After much confusion, term limits for school boards extended

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 12, 2012

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L ast Friday, President Ben Shelly signed into law legislation that extends the term limits of school board members from two to four consecutive terms.

But the road to reach this point was not easy.

The filing period for this year's chapter officials, farm board, grazing committee, land board, election board and school board elections ended May 30.

During a special session May 25, the Navajo Nation Council authorized increasing the number of consecutive terms from two to four but Shelly vetoed the legislation June 6.

On June 27, acting Chief Legislative Counsel Edward McCool wrote a memorandum to Speaker Johnny Naize informing him that the resolution signed by him and Shelly was inaccurate.

"This inaccuracy rendered that version of no legal effect," McCool wrote.

The memorandum goes on to explain that an accurate version of the resolution is attached and includes all amendments adopted by the Naa'bik'iyáti' Committee and the council.

The second version of the resolution was signed June 27 by Naize and signed July 6 by Shelly.

This version includes language that was approved by the council during the May 25 special session and prevents persons employed by a school district within the last five years from becoming school board members as a way to prevent retaliation for firing, etc.

During the course of events, Council Delegate Danny Simpson (Becenti/Crownpoint/Huerfano/Lake Valley/Nageezi/Nahodishgish/Tsé 'íí'áhí/Whiterock) sponsored a bill to override the president's veto.

In an interview Tuesday, Simpson said when he presented the override June 20 to the Health, Education and Human Services Committee, the committee noticed the Council's May 25 amendment was not included in the resolution signed by Naize and Shelly.




Simpson said since Shelly signed the second version into law, he will withdraw the override but he has not filed the appropriate document.

To add to the confusion, on July 3 the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors approved a resolution to direct the Navajo Election Administration to declare applicants for school board positions who had already served two terms ineligible.

The NBOES tried to rescind the July 3 resolution at a special meeting Tuesday but it failed with a vote of 1 in favor and 7 opposed.

At Tuesday's special meeting, some members of NBOES expressed concern with the election time frame established by the election code.

Larry Biltah, chair of the election board, questioned NBOES' legal counsel Ron Haven about how many days the president has to sign a bill into law and to read that law, found in Title 2, into the record.

Haven did not have copy of Title 2 on hand but explained that the president has 10 days after he receives a copy of the bill.

But Heather L. Clah, Shelly's legal counsel, said the 10 days begins the day the speaker signs the resolution, not when the president's office receives the bill.

"That's one thing that I've had my arguments with legislative counsel is that in order for us to be able to accurately have the 10 days, so the president has the opportunity to review, we need that legislation the day speaker signs off on it," Clah said. "I don't want it the next day. I want it the same day."

Under Navajo law, the president has 10 calendar days after the Speaker signs the legislation.

Haven said the law went into effect July 6 since that is the day the president signed the resolution.

As the discussion entered into how to handle those individuals who received candidacy ineligibility notices, board supervisor Bessie Yellowhair-Simpson motioned for an executive session.

The committee spent an hour in executive session before upholding the July 3 resolution.

"We're not going to provide direction to administration. No wonder we're in this situation," NBOES Vice Chair Jonathan Tso said after the meeting.

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