Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald ignored shouted demands for a vote and halted a tribal council meeting on whether he should go on leave in the wake of corruption allegations.
The meeting Wednesday included more than eight hours of discussion on whether temporary replacements should be named for MacDonald and Vice Chairman Johnny Thompson, but MacDonald ordered the meeting recessed until Thursday.As MacDonald walked out of the meeting room, some council members yelled "We want to vote!"
Afterward, about 50 council members went behind closed doors to discuss the situation.
A spokesman for the group, Councilman Duane "Chilli" Yazzie, said MacDonald supporters and opponents would try to reach a compromise Thursday.
"We need to get Peter MacDonald to step aside," Yazzie said. Thompson has not been implicated in any wrongdoing.
The tribe on Tuesday began its annual winter meeting, which usually lasts five to seven days. Consideration of MacDonald's future was added to the agenda after U.S. Senate hearings this month on Indian issues, including corruption in tribal governmnents.
Witnesses have testified before the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs that MacDonald, 60, who won his fourth four-year term in November 1986 after four years out of office, has taken kickbacks and demanded trips and other favors as a part of awarding contracts.
Byron "Bud" Brown, a Phoenix real estate agent who helped arrange a $33.4 million Navajo ranch purchase in July 1987 hours after Phoenix oilman Tom Tracy paid $26.2 million for the ranch, has been granted immunity from prosecution. He alleged MacDonald was among those who shared Tracy's $7.2 million profit.
The account was corroborated before the committee by McDonald's son, Peter MacDonald Jr., also testifying under immunity.
MacDonald has refused to answer a subpoena from the panel, which has denied him immunity from prosecution, and has refused to discuss the allegations with non-Indians. But he has told Navajos that the committee pilloried him because of his belief in Indian rights, and said the probe was a racist attempt to undermine tribal sovereignty.
At a press briefing Wednesday in Phoenix, Sens. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., and John McCain, R-Ariz., denied the probe was racially motivated.
DeConcini turned aside questions of whether MacDonald would be indicted but said material had been turned over to government prosecutors for evaluation.
An estimated 170,000 of the nation's 200,000 Navajos live on the 25,000-square-mile reservation, which covers much of northeastern Arizona and sprawls into northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah.