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Bill proposes removing the tribe's controller

Navajo Nation president and vice president issue letter urging delegates to vote against the removal

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Jim Parris

FARMINGTON — Four Navajo Nation Council delegates are backing a measure to remove Jim R. Parris as the tribe's controller less than a year after he was confirmed to the office.

The bill, sponsored by delegates Seth Damon, Tom Chee, Leonard Tsosie and Tauchoney Slim Jr., will be eligible for action after Monday and was assigned to council, where final authority rests.

The council voted 18 in favor and one opposed to confirm Parris as the controller on Jan. 27, and the council resolution was signed by Speaker LoRenzo Bates on Feb. 3.

Part of the controller's responsibilities are to formulate, implement and execute financial plans, as well as serve as an adviser to the six-member Budget and Finance Committee.

Damon serves as chairman of the committee, and Chee, Tsosie and Slim serve as members.

Tribal law mandates that the controller is appointed by the president at a negotiated salary with the approval of the council and serves at the pleasure of the council.

The bill states the council "finds it necessary to remove" Parris but it does not provide reasons for the removal. Neither Damon or Chee, who represents Shiprock Chapter, could not be reached for comment todayThursday.

In previous council sessions, delegates have commented on Parris working part-time and have questioned Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye about appointing a non-Navajo to the position.

Jim R. Parris, then the acting controller for the Navajo Nation, gives a report about the tribe’s finances to the Navajo Nation Council during the winter session on Jan. 25 in Window Rock, Ariz.

Parris said in a phone interview todayThursday that he has not had a chance to talk to the delegates about the legislation, but he understands the reasons why the bill was proposed.

He explained he was retired when he was approached about the position, and it was agreed that he would work part-time.

Parris, who is a member of the Osage Nation and the Cherokee Nation, said he works up to three days in Window Rock, Ariz., and frequently works from his home office in Rio Rancho.

Another part of the agreement, Parris said, was for him to mentor a tribal member to take over the position. He added he is willing to continue that process.

President Begaye, along with Vice President Jonathan Nez, are asking delegates to vote against the removal.

In a letter released Wednesday by the president's office, Begaye and Nez voiced support for retaining Parris because he is a certified public accountant and abides by the ethical rules placed on CPAs.

Tribal law mandates the controller have a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance, eight years of experience in governmental finance and accounting administration and be a certified as a CPA.

"Controller Parris has consistently stood his ground in refusing to distribute funds that he deemed illegal and in clear violation of our Navajo Nation laws. This is exactly the caliber of integrity we need in a controller," the leaders wrote.

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