Hopi vice chair jailed after effort to block offices 5-22-07

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The Hopi tribe's vice chairman has been arrested for trying to block the chairman from his offices in the latest twist on a dispute centered on the chairman's qualifications for office.

Todd Honyaoma Sr. was arrested by federal Bureau of Indian Affairs officers Monday for trying to keep Chairman Ben Nuvamsa and his staff from reoccupying their offices under a 15-day restraining order.

Honyaoma had delivered a letter to the chairman's office on Friday saying the Hopi Tribal Council would not abide by a Hopi appeals court's order.

Nuvamsa was elected to the post in February but was removed after only 27 days in office by the Council, which nullified the election after deciding he was ineligible because he did not meet residency requirements.

Nuvamsa questioned the council's legal authority to negate an election and filed a lawsuit. The appeals court issued its temporary order last week.

Nuvamsa and his staff entered the building with police escorts Monday morning and Honyaoma was arrested for contempt of the appellate court, said Bonnie J. Secakuku, staff assistant to the chairman.

The tribal council voted Friday to take $50,000 out of the chairman's budget to hire legal counsel to defend themselves.

“In our opinion, this was illegal as the representatives (defendants) cannot use tribal funds to hire an attorney to represent them,” Nuvamsa said in a press release issued Monday evening.