Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald, ousted last week by the tribal council, has been reinstated by order of his brother-in-law, a tribal judge.
Tribal Judge Harry Brown issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday overturning the council's ouster of MacDonald, who has been accused of corruption, and Vice Chairman Johnny Thompson.A short time later, Thompson presented the court order to the council and was seated as chairman pro tem in MacDonald's absence. The council then recessed its winter meeting until Wednesday.
Geoffrey Standing Bear, MacDonald's attorney, said Brown scheduled a show-cause hearing Friday morning to determine whether to permanently order the council not to place MacDonald and Thompson on administrative leave.
Brown found that the council failed to follow the correct procedure for removing a chairman from office last Friday, when it voted 49-13 against MacDonald and Thompson, Standing Bear said.
"The chairman is entitled to his constitutional rights," he added.
John Chapela, a lawyer who heads a recall movement against MacDonald, complained that the order was issued in Kayenta, about 140 miles from the tribal capital of Window Rock.
"Legal matters affecting the Navajo Tribe have to be brought before the Window Rock court," Chapela said. "Otherwise, it would look as if people were shopping around to find the most favorable court."
Standing Bear said he avoided the Window Rock court because Navajo Tribal Police Chief Bill Kellogg suggested that there was "potential for unrest" there.
Noting that Brown and MacDonald are married to sisters, Standing Bear said Brown anticipated handing over the case to another judge if challenged.