Board members who will receive letters of removal

·Velma Maloney-Begay, Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory in Flagstaff, Ariz.

·Bennie Chapo, To'Hajiilee Community School in To'Hajiilee, N.M.

·Carolyn Coho, Ramah Navajo School Board in Pine Hill, N.M.

·Cornelia Platero, To'Hajiilee Community School in To'Hajiilee, N.M.

·Darnell Maria, Ramah Navajo School Board in Pine Hill, N.M.

·David Martinez, Jr., Ramah Navajo School Board in Pine Hill, N.M.

·Delrey Redhair, Rough Rock Community School in Chinle, Ariz.

·Elmer Yazzie, Ramah Navajo School Board in Pine Hill, N.M.

·Faith Chatter, Winslow Residential Hall in Winslow, Ariz.

·Leon Haskie, Lukachukai Community School in Lukachukai, Ariz.

·Robert Chee, Winslow Residential Hall in Winslow, Ariz.

·Stanley B. Kedelty, Lukachukai Community School in Lukachukai, Ariz.

·Tracey Marilyn, Nazlini Community School in Ganado, Ariz.

·Tracia K. Jojola, To'Hajiilee Community School in To'Hajiilee, N.M.

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Preparatory School Board president has resigned after complaints that he violated tribal election law.

Edison Wauneka, executive director of the Navajo Election Administration, stepped down as president of the school's board of trustees on Friday after he was found to be in violation of the Navajo Nation Code and its 2012 amendments.

On June 24, Newcomb resident Kerby Johnson filed a complaint with the Navajo Election Administration and the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors stating Wauneka was in violation of Title 11 of the Navajo Nation Code, which prohibits current election administration employees from serving as board members for Navajo Nation schools.

During its July 11 meeting, the election administration's board tabled action about the possible removal of Wauneka. That led Johnson to file a statement of grievance with the Office of Hearing and Appeals that same day.

"It seemed like the board didn't want to address the issues," Johnson said. "(Wauneka) resigning is his way of getting out without being held accountable for holding that position that long."

Attempts to get comment from Wauneka's office were unsuccessful.

Election administration deputy director J.R. Thompson said Johnson's letter was being handled by the Office of Hearing and Appeals before Wauneka filed his resignation letter.

"The fact there is a letter of resignation by Mr. Wauneka from the school board caused the OHA to dismiss the case," Thompson said.

Wauneka's resignation comes as the election administration board is dealing with another case concerning Title 11 of the Navajo Nation Code.

The Navajo Board of Election Supervisors decided on Monday to remove 14 school board members, Thompson said.

The move comes after the board consulted with several Navajo Nation agencies, including the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Justice and the Office of Legislative Counsel.

Edison Wauneka
Edison Wauneka ( Courtesy of Navajo Preparatory School)

The 14 board members were cited for being in violation of Navajo Nation Election Code amendments passed in 2012, which prohibit people from serving on the board of a Navajo Nation school within five years of employment at the school.

Thompson said on Monday that letters of removal will be mailed to the school board members once the letter is drafted and finalized. Those affected can contest the letter of removal within 10 days of receiving the letter.

The 14 school board members affected serve on school districts across the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and Arizona.

Timothy Benally, the Diné Department of Education's assistant superintendent, filed a letter on April 9 with the election administration and the board of election supervisors concerning the 14 board members, said Matthew Tso, legislative analyst for the Diné Department of Education.

"The Navajo Election Administration has chosen to drag out these matters, instead of handling them quickly," Tso said.

Tso said the department is worried that the actions of the affected school boards could be called into question and that decisions the boards made since July 6, 2012 -- when Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed the amendments into law -- could be overruled.

Johnson said that he discovered Wauneka was board president of Navajo Prep during a trip to visit his cousin about three months ago.

"As a young person, I would think the leaders we elect in there should be following the law, not trying to bypass it," Johnson said.

Betty Ojaye, Navajo Prep executive director, said she spoke with Wauneka about his resignation, which will be effective July 29.

"Edison has been a real instrumental leader for our school for many, many years," Ojaye said. "As board president, he was very instrumental in helping us through various phases of development at the school. He always had the best interests of the students first and foremost."

Wauneka was re-elected last year to the school board for his fourth term, hitting his term limit on being a school board member, according to election code.

Navajo Prep's board of trustees will operate with three members until a replacement is found for Wauneka. His replacement will serve the rest of Wauneka's term until 2016.

Ojaye said the board will still be able to establish quorum at meetings, allowing them to take action on school business. Once a new member is on the board, officer selection will take place to determine a new board president.

"Hopefully, the replacement will be just as qualified," Ojaye said.

 

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.