The Navajo Nation has lost a president to ethics charges for the second time in six months, and the man appointed to the post said he may be investigated, too.
The Tribal Council voted 46-28 on Thursday to remove Thomas Atcitty, 64, from the presidency and then named Speaker Kelsey Begaye to serve as interim president.That made Begaye, already a candidate in the Aug. 4 presidential primary, the third president to lead the nation's largest reservation this year.
"Today is a sad day for the Navajo Nation once again and our people, but I think the laws of the Navajo Nation are clear and the council has done what it has to do by taking a vote the way they did," Begaye said.
Atcitty, who became president in February after Albert Hale resigned to avoid prosecution on ethics charges, called the council's action unfortunate but said he held no grudges.
"I walk away from the Navajo capital with my head high, knowing I have done nothing wrong," he said. "I leave just as I came - poor."
Earlier this month, the council's Ethics and Rules Committee recommended removing Atcitty and barring him from any tribal job for the next five years for accepting free golf trips from companies doing or seeking business with the tribe when he was vice president.
Atcitty said letting off-reservation corporations pay for the trips didn't violate rules against accepting business gratuities. He argued that a golf game is not something tangible, like a rug, so accepting a free game is not a violation. He also claimed it saved the tribe money.
Begaye said that he's heard rumors he might be investigated but would welcome any such probe.
Next month's primary will pare eight candidates, including Begaye, to two for the Nov. 3 general election.