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Navajo Nation pauses Remington purchase pursuit after delegate withdraws sponsorship

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The bill to authorize the Navajo Nation to purchase the Remington Arms Co. has lost its sponsor.

Delegate Jamie Henio told members of the Budget and Finance Committee on July 13 that he will end his sponsorship of the legislation, but the review process into the purchase will continue.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report last month that Remington was moving toward its second bankruptcy filing and the tribe was preparing to serve as the lead bidder to buy the company.

A search of federal court filings on July 13 did not return any filing by Remington, which has been designing, manufacturing and marketing firearms, ammunition and other related products since 1816.

Henio's announcement came after the Budget and Finance Committee talked about the bill in executive session for more than three hours on July 13.

He reiterated his decision to the committee during a special meeting on July 14, where the bill was on the proposed agenda for consideration after being tabled last month.

Delegate Jamie Henio, seen presenting his platform for service as speaker of the Navajo Nation Council at the winter session on Jan. 28, 2019 in Window Rock, Ariz., withdrew sponsorship of a bill aimed at buying a major gun manufacturer.

The matter is not dead though, and the tribe will continue the due diligence process since questions arose about liabilities and financing.

Delegate Daniel E. Tso was among the delegates who attended the executive session. In attendance were Budget and Finance Committee members, staff from the tribe's Department of Justice, Controller Pearline Kirk, Vice President Myron Lizer and President Jonathan Nez, who did not respond to a request for comment.

"I think the biggest question was, we don't have a license to be an arms dealer, arms manufacturer (or) owner," Tso said in a telephone interview.

He added there were questions about the cost for environmental compliance at the facility in Huntsville, Alabama, specifically whether current financing would continue if the tribe took over ownership.

"There's too many unanswered questions," he said.

Tso said there are other pressing matters officials need to address, like disbursing the $713 million the tribe received from the federal coronavirus relief bill.

Delegate Carl Slater attended the executive session as well and said investments need to have "the broadest possible impact" for the Navajo people.

"We shouldn't view them purely as just 'a financial return.' That's an important component of any investment but they need to have impacts to our society, our cultural revitalization and perpetuation of our traditions," Slater said in a telephone interview.

While he understands the advisors overseeing the due diligence did their best, there needs to be "a higher level of diligence done related to some of the liabilities and the full picture of the company and how it would fit into Navajo," he said.

Tso and Slater are not members of the Budget and Finance Committee.

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.

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