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Northern Navajo Agency Council removes fair board members
Board president refuses to recognize decision
LOWER FRUITLAND — Members of the Northern Navajo Agency Council have removed the board members for the Northern Navajo Nation Fair, but the board's chairman said today he will not recognize that decision.
The agency council made the decision to remove the board members and determined additional resolutions regarding the fair during a special meeting Thursday evening at the San Juan Chapter house.
Each decision was made after the agency council, whose membership consists of elected officials from 20 chapters in the Northern Agency, met in executive session for two hours.
The first resolution states the agency council does not recognize the plan of operation adopted by the Navajo Nation Council's Resources and Development Committee in 2012.
Prior to voting, agency council president Rick Nez said the 2012 plan of operation was not approved by the agency council prior to its submission to the Resources and Development Committee and such approval was authorized in the 1987 plan of operation.
The second resolution removed the 15 fair board members while a separate resolution appointed chapter presidents as primary board members.
If a president cannot serve on the board, the chapter's vice president or secretary-treasurer can fill the seat.
The final resolution authorized the halt of bank transactions for the fair at Citizens Bank.
The 106th Northern Navajo Nation Fair is scheduled for Oct. 5-8 in Shiprock.
"The fair is going to go on. They're just going to have to make new decisions and give it a direction to take it," Nez said about the new fair board members.
Dan Smith was elected by the Shiprock Chapter to serve on the fair board last year and was named fair board chairman in February. He said today the board will remain in place, and work on this year's fair will continue.
Smith said in a telephone interview today the plan of operation approved in 2012 made the fair board a tribal entity with the sole authority to operate the fair.
He said the agency council's actions are illegal, and this is the fifth attempt to remove him from the fair board.
The decision by the agency council is also in retaliation for financial discrepancies listed in a close-out report issued in April by the fair board for last year's fair, Smith said.
Those findings showed $59,000 in cash missing and checks signed by unauthorized individuals. Only $8,000 was left in the account on July 31, according to the minutes of a fair board meeting that day.
"I inherited a mess, a big mess," said Smith, who did not become the board chairman until February. He added that last year's fair board officials did not perform their fiduciary responsibilities.
Despite the financial challenges, he said fair employees and volunteers are working to address infrastructure issues at the fairgrounds and continue planning for the event.
Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie opposed to measure to remove the board members and abstained from the measure to appoint the chapter presidents in their place.
In a written statement to The Daily Times, Yazzie wrote that during the executive session, he told agency council members they need to be careful about their decisions, and they need facts to support the issues, allegations and suspicions surrounding this year's fair operation.
He also told agency council members that he was concerned they do not have the authority to rescind the resolution by the Resources and Development Committee for the 2012 plan of operation.
Yazzie added that the Shiprock Chapter needs to convene in a special meeting to adopt a position on the matter.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.