Alton Joe Shepherd
Alton Joe Shepherd (Courtesy of the Office of the Speaker)

Farmington — Legislation calling for the removal of Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize has been posted on the council's website.

Council delegate Alton Joe Shepherd is sponsoring the bill. It was posted at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday on the council's website for public review and comment.

Under Navajo law, the speaker may be removed by a two-thirds vote of the full council. When a vacancy occurs, the council selects and confirms from its membership a successor to serve the remainder of the term.

Naize was elected to serve a second consecutive term as speaker last January.

Johnny Naize
Johnny Naize (Courtesy of Navajo Nation Council)

Shepherd, who represents Arizona's Cornfields, Ganado, Jeddito, Kin Dah Lichíí and Steamboat chapters, submitted the legislation after Naize was charged with 10 counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy by the tribe's special prosecutors in criminal complaints filed Dec. 3 in Window Rock District Court in Window Rock, Ariz.

The complaints allege that Naize misused the discretionary fund program, which was established by the council to provide financial relief to needy constituents.

Shepherd said in a statement Tuesday that several delegates have asked Naize to step down but he continues to serve.

"The right thing to do is to step down and take care of those charges," Shepherd said. "A leader will choose what is best for the nation, in this case the Navajo Nation Council, and with his action to remain as speaker he is only dividing the council."

The legislation will be available for committee action after Monday and was assigned to the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee and to the council, where final authority rests.

Naize, who represents Arizona's Blue Gap-Tachee, Cottonwood-Tselani, Low Mountain, Many Farms and Nazlini chapters, said in a statement Wednesday that he was "disappointed and surprised" by the legislation.

He noted that Shepherd is a former law enforcement officer and should recognize and uphold the principles of "due process" and "innocent until proven guilty."

"Unfortunately, some individuals have taken advantage of this opportunity by introducing politics into this legal matter," Naize said. "However, I acknowledge Mr. Shepherd's right to introduce such legislation and I will respect the legislative process."

Naize said he has no plans to step down from office.

"I firmly believe that in times of adversity, a leader should step up and not back down to the challenges brought forth by the politics of others," he said.

According to Navajo law, the speaker serves a term of two years, receives an annual salary of $30,000 and may be furnished a residence with paid utilities in Window Rock.

Among the speaker's responsibilities is to preside over Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee meetings and council sessions, supervise personnel and programs under the Legislative Branch, recommend an annual operating budget for the branch to the Budget and Finance Committee, and vote only in the event of a tie.

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