Joe Shirley Jr. Back In Office - SMSC Changes Date For Annual Wacipi
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation Council acted outside the scope of its authority when it placed President Joe Shirley Jr. on administrative leave in October, District Court Judge Geraldine Benally ruled Monday.
As a result, Council and Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan violated the Nation's Sovereign Immunity Act and were not entitled to the 20-day notice of service specified in the act.
At the request of Shirley's attorneys, the court granted a directed verdict and declared the resolution which placed the president on leave null and void and issued a permanent injunction against any further attempts to exclude him from office.
The judge's ruling came shortly before 6:30 p.m. after approximately five hours of oral arguments. A written order will be filed today.
Less than two hours later, Shirley returned to his office – which was missing a few pieces of furniture – where he met with members of his staff, supporters, and the media. He said the judge's ruling “makes the heart glad.”
“It's really good to see all of you. I want you to know that it comes from the heart when I say it's good to see you and thank you for having been there for me, for my wife and my children, and for certainly the office of the people.”
They have gone through some very trying and challenging times, but “sometimes you have to go through these things to get at that which is good. I really believe that we will be getting that which is good tomorrow,” the president said, referring to today's referendum to reduce the Council from 88 to 24 members and to give the president line-item veto authority.
“Tomorrow is going to be a big day for us ... Prayerfully, I have confidence we are going to put two legislations on the books. What's unique about the two legislations is they are coming from the people – something that's never been done before. It's history in the making,” he said.
Michelle Dotson, legal counsel with the Office of the President and Vice President; Benjamin Runkle and Kirsten Murphy of Gallagher and Kennedy law firm in Phoenix represented Shirley at the hearing. Paul K Charlton, who represented the president last week, was called to a criminal proceeding in New York and was unable to attend.
Tamsen Holm, an attorney with the Office of Legislative Counsel, represented Council and Morgan. Chief Legislative Counsel Frank Seanez submitted a letter to the court last week stating that he could not represent the parties because he was a potential witness.
“Since then, certain things have transpired,” Seanez said. He asked to be allowed to represent the respondents at Monday's hearing only, however, Runkle objected, saying the Office of Legislative Counsel made it clear Dec. 9 that they had a conflict of interest. “Nothing has changed,” he said.
Holm, who works for the same office, did not have the conflict Seanez has and was allowed to act on behalf of the respondents. Seanez drafted the legislation that placed the president on leave and also advised Ethics and Rules Committee and Council on the matter and expected to be called as a witness.
Though Seanez was in the courtroom for the Dec. 9 hearing, he said he was out of the office from Thursday through Friday evening and wasn't served notice of the day's hearing until Monday morning. Morgan was not served until 11:30 a.m., he said.
He requested a continuance, saying he understood that a hearing on the president's request for a temporary restraining order would not be held for 20 days and that they were in the process of preparing for a hearing on Dec. 28. Benally denied the request.
“We are going to proceed on whether the respondents complied with the Sovereign Immunity Act,” she said. In a six-page order issued Friday, the court found that it could not proceed with the hearing on the president's request for a temporary restraining order because the 20-day notice period had not elapsed. However, the notice only applies if the Sovereign Immunity at is complied with.
Benally set Monday's hearing to determine whether Council exceeded its scope of authority and noted that depending on the outcome, the court could proceed immediately to a hearing on either the temporary restraining order or an injunction.
Shirley's former Chief of Staff Patrick Sandoval, Gerri Harrison of Legislative Services, and Seanez were called as witnesses during the proceeding. Attorneys for the president made the case that Shirley's being placed on leave was in retaliation for his initiative to reduce Council.
“Second-guessing the motives does not negate the fact that the Navajo Nation Council acted within its scope of authority,” Holm argued.
Runkle said that Council's actions were similar to a police officer who used excessive force during an arrest. Though he might be acting in his official capacity, his actions constituted a violation.
“I think that Council did act within their authority,” Joshua Lavar Butler, communications director for the Office of the Speaker, said after the hearing. “I do disagree with the court's ruling.
“We were not given sufficient notice. A lot of the notices we received were at the 11th hour. I don't know if that was planned or what, but we weren't given sufficient notice even to hire an outside counsel.
“I think for now, though the president may be back in office, it does not dismiss the evidence and the investigation that lies with the Navajo attorney general. So we'll just wait and see what happens with that. I would think the Council would want a status report from the Navajo attorney general.”
Sandoval was elated at the outcome. “Thank goodness for our court systems and the opportunity to have them interpret the differences that we had. Let's just hope that everybody pays respect to that and we continue to move forward,” he said.
Sandoval was fired Dec. 1 by Vice President Ben Shelly, however, Shirley said, “To me he's never left. He's always been our chief.”
Though Shirley is officially authorized to go back into office, “he's got to hire me back,” Sandoval said. “The president was never removed from being the president, but I've got personnel procedures that I've got to go through.”
Former Navajo President Albert Hale, who attended the hearing, was happy with Benally's ruling. “This is a three-branch government at work and checks and balances at work. That's what Title II amendments were to do,” he said.
SMSC Date Change For Annual Wacipi - Now August 20, 21 and 22, 2010
by Tessa Lehto
Shakopee, MN – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community today announced a date change for the 2010 Wacipi (Pow Wow). This coming year the event will be held Friday through Sunday, August 20, 21, and 22, 2010. The Wacipi will be held at the Pow Wow Grounds on the SMSC reservation.
The public is invited to experience the beauty and dignity of Native American culture at this event.
Grand Entries will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, and 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. Fireworks will be held at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 21, 2010, at the Pow Wow Grounds and a church service will be held on Sunday, August 22, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. at nearby Tiowakan Spiritual Center.
For more information on the Wacipi call 952-445-8900 or go to http://www.shakopeedakota.org/. For information about booths, call 952-496-6176.
This is a change in dates from those in the press release sent out November 4, 2009.
About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux CommunityThe SMSC utilizes its financial resources from gaming and non-gaming enterprises to pay for all of the internal infrastructure of the Tribe, including but not limited to roads, water and sewer systems, emergency services, and essential services to its Tribal members in education, health, and welfare.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has a charitable giving program which comes from a cultural and social tradition to assist those in need. Over the past 12 years the SMSC has donated more than $162 million to charitable organizations and Indian Tribes, including more than $20.9 million in fiscal year 2009.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, a federally recognized Indian Tribe in Minnesota, is the owner and operator of Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, Little Six Casino, Playworks, Dakotah! Sport and Fitness, The Meadows at Mystic Lake, and other enterprises on a reservation south of the Twin Cities.
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