Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald said Friday he doesn't accept as legal Tribal Council's actions that include placing him on leave because of kickback allegations.
MacDonald's took the position in a statement issued one day after the tribal Supreme Court dismissed MacDonald's lawsuit challenging the council's Feb. 17 action to place him on administrative leave with pay.Also Friday, MacDonald announced he had appointed a new personnel director for the tribe. Ruth G. Bitsui formerly served as deputy personnel director, MacDonald's office said.
Council members have said they hope to select an interim chairman next week when the council resumes its winter meeting.
The tribal Supreme Court's order Thursday said MacDonald filed his suit in the wrong court, that the judge of that court should have disqualified himself because he is MacDonald's brother-in-law and that the Tribal Council could not be a defendant in a lawsuit related to its legislative function.
"What the courts have decided is that sovereign immunity protects the Navajo Tribal Council, the council delegates, the chairman and vice chairman from being sued," MacDonald said, adding that he would not abide by council actions because he "does not recognize the council sessions as legal."
The ruling did not specifically address the council's decision to place MacDonald on administrative leave, but MacDonald said Friday the ruling set a precedent for the council to have "free rein if it wishes, to violate the civil rights of other elected officials every time it feels it is politically expedient to do so."
The move to force MacDonald to step aside came after witnesses before a U.S. Senate subcommittee testified he had accepted bribes and kickbacks from firms seeking reservation business and had shared in profits from a large real estate purchase by the tribe.
MacDonald has denied any wrongdoing, saying such gifts are part of the traditional Navajo way of life.