— By Erny Zah —

The Daily Times

 

WINDOW ROCK, ARIZ. — A Navajo Nation Council bill that would have given a vote of "no confidence" to former Division of Dinè Education Director Leland Leonard failed in a 62 to 14 vote Tuesday.

Leonard stood in the council chambers conference room while Council Delegate Katherine Benally of Dennehotso introduced the bill to the council.

"Yes indeed, the problem has been longstanding," she said about the deficiencies in Navajo Head Start, which led to its May 2 suspension by the Administration of Children and Families.

The legislation would've given the council a "no confidence" vote in the politically appointed Leonard, who resigned his position as of Tuesday.

As Benally presented her legislation to the council, Council Delegate Curran Hannon of Oak Springs and Saint Michaels asked whether Leonard should be present to defend himself.

Speaker Lawrence Morgan replied that only during a report could a person be asked questions, and Benally was introducing legislation not giving a report.

George Hardeen, communications director for Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr., said the council couldn't remove Leonard because he was a political appointee, noting that only the president could remove Leonard.

After the legislation failed and council adjourned, Benally shook hands with Leonard and the two exchanged a few words.

"She's still pouting from the way the council voted," he said of their interaction.


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He added that though Benally's legislation stated he was one of the reasons Navajo Head Start was closed, he sees it differently.

 

"It was a combination of things," he said, citing that safety, staffing, background checks, and other citations were all reasons why Head Start was closed.

 

Benally said she did not learn of Leonard's resignation until after the "no confidence" vote failed, but added she still would've introduced the legislation.

 

"I have no regrets because I'm standing up for the children, (Dine) college and the university students," she said. "If my legislation (led to) his resignation, then I achieved the same purpose in the end."

 

Leonard said his departure was not due to Head Start closing and noted that Head Start was just one of 12 programs he oversaw as director.