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Navajo delegates attend meetings in Las Vegas after Hawaii trip criticism

Window Rock, Arizona (AP) 12-07

About a month after being criticized for traveling to Hawaii for a conference, once again Navajo Nation Council delegates were on the road – this time to Las Vegas.

Many of the council’s standing committees were scheduled to be in Las Vegas during the first two weeks of December to attend meetings and conferences, according to the Office of the Speaker.

The committees included: resources; transportation and community development; government services; education; economic development; budget and finance; and intergovernmental relations.

Staff from the executive branch received a memorandum in early October prohibiting travel to Las Vegas.

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley had issued an executive order, which is still in effect, that discourages meetings outside the Navajo Nation, said George Hardeen, communications director for the Office of the President.

While some of the conferences and meetings are set by outside entities and are essential for Navajo Nation business, others appear to have no clear reason for being in Las Vegas.

For example, the Economic Development Committee was meeting with two Navajo Nation enterprises and was be holding a joint work session with the Resources Committee and Dine Power Authority regarding the Desert Rock Energy project on the two days after.

The Speaker’s Office provided no explanation of why the Economic Development Committee was holding the meetings in Las Vegas.

But the head of a group fighting the proposed Desert Rock power plant said the Navajo Nation is wasting money and not including tribal members in the meetings by holding them in Las Vegas.

“They try to do things behind closed doors or where we won’t get the information. I think it’s right that we know what’s going on,” said Elouise Brown, president of the Dooda Desert Rock Committee.

Brown said the committee will send three representatives who can make the seven-hour drive to Las Vegas to the meeting.

During November, criticism arose over a trip by Navajo Nation representatives to an education conference in Hawaii. More than 360 tribal members preregistered for the National Indian Education Association conference in Honolulu.

The Inspector General’s Office is looking into whether federal money was misappropriated or misused after receiving a Nov. 16 letter from Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., asking for a review of the expenditures.
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