Window Rock, Ariz. - Facing up to 50 criminal charges, Navajo President Albert Hale resigned from office Feb. 19. "I could fight this," he said, "but I don't want to subject my people, especially my mother and children, to this."
By resigning, Hale avoided prosecution for
misusing tribal money. During his parting address to people
gathered outside Navajo Nation Council chambers, Hale said he was
told he would be charged with up to 50 criminal counts if he did
not voluntarily leave office.
for the tribe, Fred Chris Smith, and Hale's attorney, Henry S.
Howe, presented a stipulated agreement to the tribe's ethics
committee, which accepted Hale's resignation. The agreement states
that President Hale accepted gifts from corporations doing business
with the tribe, including Xerox and Conoco.
agreement also states that Hale and Thomas Atcitty, tribal vice
president, accepted gifts at the Democratic National Convention in
Chicago from Navajo political appointees and some employees of the
tribe. In addition, it is stipulated that Hale used a credit card
and tribal vehicles for personal use.
who was sworn in Feb. 19 as acting president, is still under
criminal investigation. Hale urged the ethics committee to drop its
investigation of Atcitty by the special prosecutor and his staff,
who he called "bilagannas' who rob the tribe of its leaders. Hale
supporters in the room cheered this sentiment. Bilagannas is Navajo
for "white people." The tribe employs several non-Indians, however,
including Hale's press secretary.
told the ethics committtee, "I'm sorry for my wrongdoing," he also
said he believed he did nothing wrong and that others before him
had done the same thing. Hale said his resignation avoids the
political turmoil that occurred when Navajo Chairman Peter
MacDonald was ousted in 1989.
Under the banner
headline "HALE RESIGNS" Feb. 19, the tribally owned newspaper, the
Navajo Times, printed the stipulated agreement in full, publishing
some 17,500 copies in time for it to hit newstands as Hale spoke to
the tribe's ethics committee.
Just a few days
earlier the paper's staff had been shaken by Hale's attempt to
remove editor Tom Arviso, who has not been shy about printing
controversial political stories involving Hale. One reported that
Hale's former wife, Regina Pinto-Hale, told the tribal council that
her husband had an affair with his then-press officer Valerie
Taliman. The Times also published photos of the two on an
On Feb. 13, Ferdinand Notah, a Hale
appointee who is the tribe's director of economic development,
summoned Arviso and told him he was being "demoted."
The Navajo Nation Council, however, told Notah
he could not demote Arviso. Notah then "suspended" Arviso from his
job. He said it was a business decision and had nothing to do with
Arviso countered: "This is a bold
attempt by Hale and his administration to control how this news is
covered in the Navajo Times." With Hale's resignation, both
attempts at censorship are apparently moot. Arviso remains the
editor and Notah says Arviso was never actually demoted or
suspended; there was a misunderstanding.
23, said Eugene Tapahe, the paper's managing editor, morale at the
paper was high and people were working hard, "perhaps as a result
of everyone thinking they were about to be fired."
Tapahe said that although former president Hale
has never admitted guilt in a forthright way, the story remains:
"He did wrong and he got caught. It's our job to print the news."
Brenda Norell writes in
Navajo, New Mexico. Editor Betsy Marston contributed to this
You can ...
* Get a
copy of the Feb. 19 edition of the Navajo Times, which costs $1 and
includes postage, by calling the paper's circulation department at