Former candidate asks Supreme Court to reverse ruling

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FARMINGTON — Former Navajo Nation presidential candidate Vincent H. Yazzie has appealed a ruling issued last month that allowed Jonathan Nez to remain a candidate for the tribe's presidency.

In the Oct. 8 appeal, Yazzie is asking the Navajo Nation Supreme Court to reverse the Sept. 26 decision by the Office of Hearings and Appeals that upheld Nez's eligibility.

Nez, who currently serves as vice president, and former president Joe Shirley Jr. are competing for the presidency in the Nov. 6 general election.

Yazzie also challenged Shirley's eligibility in separate filings to the OHA and the Supreme Court. Both upheld the former president's eligibility.

Yazzie raised two issues in his latest appeal — whether Chief Hearing Officer Richie Nez abused his discretion by not granting a motion to recuse himself from the case and whether Nez's application for candidacy is invalid because he did not list a 2002 misdemeanor conviction for driving while under the influence of alcohol in his paperwork.

Yazzie filed a motion to recuse Richie Nez based on a conflict of interest because the chief hearing officer is the respondent in an employment case involving a former OHA employee.

During the Sept. 26 hearing in the OHA, Richie Nez listened to arguments from the legal counsel for Yazzie and Jonathan Nez before denying the motion to recuse.

Yazzie maintains in his appeal to the high court that Jonathan Nez violated the Navajo Election Code by not listing his conviction on his candidate application, and his action prevented the Navajo Election Administration from reviewing the information to determine his eligibility.

"As a naat'áanii (leader), Mr. Nez has a higher duty to present his qualifications to the Navajo people. This means providing his misdemeanor convictions to the NEA for review, verify and determine on the face of the candidate application, the qualifications for candidacy," the appeal states.

Judicial Branch spokeswoman Karen Francis said the Supreme Court had not issued an order as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.

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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