Below, you will find highlights of the issues the Isleta Tribal Council discussed during their meeting on March 7, 2013.
All Council members present. Governor Eddie Paul Torres Sr. and Lt. Gov. Antonio Chewiwi present. Lt. Governor Isidor Abeita absent.
Council Secretary Verna Teller asked Governor Torres for an update concerning his plans to conduct a community meeting. Torres explained that he would inform the Council this coming week of a date for a meeting with the community. The Governor explained that he will develop an agenda on what information they will discuss with the community.
Bank of America In Wells Fargo Out
Pablo Padilla, the tribal attorney submitted a resolution to the Council on behalf of the Hard Rock Casino. The resolution authorizes the Casino to change banks from Wells Fargo to Bank of America.
On March 4, 2013, Pamela Gallegos, Chief Executive Officer, of the Casino requested permission to change banks. She recommended the change because she was unhappy with Wells Fargo. According to Gallegos, Wells Fargo failed to advise the Casino on changes concerning interest rates on loans from Prime to LIBOR, which resulted in the Pueblo paying $ 2 million dollars in interest to Wells Fargo. She explained that if Wells Fargo was a good business partner, they would have taken the initiative to advise the Casino to make the change. Instead, Wells Fargo allowed the Casino to continue to pay a higher interest rate needlessly for a period of two (2) years, which resulted in the Pueblo losing 2 million dollars.
As a result, Gallegos requested proposals from various banks to determine whether it would be advantageous to the Casino to change banks. Numerous banks responded. After review of the proposals, Gallegos determined that Bank of America would serve as a better business partner to the Casino. Josephine Padilla made a motion to approve the resolution establishing the Casino’s accounts with Bank of America. The vote carried 8 in favor, 2 opposed and 2 abstaining.
Council member Josephine Padilla asked questions on behalf of Odelia Jojola concerning stoppage of her home site application. Apparently, at a February 19th Council meeting, Council member Barbara Sanchez made motion to approve Ms. Jojola’s application. The motion failed 4 in favor and 5 against due to concerns with a waiting list for housing. The Council was concerned with persons jumping ahead of others on the waiting list. So, the Council decided that they needed to find out what was happening with the waiting list.
Governor Torres explained that tribal members are complaining about the Executive Director of Housing, Denny James. Torres discussed these issues with the Chairman of the Housing Board, Allen Zuni. The Governor explained that he is very concerned that the Housing Board is not addressing the complaints with the Housing Director.
Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero stated that he is also very concerned about housing. He also commented that he does not appreciate false information going out to the community that he is bringing people before the Council on housing matters. Lucero said he wanted to “set the record straight” that he did not bring anyone in and that it was the President of the Council that brought in the people.
Lucero stated that if the Governor wants to provide oversight of Housing, he will support the Governor 100%. Lucero also explained that a tribal member told him that Director James made a comment to a tribal member that “you’re lucky that I came and got my shoes dirty.” Lucero felt that the Director’s comment was disrespectful. He said the Director “needs to carry out the decisions of the Council.”
The Council decided that they will call in the Housing Board and the Executive Director, Denny James, to ask questions about the problems with housing.
**Council member Barbara Sanchez left the meeting a few minutes before discussion of the following issues.
Pamela Gallegos, Chief Executive Officer of the Albuquerque Hard Rock Casino, sent a letter to the Council. Gallegos does not want tribal members to attend Council meetings when she is addressing Casino topics with the Council. Gallegos fears that if the meetings are open, the Casino will lose its “competitive edge.” She feels that if the Casino’s financial information gets out, it would cause a lot of harm. She asked the Council to close the meetings to “outside parties.”
Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero immediately spoke up. He said that Gallegos needs to provide more information to the Council about what she is concerned about, especially, since the Council talks about “transparency” and “open government.” Lucero stated that he would like to know what she is trying to protect and he wants to hear directly from her before closing meetings to tribal members.
Council member Fernando Abeita explained that when the Council is approving the agenda, they can then decide whether the Council should discuss the issues in “executive session” and place them at the beginning or at the end of the Council’s agenda. An “executive session” is a term the Council uses when they decide to close their meeting to tribal members.
Council Secretary Verna Teller stated that if Gallegos is concerned about financials, then we can go into executive session at that time.
Governor Torres stated that “common sense will tell you what should be public and non-public.”
Pablo Padilla, the tribal attorney, updated the Council about his review of proposed amendments to the Tribal Constitution. He explained that he has reviewed 30 pages of documents relating to changes to the Constitution. Padilla explained that he is 80% to 85% complete in his review. He will be submitting a memo to the Council concerning the proposed changes to the Constitution.
Padilla explained that it costs the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) 20 to 25 thousand dollars to run a secretarial election to amend a tribal constitution. He stated that the BIA has expended all of their funds for Secretarial elections. He explained that Laguna Pueblo, Zuni Pueblo and San Ildefonso Pueblo have all conducted Secretarial elections on constitutional changes. He explained that the budgetary constraints on the BIA could cause the BIA to delay elections for constitutional changes.
Padilla will submit his memorandum to the Council on March 11, 2013, so the Council can discuss proposed amendments to the Constitution for their meeting on March 14, 2013.
Tribal Enrollment Committee
The President of the Council, James Abeita, read a letter from former Council member ReGina Joyce Zuni for the record. The letter expressed Zuni’s concern on the Council’s recent appointment of Kateri Jojola to the Tribal Enrollment Committee. Zuni is alleging that Jojola has a criminal record. The President stated that Zuni included a mug shot of Jojola with her letter to the Council. Zuni is concerned that the Council failed to “properly vet” Jojola in a public forum. She also expressed her dissatisfaction in how the Council selected Ms. Jojola in a secret ballot.
Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero commented that Zuni has no business questioning the Council’s appointment because of Zuni’s past conduct. He asked, “what about her inappropriate material” on the tribe’s computer? Lucero said Zuni’s integrity is questionable. He said she is pointing out faults and doesn’t look at herself.
Council member Cynthia Jaramillo told President James Abeita that he shouldn’t have read her letter because it was not on the Council’s agenda. She stated that Zuni wants to intimidate and manipulate the Council with her letters. She wanted the Council to disregard Zuni’s letter.
No further discussion or action occurred on this topic. The Council adjourned.
By Christopher Abeita