Board mulls ‘southern liaison’ post

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Five-time San Juan County Commisisoner Mark Maryboy’s work for the county may not be over.

During a county-commission work session Sept. 15, Commissioner Lyman proposed that a position be created for Maryboy, a county commissioner from 1986 to 2002 and from 2006 to 2010, to serve as the county’s “southern liaison” with the Navajos. The county already has a northern liaison, Jerry McNeely, who works with Spanish Valley residents between Moab and Monticello, attending meetings the commissioners can’t get to in the sprawling, 7,933-square-mile county.

Commissioners Bruce Adams and Ken Maryboy – Mark’s brother – discussed the possibility with Lyman and put it on the agenda for a vote at the next regular commission meeting the following Monday, Sept 22.

On that day, however, Adams was absent because of a family emergency, so a decision was delayed because Maryboy would have to recuse himself from the vote, leaving only Lyman.

The idea has raised some questions and concerns.

Former County Commissioner Lynn Stevens told the Free Press, “I don’t understand in any way why there’s a need for a liaison. When San Juan County is districted and one of them is entirely Navajo, that person is very adequate to represent the Navajo people. I am strongly opposed to the idea and know many Navajo people who have told me they are as well. It is an insult to the voting process.”

Morgan agreed. “The elected District 3 commissioner represents the Navajo,” he said in a phone interview. “That person, whoever he or she is, becomes the liaison between the people, the tribe and the county. It is not appropriate to bring in another unelected, appointed office in an attempt to diminish the power of a commissioner elected in a legal process by the people.”

He said when he was a county commissioner, Utah’s Native people had a liaison position appointed to the governor’s cabinet, something he thought was valuable. “We had the governor’s ear. Things got done. What happened to that representation on that state level? It’s not there any more. It’s as if the clock got smashed when that ended. Nothing has happened. It is my intent to get that appropriate representation back for my people and I will work to do that if I am elected.”

However, others have said that anything that furthers communication between the county and the Navajo Nation would be beneficial. Some have suggested it might be more appropriate, though, to wait until a new commissioner is elected Nov. 4 in the all-Navajo District 3 before making a decision on who should be the liaison.

Candidate Benally told the Free Press it would be “premature” to comment on the liaison issue. “I have to consult my committee,” she said.

There is said to be a petition circulating in Montezuma Creek opposing the appointment of a southern liaison. However, Benally did not return a follow-up call to verify the existence of the petition or to clarify her opinion on the liaison proposal after meeting with her committee.

Atcitty did not reply to a message seeking comment on the same topic.

The issue is to be on the agenda at the next regular commission meeting Monday, Oct. 6.

Gail Binkly contributed to this report.

 

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From October 2014.