Appeal denied for former SASI board member

Frank Smith has drawn a lifetime ban from running for a Navajo Nation school board seat and is barred from running for any Navajo Nation elected position for eight years

Joshua Kellogg
jkellogg@daily-times.com
  • Smith plans to appeal the ruling.
  • The Navajo Election Administration is working to fill three empty SASI board seats with interim board members.

SHIPROCK — The Navajo Nation Office of Hearing and Appeals has ruled against former Shiprock Associated Schools Inc. Board of Education member Frank Smith, assigning him a lifetime ban from running for a Navajo Nation school board seat.

Navajo Nation Office of Hearings and Appeals Hearing Officer Joe Aguirre, right, presides over a hearing for Frank Smith, left, Tuesday at the Navajo Nation Department of Workforce Development office in Shiprock.

During a hearing today  in Shiprock, Hearing Officer Joe Aguirre granted the request of the Navajo Election Administration to dismiss Smith’s claim that he was wrongly removed as a SASI board member and from the ballot for the Aug. 30 Navajo Nation primary election.

The removal stems from a letter sent to Smith on Aug. 24 from the election office that said he violated election code by failing to list a driving while intoxicated conviction on March 25, 1988, on his candidacy paperwork.

Smith filed paperwork to challenge his removal on Sept. 2, stating his due process rights were violated by his removal from office before he was able to challenge the decision.

Aguirre told Smith he can never run again for any Navajo Nation school board position because of his DWI conviction. Smith is also barred from running for any Navajo Nation elected position for eight years.

In a phone interview following the hearing, Smith denied he had drawn a DWI conviction and said he didn’t remember going to court for the charges. He plans to appeal the hearing officer’s decision and will hire an attorney. Smith represented himself during the hearing.

“I should have had representation,” Smith said. “That would have been a better deal for me. I didn’t know how the proceedings would go.”

Smith is one of two SASI board members removed from office for not disclosing DWI convictions. Kerlena Tso was removed on Aug. 10 by the election office for a DWI conviction on April 20, 2000.

Incumbent Smith was running to represent the Tsé Alnaozt'i'Í and Toadlena-Two Grey Hills chapters on the SASI board, and he was also a candidate for the Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter president position.

Members of the election office, including Executive Director Edison Wauneka and Voter Registration Specialist Virginia Nelson, were present at the hearing.

Stacy Allison, left, an attorney for the Navajo Nation Office of Legislative Counsel; Virginia Nelson, a voter registration specialist with Navajo Nation  Elections Administration; and Edison Wauneka, executive director of the Navajo Nation Elections Administration, confer during a hearing for ousted school board member Frank Smith Tuesday in Shiprock.

During the hearing, Smith attempted to prove the Frank Smith Sr. listed in the court paperwork for the DWI conviction is not him and that his legal name is Frank Smith Jr.

Smith submitted a variety of evidence — including the court paperwork related to the DWI conviction, along with his Certificate of Indian Blood, Social Security card and hospital paperwork — to prove his case.

But that evidence ended up doing him more harm than good. Stacy Allison, the attorney for the Navajo Nation Office of Legislative Counsel representing the election office, told Aguirre that Smith’s Social Security number, census number and date of birth listed on the DWI conviction paperwork is the same as the evidence he submitted.

“You’re right,” Aguirre said to Allison. “He has presented evidence that is damning to him.”

Aguirre followed by telling Smith that he produced documents that actually damaged his case.

Allison made the request to dismiss Smith's case during her closing remarks.

Following the meeting, Nelson said the election office is working to fill the seats left vacant by Smith, Tso and former board President Leonard Anthony. Anthony resigned from the board on Sept. 7, leaving the board with only two members.

Navajo Nation Office of Hearings and Appeals Hearing Officer Joe Aguirre, right, examines paperwork Tuesday during a hearing at the Navajo Nation Department of Workforce Development office in Shiprock.

The Daily Times reported that the Department of Diné Education sent a memo to the Navajo Election Administration on Aug. 26 that said Anthony failed to disclose an Sept. 24, 1990, DWI conviction.

The election office is working with local chapters to appoint interim board members to fill the open board seats, Nelson said.

Election code states the Navajo Board of Elected Supervisors will make the selection based on recommendations made by the chapters affected because the SASI board cannot make quorum. Nelson said some chapters have selected people but have not submitted the chapter resolutions to the election board for approval.

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