.
Navajo law does not specifically address placing the tribal council speaker on
administrative leave, nor does it specify a vote requirement for doing so. But
Navajo law gives broad discretion to lawmakers to discipline council members.
Tribal lawmakers met in a special session Friday to consider legislation to
remove Naize from the post he has held since 2011, which would have required a
two-thirds vote of the 24-member council. The legislation was amended to place
Naize on paid administrative leave instead, and it passed with a simple majority
Lawmaker Leonard Tsosie, who proposed the amendments, said Monday that it is
Naize who is promoting disharmony on the Navajo Nation.
“Everything was done according to Navajo laws and council rules,” Tsosie
said. “He (Naize) was given due process and every opportunity was made for a
full debate. The council begged him to do something to address Navajo public’s
concerns. His inaction only forced the council to do something to protect the
integrity of Navajo government.”
Lawmaker LoRenzo Bates was selected to fill in for Naize. He said four of
Naize’s political appointees — fewer than half — showed up for work Monday.
Bates said he instructed other permanent legislative workers to continue with
business as usual.
“It’s unfortunate Speaker Naize is taking legislative down this path,” he
said. “However, it is what it is and we’ll see how the courts deal with that.”