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Navajo council approves $50,000 for delegate rings 7-07

By FELICIA FONSECA
ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - Navajo Nation Council delegates have voted to spend tribal funds to buy themselves special rings, but at least one delegate is questioning whether the public's money is being misused.

Delegates voted 71-10 during a special session in Window Rock, Ariz., last week to approve a $2.6 million amendment that included $50,000 for the rings. The amendment was tacked on to a $3 million measure that would provide funding for summer youth employment.

Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. has yet to act on the measure, said his spokesman George Hardeen.

Delegate Leonard Tsosie, who voted against the amendment, said July 11 he had reported to his constituents on the special session and they were opposed to spending money on the rings.

"It's an unwise use of Navajo people's money," he said. "We shouldn't be buying rings for ourselves."

Legislative counsel Ray Etcitty is in favor of the rings. He said the previous council received rings and delegates also have pins that feature the council's seal, Etcitty said.

"Normally these pins and rings help identify and distinguish officials from the public," he said.

The money was appropriated from the so-called Undesignated, Unreserved Fund, a sort of emergency fund that the council regularly taps.

Exactly what the rings will look like hasn't been decided.

Second-term Delegate Kee Allen Begay said the ring from his last term is gold with an oval shape bearing the words "20th Navajo Nation Council." The ring also features four sacred mountains, an image of corn and a scroll.

Begay said he supported the amendment because it also included discretionary funds for the speaker's office, the president's office and $15,000 in financial assistance funds for each delegate.

"It's controversial to some extent, but then again I always say, if I work at so many things, once in a while, I would say we deserve something," he said.

Tsosie said he doesn't want the ring.

If the president approves the measure, Tsosie wants to have the money that would have been spent on his ring diverted to the tribe's general fund.

"I don't mind them paying out of their pockets if they want it, but to do it as part of a budgetary process concerns me," he said.
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