Published on September 29, 2013 by Amy
Joe Shirley, Jr. (born December 4, 1947) is a Native American politician who was the previous President of the Navajo Nation. He is of the Navajo Tribe and is from Chinle, Arizona. He was elected in November 2002 and served until January, 2011.
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Shirley was elected to the Navajo Nation Presidency for a second term in 2006, becoming the first Navajo President to be reelected since the Navajo Nation reformed its top leadership structure from that of Navajo Chairmanship to a Navajo Presidency.
In 2002, Joe Shirley ran for the Presidency of the Navajo Nation and defeated incumbent President Kelsey Begaye. He was inaugurated as the President of the Navajo Nation on January 14, 2003.
In November 2006, Shirley selected the Council Delegate from Thoreau, New Mexico, Ben Shelly as his Vice Presidential runningmate during his second bid for the Navajo Executive Office. Former New Mexico State Representative, Lynda Lovejoy was his opponent during the 2006 Navajo Nation Election. By a small majority of the popular vote, Joe Shirley and Ben Shelly were elected. They were inaugurated in on Monday.
Although Navajo Nation elections are officially non-partisan, Shirley is a member of the Democratic Party having announced his endorsement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in for president of the United States in 2008. He stated that he believed Clinton would best protect tribal sovereignty and the Navajo way of life.
On October 26, 2009, by a vote of 48-22 the Navajo Nation Tribal Council put Shirley on paid administrative leave after it received reports from law firms contracted by the Office of the Attorney General about possible ethical, civil and criminal violations concerning tribal contracts with two companies, OnSat Network Communications and Biochemical Decontamination Systems. The two companies in question are both sources of controversy within the tribe.
Shirley challenged the decision in court, and on December 14, 2009 Window Rock District Court Judge Geraldine Benally issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the Tribal Council’s vote. The effect of the injunction was to return Shirley to his duties.
Shirley has stated that he believes the Tribal Council’s decision to place him on administrative leave to have been politically motivated, as a result of two ballot initiatives that Shirley supported and that would reduce the power of the Council. One would reduce the size of the Council from 88 to 24, and the other would give Shirley line-item budget veto authority.
The District Court ruling has been appealed to the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, which has scheduled oral argument for April 19, 2010.
Joe Shirley Jr. attempted to run for a third term, against the Navajo Nation Code. The Navajo Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Shirley’s attempt for a third term was illegal. According to the Navajo Times, Mr. Shirley and staff attempted to buy over one hundred thousand dollars worth of Nation property for less than six thousand dollars. The Nation’s Dept. of Justice later ruled the seizure illegal.