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Former NNOGC staff and board vindicated by Council action

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Nearly two years after legislation was first introduced to ratify the Federal Charter for the Navajo Oil & Gas Corporation, the Navajo Nation Council in a special session on Monday approved the amended charter by a vote of 9-8. Council Speaker Lorenzo Bates cast the deciding vote after an 8-8 tie.

"I thank Chairman Alton Shepherd for sponsoring the NNOGC legislation to ratify the amended corporate charter and Speaker Bates for casting the deciding vote,” said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye. 

The new charter immediately reduces the shareholder representatives from 11 to 5 and the board membership from 9 to 7, he said. “This is the first time [that] professional qualification requirements are being imposed on board members for NNOGC. It's important for the Navajo Nation to have qualified professional board members guiding our corporations during tough economic times," said Begaye on the passage of the legislation.

The legislation required removal of Lennard Eltsosie, Mae-Gilene Begay, Young Jeff Tom, and Diandra Benally. They no longer meet the conditions under the new qualifications. Remaining on the board is Frances Totsoni along with the appointed but unseated board members Carlos Duno, and Eddie Sandoval. Last year, in a highly public spat, Eltsosie fought to keep Duno and Sandoval off the board despite legal opinions by the Attorney General and Legislative Council.

In the past year, NNOGC has been beset with problems. Under the previous management of Robert Joe, the tribal enterprise had a record $154 million revenue and historic record profits of $49 million. Then, under the leadership of CEO Louis Denetsosie, several drillings never panned out, and the enterprise reported a loss of $21 million without increased production. NNOGC financial situation got so bad that in early 2015 Denetsosie was asking the Council to financially bail out the corporation. Most recently, Denetsosie was asking for over $30 million. 

In the most recent fiscal year 2015, NNOGC financial audit shows a loss of $21.5 million and the company spent $50 million more than the previous management. 

In a statement, Joe, now Acting Chief of Staff, said the nine council delegates stood up for “what is right for the Navajo People and what is right for the NNOGC Corporation,” he said. “The charter ratification gives birth to renewed hope for our people and lays the foundation for NNOGC to once again become successful.”

The charter legislation was first introduced by Lorenzo Bates on November 15, 2013 as legislation 352-13.

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