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FARMINGTON Navajo Nation Council Speaker Pro Tem LoRenzo Bates has appointed Leonard Gorman as interim chief of staff for the legislative branch.

The special assignment was announced Wednesday in a legislative branch press release, the same day Gorman assumed all duties and responsibilities as chief of staff.

Gorman is the executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission office. He has delegated his duties to Lauren Bernally, a policy analyst at the human rights office, until further notice.

"I will be working closely with Mr. Gorman about all aspects of this office," Bernally said, adding that Gorman had notified the five human rights commissioners of his move and received their support.

Leonard Gorman
Leonard Gorman (Daily Times file photo)

Jarvis Williams, who was chief of staff under Speaker Johnny Naize, is no longer with the Office of the Speaker, said Jared Touchin, spokesman for the Office of the Speaker.

Bates said appointing Gorman is a critical step toward ensuring the functions of the legislative branch continue without disruption.

"I have full confidence that Mr. Gorman will guide the legislative staff in an effective manner that provides stability and accountability for the Navajo people," he said in a press release.

Gorman previously served as chief of staff for former speakers Edward T. Begay and Lawrence T. Morgan.

The press release also stated the legislative branch will continue to operate.

In other developments, Delegates Katherine Benally and Charles Damon II requested attorney representation from the Navajo Nation Department of Justice against legal actions filed by Naize.

Naize was placed on paid administrative leave after 12 delegates approved the action during a special session last week.

On Monday, he filed a request for a temporary restraining order against those delegates in Window Rock District Court in Window Rock, Ariz.

Neither Benally nor Damon were named as defendants in Naize's request. In a letter received by the Justice Department on April 8, they ask for legal representation. They stated if no attorney is provided, the Justice Department will need to allocate and provide funding for legal representation.

Also mentioned in the letter is that the Justice Department provided funding for President Joe Shirley Jr.'s legal defense against the tribe's special prosecutor's investigation.

The claims made against Shirley in the 2011 civil complaint filed by the special prosecutor were dismissed in February.

Shirley was under investigation for his relationships with OnSat Network Communications Inc., which had a contract with the tribe to provide Internet services to the 110 chapters, and BCDS Manufacturing Inc., a failed steel and fiberglass fabrication company in Shiprock.

Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie could not be reached for comment on Benally and Damon's letter.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.