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Navajo President rejects funding for delegate assistants

shellyFARMINGTON — Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has vetoed about a half a million dollars that would have provided funding for personal assistants for tribal council members.

Shelly used his line-item veto authority on Wednesday to remove $541,946 the Navajo Nation Council approved for the Office of Legislative Services.

The money would have funded the Legislative District Assistants program next year from Oct. 1 to Jan. 14.

This is the second time Shelly line-item vetoed this type of request for the program. He used his veto authority to eliminate $1.7 million for the program from the Legislative Branch budget in September.

In Shelly’s veto message to Pro Tem Speaker LoRenzo Bates and the council, he reminded delegates that during discussions about the fiscal year 2015 budget, they expressed concern about the number of political appointments within the tribal government.

At that time, tribal lawmakers stated funding for those types of positions should instead be used for direct service for the Navajo people, he wrote.

In January 2012, the council approved funding to have each delegate hire one legislative district assistant.

The assistants helped delegates with the additional workload and responsibilities they acquired as a result of the council membership reducing from 88 to 24.

One former legislative district assistant called the veto action a “bad idea.”

“I think it was a bad idea because it’s the communities that suffer,” said Roger Toledo, who served as Delegate Leonard Tsosie’s district assistant.

Tsosie represents eight chapters on the council, and it was difficult for him to balance the issues and concerns of each chapter, Toledo said.

Without the assistants, Toledo said he worries chapters will not be as informed about news in the tribe’s capital and won’t have their concerns voiced at that level.

Shelly also used his line-item veto authority to delete $500,000 in funding for Administrative Service Centers under the Division of Community Development.

The division has developed 16 service centers across the reservation to replace the five Local Governance Support Centers.

The service centers provide planning services, technical assistance and guidance to the tribe’s 110 chapters.

Shelly wrote that he vetoed the funding because no budget forms were attached to the legislation and the council did not indicate what type of funding would be used.

The line-item veto authority for budget items is not subject to override by the council, according to tribal law.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.

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©2014 The Daily Times (Farmington, N.M.)

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