San Juan County Politics | KUER 90.1

San Juan County Politics

San Juan County Commissioners Bruce Adams, Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes, from left to right.
Credit Kate Groetzinger / KUER

The last decade has seen an ongoing power struggle in San Juan County. The county, located in Utah’s southeast corner, overlaps with part of the Navajo Nation.

In 2012, the Navajo Nation sued the county, saying that its voters had been disenfranchised in county politics. The court agreed in 2017 and imposed a new voting map with three county commission districts.

San Juan County elected its first majority-Navajo commission in 2018 — an election that was embattled with a lawsuit over now-commissioner Willie Grayeyes’ residency and eligibility for office.

But, the fights didn’t end with the election. A ballot initiative this year asked voters whether the county should consider changing its form of government. The proposition failed by a narrow margin, but the San Juan County clerk is now under investigation for electioneering in that election. The Utah County attorney’s office has taken over the investigation and will decide whether to prosecute. — Elaine Clark and Kate Groetzinger

Back to the main article.

KUER News Stories

Photo of the slickrock bike trail
Wikimedia Commons

Moab and Grand County officials breathed a sigh of relief last week, when the Bureau of Land Management announced it will defer leasing land inside the Sand Flats Recreation Area to oil and gas developers in an upcoming lease sale. 

Photo of running tap water.
Austin Kirk / Flickr Creative Commons

Wednesday morning, Jan. 22, 2020

Photo of Navajo Mountain
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

NAVAJO MOUNTAIN — Big, wet snowflakes fell on this small community on the Navajo Nation yesterday, blanketing its red dirt roads and thwarting the San Juan County Commission’s latest attempt to hear from residents of the Utah Navajo strip. 

 

Photo of the San Juan County administrative building.
Courtesy of San Juan County

Weber County has completed an investigation into an allegation of electioneering by the San Juan County Clerk. But San Juan will have to find another county to determine whether or not to file charges. 

Photo of a hand painted sign on a gate that says "Dooda, proposition 10, vote no."
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

SAN JUAN COUNTY — A proposition to explore a change in county government in San Juan County has failed by a margin of just 153 votes. The county clerk called the race Friday morning, saying that the outcome wouldn’t change with the 125 still-uncounted ballots.

Two women walk up to a house with dogs running around on red dirt ground.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

There is only one measure on the ballot this year in San Juan County. It asks voters if they think the county should explore changing its form of government, which is currently a three-member commission. That could mean more commissioners and new districts. And that’s got some residents concerned. 

Photo of a yard sign with donkeys on it that says, "Just Vote No on Proposition 10."
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

San Juan County is holding a special election on Nov. 5 to ask voters if the county should explore changing its form of government. But the county may have failed to adequately notify Navajo voters about it, according to Niki Venugopal, a voting outreach coordinator with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. 

Photo of Navajo woman filling out form.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Updated 10:05 p.m. MDT 10/3/19

 

An upcoming special election in San Juan County has some Native residents worried they will lose representation in government.

Two Navajo men face each other for a conversation during a commission meeting.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Following a five-hour mediation process on Friday, San Juan County has agreed to pay the Navajo Nation $2.6 million in attorney’s fees. The county is responsible for compensation after losing a voting rights case brought by the Nation in 2012. 

Photo of former San Juan County CommissionerMark Maryboy at a town hall meeting.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Efforts to change the form of government in San Juan County brought cultural and political tensions to the fore last week, prompting accusations of racism. Former County Commissioner Mark Maryboy, whose brother Kenneth is a county commissioner, called some residents who support the change in county government “racist Mormons,” adding, “They are all probably a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Photo of commission meeting.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Updated 1:45 p.m. MDT 8/24/19 

A little more than six months after the swearing-in of San Juan County’s first majority-Navajo County Commission, long-simmering tension brought on by years of distrust, frustration and, at times, prejudice is bubbling over.

Photo of San Juan County courthouse.
Ken Lund / Flickr Creative Commons

The San Juan County Commission voted unanimously on Monday to take no further action in a Native American voting rights case that led to the redistricting of the county in 2017. 

Photo of commissioners.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

The San Juan County Commission met in Monument Valley on Tuesday to conduct its bimonthly meeting. It was the first time the commission has ever met on the Navajo Nation, according to Commissioner Willie Grayeyes. More than 50 people attended the meeting, around two-thirds of whom were Navajo. 

Erik Neumann / KUER

Two Navajo Democrats won an election last November in Southern Utah’s San Juan County. In the lead-up to the election, the county was redistricted after coming under fire for alleged racial gerrymandering.

Photo of commissioners.
Judy Fahys / KUER

MONITCELLO — San Juan County reached an historic milestone earlier this month when a Native American majority assumed control of a county’s governing body — a first for Utah.

Photo of San Juan County commission swearing in
Judy Fahys/KUER

MONTICELLO — In an historic first, Native Americans hold the majority on the San Juan County Commission following a packed swearing in ceremony Monday in Monticello.

Erik Neumann / KUER

A historic election near Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah faces a legal challenge as Republicans have appealed a federal judge’s earlier ruling that allowed the eventual winner to be on the ballot.

Erik Neumann / KUER

The court battle over whether Willie Grayeyes, who appears to have won a seat on the San Juan County Commission, should have been allowed to run for office in Utah has ended, after a federal judge ruled last week to dismiss the case.

Photo of Willie Grayeyes.
Erik Neumann / KUER

A small but symbolic race in San Juan County has captured the attention of Utahns far outside County Commission District 2, which is home to Utah’s portion of the Navajo Nation and the Bears Ears National Monument.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that its sending officials to monitor Tuesday’s election in San Juan County, following similar election poll-watching efforts in 2016.

Photo of Holland waving from truckbed.
Marsha Holland 2018 Campaign

He’s a Republican candidate with a criminal conviction and name recognition that make him a local hero. She’s a political novice who’s raised four times as much campaign cash while running without any political party affiliation.

Photo of Grayeyes at canyon.
Erik Neumann / KUER

On a recent Sunday evening around dusk, Willie Grayeyes stood on a sagebrush and juniper-studded mesa, scanning the southeast Utah landscape. It was a place the Navajo Democrat’s family had lived for generations and where he’s hoping to be part of a political first.

Photo of Banally door knocking.
Erik Neumann / KUER

MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah — On a recent Monday morning, Tara Benally crept along the red clay of San Juan County Road 433 in her Chevy Equinox, in search of a rare find among the red rocks of this part of the Navajo Nation: prospective voters.

Willie Grayeyes
Judy Fahys / KUER

A Navajo man will be put back on the ballot for a Utah county commission seat after a judge sided with him Tuesday in his lawsuit against a county that disqualified him in the first election since a judge ruled local voting districts were illegally drawn based on race.

Judy Fahys / KUER

A lawsuit announced this week in Salt Lake City focuses on a contested county commission seat, newly redrawn voting districts and a Navajo candidate well known for his opposition to shrinking the Bears Ears National Monument.

Courtesy/Mark Maryboy

San Juan County is asking a federal court to finalize a recent decision on voting districts. County leaders want to appeal the ruling, as the county’s Native American majority applauds it.

Judy Fahys/KUER

 

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman says he might look to the county for legal help after he was told to find a new lawyer to fight federal criminal charges over an ATV protest he led last spring.