SASI school board president resigns

Leonard Anthony resigned from office and removed himself from the ballot for the upcoming Navajo Nation general election.

Joshua Kellogg
Shiprock Associated Schools, Inc. front gate is pictured Aug. 30 in Shiprock.
  • Frank Smith has filed a grievance with the Navajo Election Administration regarding his removal from office.

FARMINGTON – The Shiprock Associated Schools Inc. Board of Education has lost another member after President Leonard Anthony resigned earlier this month.

Anthony’s resignation follows the removal of two SASI board members from office and that were disqualified from the Aug. 30 primary election by the Navajo Election Administration  for not disclosing driving while intoxicated convictions on election paperwork.

Anthony resigned from his position and withdrew as a candidate from the upcoming Navajo Nation general election, said Virginia Nelson, a voter registration specialist in the Shiprock election administration office. She said he resigned on Sept. 7.

His resignation from the SASI board follows an Aug. 26 memo sent from the Department of Diné Education, or DODE, to the Navajo Election Administration that stated Anthony violated election code for failing to disclose an Sept. 24, 1990, DWI conviction.

A copy of the memo provided to the Daily Times states the matter was referred to the election office by DODE with the possibility of removing Anthony from the SASI school board and disqualifying him as a candidate for the upcoming November election.

Anthony did not respond to requests for comment.

Former SASI board members Kerlena Tso and Frank Smith were removed from office by the Navajo Election Administration in August after failing to list their DWI convictions on their candidate applications.

A letter dated Aug. 10 from the election office stated Tso was removed for pleading guilty to a DWI charge on April 20, 2000. A letter dated Aug. 24 said Smith was removed due to a DWI conviction on March 25, 1988.

The DODE memo also states the election code has a lifetime ban on running for elective office for any person who has been convicted of any crimes involving alcohol including DWI.

Smith appealed his removal from office by filling a grievance within 10 calendar days of the date of his removal letter.

The Navajo Nation Office of Hearings and Appeals received a Statement of Grievance against the Shiprock election office from Smith on Sept. 2.

According to a copy of the grievance letter obtained by the Daily Times, Smith listed 12 complaints about his removal from office and disqualification from the election, including that his constitutional rights were violated because he was removed from office without due process.

Smith in his grievance letter states his disqualification from the primary election created confusion for people who wanted to vote for him because he was still on the ballot.

"Why do you want to give someone 10 days (to appeal) when they have already disqualified them?" Smith said in a phone interview Friday night.

The Daily Times reported that the ballots with Smith and Tso listed were already printed before the notices were sent out. The votes for Tso and Smith were not counted.

In relation to the DWI conviction, Smith wrote on the grievance that court papers cited by the election administration office in the removal letter list a “Frank Smith Sr.” and that his legal name is “Frank Smith Jr.”

According to court records obtained by the Daily Times in a records request, a “Frank Smith Sr.” was arrested on U.S. Highway 64 on March 25, 1988 for driving while intoxicated, leaving the scene of an accident, concealing identification and driving on a suspended license.

Smith declined comment on the DWI conviction, stating he wanted to see the court paperwork first. However, when asked, Smith said that his date of birth is the same date listed on the criminal complaint.

He followed up by stating he doesn't remember signing anything and doesn't remember going to court.

Smith’s hearing is scheduled for later this month in Shiprock.

Tommy Lewis Jr., DODE superintendent of schools, said in a Friday phone interview that Edison Wauneka, executive director of the election administration office, informed him that the membership of the SASI school board has dropped to two people.

According to the SASI website, Eva B. Stokely and Dorothy Begaye remain on the board.

Lewis said he was told the election office was trying to find qualified candidates in the local chapters who could be appointed as interim board members.

The school board needs at least three members to meet quorum. A quorum is required before the board can vote on recommendations from SASI Executive Director Julia Donald.

Lewis did not know if the election office was trying to appoint one interim board member to meet quorum or fill all three empty seats.

Donald did not respond to requests for comment. Lewis said she called him earlier this month for advice on how to proceed with school operations.

Describing the conversation with Donald, Lewis said he told her that if there was an urgent matter needing attention, that she should follow school policies as best she can.

Lewis continued by telling Donald if she needed to make a decision in the best interest of the school, for her to document it and once the school board can hold a meeting, bring it before the members for approval.

Lewis brought up the possibility that DODE would assume operations of the school, and that could possibly happen unless interim board members are appointed and the school board continues to operate.

The last time DODE took over operations of a school was in 2012 when they assumed control of the Hunters Point Boarding School in St. Michael's, Ariz.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.