Possible lawsuit questions delegates' salaries

The Daily Times staff
Navajo Nation

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation has received notice of intent to file a lawsuit questioning an increase in compensation for tribal council delegates issued in 2011.

Attorney David Jordan sent the notice on Feb. 8 to the offices of tribal President Russell Begaye as well as the tribe's Attorney General Ethel Branch and Chief Legislative Counsel Levon Henry.

The pending legal action would be filed by former Chief Justice Tom Tso and would name the Navajo Nation, the tribe's Office of the Controller and acting controller Bobby White as defendants.

Tso's complaint would center on a 2011 action by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee that authorized paying $300 to council delegates for attending meetings.

By providing this amount of compensation to delegates, they could potentially inflate their annual salaries beyond $25,000, the notice states.

Tso also alleges there is a violation of tribal law because salary increases can be approved by the council but should not be in effect unless they are ratified by two-thirds of the 110 chapters within 120 days of the council's approval, according to the notice.

In a statement, Speaker LoRenzo Bates said his office is aware of the notice and while the allegation is directed to the council, Tso did not include the council as a potential defendant.

"The notice takes the allegations to the extreme by stating that a delegate may potentially set eight meetings in a day to get paid, but anyone familiar with the work of delegates knows that is a completely ignorant statement," Bates said.