Following his conviction by a tribal court, the Navajo election board has postponed action on what Chairman Peter MacDonald's status will be on the ballot for the general election, which is set for Nov. 6.
Meanwhile, the tribe's legislative branch was considering the matter.The Navajo Nation Council, formerly called the Navajo Tribal Council, heard a resolution late Thursday which would make it possible for interim trial president Leonard Haskie to be added to the general election ballot in the event that MacDonald is taken off the ballot. The council was scheduled to take up the matter Friday.
Under the amendment to the Navajo election code, if a presidential candidate wins the primary but is unable to run, the next highest vote getter would fill the spot on the ballot.
The resolution also would postpone the election for 30 days.
That would mean that interim president Leonard Haskie would face Peterson Zah in the election, which would occur during the first week of December.
Meanwhile, MacDonald's attorney, Val Jolley, said Thursday he will ask for a new trial for his client who was convicted on Wednesday of 41 counts of bribery, theft by extortion, ethics violations and conspiracy in tribal District Court.
"We'll ask for a new trial based on the failure of the jury to follow juror instructions and failure of proof by the prosecutors," the Farmington, N.M., attorney said, adding that another attorney representing MacDonald will appeal the conviction to the Navajo Supreme Court.
The six-member tribal court jury also convicted MacDonald's son and co-defendant, Peter "Rocky" MacDonald Jr., of 23 counts of bribery charges.
The election board voted 4-1 on Thursday, with one abstention, to reaffirm its opposition to a resolution which would outline succession to fill a ballot vacancy in the event a candidate is disqualified. The board had voted Oct. 11 to oppose the resolution pending before the council.
Currently the board has no rules regarding succession under these circumstances, tribal attorneys said.
Ethics and election laws prevent MacDonald from holding an elected office for four years, tribal Attorney General Herb Yazzie told the board.
Yazzie also said a conviction is not effective until the judge enters the sentence, which was scheduled for Monday.
Legislative Counsel Claudeen Bates Arthur, who serves on the election board, disagreed with Yazzie and suggested allowing MacDonald to continue in the race and then disqualifying him after the election.
The Navajo Election Administration offered suggestions that would allow MacDonald's running mate, George Lee, to take MacDonald's place, having Haskie and Lee, political opponents, run together, and holding an emergency election to fill the possible vacancy.
The election board scheduled its next meeting for Tuesday. Members said they want to hold off acting on the MacDonald matter until after the council acted. MacDonald faces two more trials in tribal court.