Hada'a Sidi, a Navajo grassroots organization, sent a notice of intent to file suit Monday to Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr., and Attorney General Louis Denetsosie.
Hada'a Sidi is seeking to block government spending authorized under a resolution the Navajo Nation Council passed in April that allows unrestrained discretionary spending by the Navajo president and council speaker.
The suit also would address any similar or
successor appropriations deemed extraneous, Hada'a Sidi secretary Ivan Gamble said. Additionally, the group is asking for an audit of all executive and legislative spending.
"We are taking this extraordinary step to challenge abuses that concern us as Navajos," Milton Bluehouse, president of the grassroots organization, said in a prepared statement. "... We of Hada'a Sidi feel that the time has come to clearly establish the principle that the Navajo Nation's resources and monies belong to the Navajo people and the Navajo Nation government has trust and fiduciary responsibilities to use resources and monies wisely."
The council in April allotted more than $4 million to "specific executive and legislative programs," wording Hada'a Sidi members claim authorizes spending for broad purposes, a violation of Navajo common law and Diné Fundamental Law.
Fundamental law, codified in 2002, is largely undefined and generally comes into play when Western or tribal laws are not clear.
The pending lawsuit names Navajo Nation controller Mark Grant and the Nation as defendants, and it comes during the council's regular summer session, during which delegates may consider legislation repealing Diné Fundamental Law.
But Gamble said excess spending doesn't have a lot to do with fundamental law.
"We don't expect, even if they do vote to repeal the law, that it will have any effect on the lawsuit," he said.
The suit also comes as the Navajo Supreme Court gears up for a hearing next Monday on a proposed reservation-wide election that would cut the number of legislators by more than half and give the president line-item veto authority. Navajo citizens may vote on the measure within six months.
Shirley was unavailable for comment Monday. The president underwent an emergency appendectomy over the weekend, said his spokesman, George Hardeen.
The notice of intent to file suit arrived in the Office of the President and Vice President late Monday morning, the spokesman said. Shirley was not previously aware of the intended action.
"The suit is regarding funding from the April session," Hardeen said. "But the president didn't sign that into law. It became law without his signature."
A vote increasing the president's authority would prevent further appropriations from passing without his signature, Hardeen said.
The notices were sent in compliance with the Navajo Nation Sovereign Immunity Act, Gamble said. The group now must wait 30 days to file its lawsuit.
Alysa Landry: firstname.lastname@example.org