Override targets Navajo president's veto for salary increases

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye talks, Tuesday, July 31, 2018 during a Radiation Exposure Compensation Act public meeting at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

FARMINGTON — A Navajo Nation Council delegate has introduced legislation to override tribal President Russell Begaye's veto of a referendum that would have asked voters to determine salary adjustments for the president and vice president.

Delegate Herman Daniels Jr. is sponsoring the bill that calls for the override.

The bill was posted on the council's website on Sept. 20, and it will be eligible for consideration starting on Wednesday.

It was assigned to the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee and the council, where final authority rests.

For an override to be successful, it must be approved by two-thirds vote of the 24-member council.

During a special session on Sept. 7, the council supported placing the referendum before voters, but Begaye voted the proposal on Sept. 15.

Begaye previously stated the proposition should be across the board in examining and suggesting salary adjustments for elected officials.

JoAnn Dedman, chairwoman for the Commission on Navajo Government Development, expressed on behalf of the commission a "profound displeasure" for the president's action in a Sept. 18 letter to Delegate Daniels.

"This legislation was an exhaustive process by both the office and Commission on Navajo Government Development and the legislative counsel," Dedman wrote.

She also asked Daniels to introduce a bill to override Begaye's objection of the referendum "on the grounds contrary to his justification."

Law and Order Committee member Herman Daniels Jr., left, sits next to committee member Otto Tso and committee vice chairman Raymond Smith Jr., during a meeting on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at the Shiprock Chapter House.

The commission works with the Office of Navajo Government Development to evaluate the existing government structure and develop recommendations and proposals for government reform.

The office examined the salaries for the president and vice president – a request the office received in 2014 from a council delegate – before proposing the president's earnings increase from $55,000 and climb from $45,000 for the vice president.

Both amounts have not been adjusted since the two positions were established in 1989, the office reported.

Commission members on July 28 recommended that voters choose whether to adjust the salaries and a bill calling for the referendum was issued.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.