Navajo Nation Council winds up fall session

Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie speaks Monday at the Council Chamber in Window Rock, Ariz. The council ended its fall session Wednesday.

FARMINGTON – The Navajo Nation Council has confirmed two more individuals for service in tribal President Russell Begaye’s administration.

The council voted 21-0 to confirm Terrelene G. Massey as executive director of the Division of Social Services.

There was no discussion by delegates when they voted Wednesday evening in the council chamber in Window Rock, Ariz., before adjourning the fall session.

Delegates also confirmed Bidtah Becker as executive director of the Division of Natural Resources by a vote of 13-4.

In Becker’s statement to the council, she reminded the tribal lawmakers that she served as an attorney for 13 years for the Natural Resources and Water Rights units of the tribe’s Department of Justice.

“I am very, very honored to be considered for this confirmation this evening,” she said.

Perry Shirley, an executive staff assistant with the president’s office, said Becker brings a “tremendous amount of experience” as well as “tenacity, dedication and love for the Navajo people.”

Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd sponsored the bill containing Becker’s confirmation. He acknowledged there were concerns expressed by a number of delegates about Becker’s appointment, but he said her work with the council’s Resources and Development Committee has been beneficial.

Shepherd, who is the chairman of the Resources and Development Committee, added it is “critical” to confirm the president’s division director appointments.

Delegate Dwight Witherspoon said the chapters he represents in Arizona asked him to oppose Becker’s confirmation because residents are concerned about her experience and understanding of issues affecting the chapters.

Delegate Nelson BeGaye warned Becker that some tribal leaders might think her decisions are motivated by her relationships at the Justice Department. He advised her to demonstrate her skills.

“This is why I say bring out your managerial style. Bring that out separately from DOJ. Don’t be motivated by that. Put a firewall between you and DOJ,” BeGaye said.

Delegate Leonard Pete, who is a member of the Resources and Development Committee, encouraged Becker to work with the committee, which oversees the division.

“If you can come around more often, talk with us. I think that might work,” Pete said.

The council tabled the bill containing the confirmation of Donald Benn as executive director of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency.

Delegates also took action on several other measures.

They voted 22-0 to amend the legislative process for bills assigned to the council and its standing committees.

They approved using $163,040 from the tribe’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund to purchase about 82 acres of land in Gallup.

They also approved a tribal grant and a request for approximately $2.4 million in supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance for the St. Michaels Association for Special Education Inc. in Arizona.

Another request for approximately $2.9 million in supplemental funding from the UUFB to build a new chapter house in Teesto, Ariz. passed.

Delegates approved increasing the voting membership on the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission from eight members to nine.

The council tabled a request for $132,412 in supplemental funding from the UUFB to extend power lines to residences in the Navajo Partitioned Land area in the Forest Lake Chapter in Arizona.

Three pieces of legislation sponsored by Delegate Kee Allen Begay were deleted from the agenda at his request. The bills called for the creation of the Navajo Nation Business Court and the Navajo Nation Police Commission, and amending the Judicial Conduct Commission.

Jared Touchin, spokesman for the Office of the Speaker, said none of the bills passed by the council during the fall session had been submitted to the president’s office for action as of Thursday afternoon.

After the resolutions are submitted to Begaye’s office, he has 10 days to sign them, veto them or use his line-item veto authority.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.