Scripps Howard News Service

Navajo Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald announced Friday he was withdrawing his offer to step down.

MacDonald changed his mind after the tribal council rejected a plan that would have given him funds for legal defense and office staff, his press secretary said.

The action means that Johnny R. Thompson, who was named acting chairman Friday morning, will return to his old job of vice chairman, said tribal press secretary Tazbah McCullah.

The stunning reversal comes in the fourth day of the council's winter session, which has been dominated by heated debate on whether MacDonald should step down because of allegations by a Senate committee that he profited personally from tribal business.

MacDonald announced his decision in a written statement addressed to council members that was distributed Friday afternoon. McCullah said she did not know where MacDonald could be reached for comment.

MacDonald's wife, Wanda, declined to comment.

Confusion has clouded the situation in the Navajo capital since MacDonald first agreed to step down Thursday night.

MacDonald, who has been under investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, was not formally placed on leave by the council but stepped down voluntarily, McCullah said Friday morning.

Delegate Marshall Plummer of Coyote Canyon then was named chairman pro tem Thursday night by the council and was directed to preside over the council until an interim chairman and vice chairman were named.

The proposal to name both an interim chairman and vice chairman was questioned by delegates supporting MacDonald and members of the tribal administration, including the attorney general's office. They said the Tribal Code, which states that the vice chairman shall assume the powers of the chairman when the chairman is unable to perform his duties, should be followed.

Delegate Daniel Tso of Torreon said MacDonald's leaving was necessary because he had lost the confidence of the Navajo people and the tribal council for his alleged profiteering in the purchase of the $33.4 million Big Boquillas Ranch in Arizona.