National | Politics

Navajo Nation lawmakers pass bill to remove top financial officer






Jim Parris, left, former controller of the Navajo Nation, and Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez. Photo: Navajo Nation OPVP Russell Begaye And Jonathan Nez

The leader of the Navajo Nation is warning of wide-ranging impacts after lawmakers ousted the tribe's top financial officer.

President Russell Begaye said the state of Arizona has already threatened to withhold health care funds because the tribe lacks a certified public accountant. Other contracts, agreements and leases are at risk, he said.

"The longer we go without a controller with a CPA, we will start to feel major impacts," Begaye said in a press release on Thursday. "The Navajo Nation needs a qualified CPA licensed controller at the helm. It is critical."

Begaye's warning came a day after the Navajo Nation Council voted 17-5 to remove Jim Parris from his position as the tribe's controller. Lawmakers repeatedly called the decision a "personnel matter" and declined to offer specifics about their grievances.

But some were concerned about Parris's salary. According to The Farmington Daily-Times, his contract required him to be in Window Rock, Arizona, the tribe's capital, just three days a week.

“We have elderly people who are not receiving adequate services and have unmet needs and yet we are paying him a large salary for working part-time,” Council Delegate Nathaniel Brown said in a press release.

Parris was brought on board at Navajo in December 2015. He is a member of both the Osage Nation and the Cherokee Nation and served as the first controller for the Osage Nation, according to a sworn court declaration that was filed in connection with the Navajo Nation's breach of trust lawsuit.

After a Navajo lawmaker introduced the removal bill, Parris offered to resign. He sent a letter to The Daily-Times late last month, explaining that he frequently clashed with delegates over spending and legal issues.

"I have never experienced such disrespectful behavior from tribal council members during my 38 years of working with tribal governments across the United States, as I have from some members of the Navajo Tribal Council," Parris wrote in the letter to the paper.

Read More on the Story:
Navajo Nation Council removes controller (The Farmington Daily-Times 1/5)
Council votes out controller 17-5 (The Navajo Times 1/5)
Tribe's top financial officer steps down (The Farmington Daily-Times 12/30)