The two-month-long battle for leadership that crippled the Navajo tribal government is over and members of the tribe have won, interim Chairman Leonard Haskie said.
"The Navajo Nation has dealt with the problem and the people have won," Haskie told people attending a rally here in his hometown over the weekend. "The Navajo Nation courts have ruled with honesty, respect and dignity. All attempts to manipulate Navajo law have been defeated."Haskie said charges that surfaced during a U.S. Senate hearing that Chairman Peter MacDonald received kickbacks from contractors and profited from the tribe's purchase of an Arizona ranch had embarrassed and humiliated tribe members.
"We were all hurt, disappointed and outraged that our leader had betrayed the trust of the Navajo people," Haskie said. "The Navajo Nation became the subject of cartoons and jokes."
Haskie said many people wanted the Tribal Council to fire MacDonald. But Haskie said the Council could not fire MacDonald because the four-term chairman had not received his day in court.
"He still has rights as an individual," Haskie said. "So we decided that the proper action is to place him on administrative leave with pay until he can clear his name."
But MacDonald refused to step down after the Council placed him on administrative leave.
MacDonald unsuccessfully tried to name his own judges to rule on the dispute, but the Navajo Supreme Court ruled the judges were not appointed legally.
"He tried everything in his power to resist us, to oppose us and to fight us," Haskie said. "He used every trick, from lies, to intimidation to money."
MacDonald's tactics did not work, Haskie said.
"We are a government, and in our government all the power does not belong to one man. It belongs to the people."
But Haskie said if MacDonald can clear his name he will be allowed to return.
"If he cannot, then the interim chairman and vice chairman will make sure programs and services are not interrupted."