A minority of Navajo Nation Council delegates turned out Monday for a proposed special session to consider freeing suspended Chairman Peter MacDonald and his son from recently imposed jail terms.
Only two of the council's 88 members were present at the 10:45 a.m. starting time set for the special session sought by Delegate Donald Benally of Shiprock, N.M. He was one of the two.The group gradually grew to approximately 20 late in the day, but the number remained far short of the 45 necessary for a quorum.
Council Speaker Nelson Gorman last week declared that the special session would be illegal. He said some of the proposed agenda items had to be considered during a regular session and that others had to be referred to tribal courts.
In a Nov. 29 memo posted Monday at the entrance to the council chambers, Gorman told staff members that anyone participating in the special session could be liable for engaging in an unlawful activity.
Neither the Navajo police nor tribal legislative staff, normally pres-ent for council sessions, were on hand Monday.
Proposed agenda items included an emancipation proclamation to free MacDonald and Peter "Rocky" MacDonald Jr. from serving jail terms imposed by a tribal judge on their Oct. 17 convictions on bribery charges.
"The primary purpose of today's session is to free Mr. MacDonald," said Benally, who lost his Nov. 6 re-election bid.
Also on the proposed agenda were resolutions to require that tribal judges and the tribal attorney general be elected.
Benally contends that Gorman exceeded his authority in saying the session could not be held.
Meanwhile, a tribal district court judge Monday denied a prosecution motion stemming from MacDonald's claim that disagreements over legal fees prevented him from receiving competent counsel in the bribery trial.
After Judge Robert Yazzie ruled on the motion, jury selection resumed in the MacDonalds' trial on conspiracy and other charges stemming from the tribe's purchase of a ranch.
MacDonald raised the competent-counsel claim in his appeal in the bribery case.
Special Prosecutor Robert Rothstein asked that either MacDonald's attorneys in the ranch case be removed due to conflicts between MacDonald and his defense lawyers in the first case regarding fee payment or MacDonald waive his right to claim conflict of interest by his attorneys in any future appeal in the second case.
Rothstein said MacDonald's defense team in the second trial is being paid under the same provisions of a previous order covering payment of his defense team in the first trial.