Navajo Nation President Albert Hale resigned Thursday, becoming the tribe's second leader in less than a decade to leave office amid charges of misusing tribal funds.
And the shadow still may not have lifted from the presidency of America's largest Indian tribe.Hale, 47, and his successor, Vice President Thomas Atcitty, both acknowledged rumors that Atcitty may also be under investigation for possible financial misdeeds.
Hale, who continues to insist he did nothing wrong, said he stepped down in exchange for a promise from the tribe's special prosecutor, Fred Chris Smith, not to file charges against him.
"I resign to spare my family, the people and the nation that I love - to spare them the agony that I personally know due to the 1989 turmoil," Hale said in a statement.
He was referring to a deadly 1989 riot between police and supporters of former President Peter MacDonald. "I am sorry for my shortcomings and the wrongs that I may have committed while in office," Hale said.
The decision ends an administration that has been fighting over the past two years with some Navajo Nation Council members over issues ranging from Hale's marital problems to allegations that he misused his tribal credit card.
Hale also has been feuding publicly with the editor of the tribe's weekly newspaper, the Navajo Times. Hale has been at odds with the paper since 1996, when it published an interview with Hale's wife about his affair with his former press aide.
The charges against Hale were divided into three areas:
- The first alleged that Hale allowed corporations like Xerox and Conoco to pay for his food and lodging and his costs of playing golf in Phoenix and Denver.
- The second charged Hale with accepting donations of more than $100 from members of his administration to help Hale attend the 1996 Democratic Convention.
- The final set stemmed from allegations that Hale used tribal vehicles and other tribal property for personal use, including taking family vacations.
Although Atcitty took over the reins of the tribal government on Thursday, Hale said he was concerned about tribal stability.
Atcitty, 64, a former New Mexico state representative, told reporters that he had heard reports of a possible investigation against him. He said he'd asked the tribe's Judicial Branch for any document that allowed Smith to expand his investigation to include him.