Shiprock >> Shiprock Chapter members are asking Navajo Nation Attorney General to issue an opinion about whether or not Navajo lawmakers who are facing criminal charges should continue to stay in office.

The chapter membership made their decision Monday after talking about the resolution for almost two hours.

The resolution explains that the Navajo people require their tribal leaders to obey tribal laws, including Diné Fundamental Law and the Navajo Ethics Law as well as upholding the oath of office.

The resolution was proposed after a number of current and former delegates were charged by the special prosecutor for allegedly misusing the council's discretionary funds, which was established to help Navajos who are facing emergency situations.

"Because of the moral and ethical duties and responsibilities that Navajo leaders must be held to, it is questionable whether these individuals who are formally charged with crimes and are under investigation should actively remain in office," the resolution states.

"We're not asking them to step down but to follow procedures," chapter president Duane "Chili" Yazzie said in Navajo before the chapter membership voted 85 in favor and zero opposed to pass the resolution.

Chapter members were also asked to vote on a resolution to "authorize" Yazzie to file a petition for an injunction focusing on the Navajo Transitional Energy Company's purchase of Navajo Mine.

The mine purchase was finalized between NTEC and BHP Billiton on Dec. 30.

The injunction would be filed in Shiprock District Court.

According to the resolution, Shiprock Chapter "remains" concerned with the full waiver of liability issued to BHP Billiton and is concerned with the "waiver of Navajo Sovereignty on the approval to an arbitration process that disregards the status and competency of the Navajo Judicial system." Council members approved moving the arbitration process to state courts, which was a condition set for NTEC to receive the reclamation and performance bonds required to complete the sale.

Mine officials have said the change in venue is not a waiver of tribal sovereignty.

During open discussion, chapter member Fannie Atcitty asked if Yazzie would step down as chapter president in order to file the injunction.

Yazzie said he would not be filing the injunction as chapter president but as a "private citizen," "a farmer," and "a grandfather."

Navajo Nation Council delegate Russell Begaye, who represents Shiprock, cautioned chapter members about using the word "authorize" rather than "support" because Yazzie is not filing the injunction on behalf of the chapter.

Atcitty said she understands the difference between the words but asked for guidance when addressing this issue.

Begaye said Yazzie has the right to file the injunction as an individual without stepping down.

"He has the authority as a member of the Navajo Nation," Begaye said.

Chapter members voted 77 in favor and four opposed.

After the meeting, Yazzie said he plans to file the injunction within the next two weeks.

Prior to public comments, the chapter showed two videos of Yazzie addressing the council delegates about the Navajo Mine purchase during the Dec. 23 special meeting for the Naabikiyati Committee in the council chamber in Window Rock.

After the videos, a majority of the chapter membership and some non-chapter members stated support for Yazzie's actions at the meeting.

Among the positive comments, Nevina Kinlahcheeny reminded the community that both Navajo Mine and the Four Corners Power Plant provide employment for the Navajo people.

"There are no jobs here," she said then added that people move away from places that offer no employment opportunities and that will happen if the mine and power plant close.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636. nsmith@daily-times.com Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.