Torres Requested Closure of Council Meetings

Below, you will find highlights of the issues the Isleta Tribal Council discussed during their meeting on Tuesday, March 13, 2013.

Council members Juan Rey Abeita and Joseph “Cougar” Lucero were absent.

All other Council members present.

Governor Eddie Paul Torres Sr. and both Lieutenants present.

Governor’s Report

Torres Requested Closure of Council Meetings

Governor Torres explained to the Council that yesterday he met with President James Abeita, Vice-President Michael Allen Lente and Secretary Verna Teller and the Chief Executive Officer of the Hard Rock Casino, Pamela Gallegos. They met to discuss the CEO’s request for the Council to close their meetings when discussing issues with the Casino’s management.

After their meeting, Torres explained that he believes that it could be detrimental to Tribe, if the Council does not close their meetings because the Casino’s proprietary and financial information will get out to the public.  The Casino’s management is concerned about the Casino’s “transition period.” Apparently, the “transition period” means the time for the Pueblo’s Casino to switch from the “Albuquerque Hard Rock” brand back to the “Isleta” name.

So, Torres asked the Council to keep all future Council meetings with the Casino management closed during the Casino’s transition period because he fears the Casino’s information will get out to the public and to its competitors.

Torres Selects Lawrence “Larry” Lucero as his Chief Judge

Governor Torres announced that he selected Lawrence Lucero to serve as Chief Judge of the Isleta Tribal Courts. Previously, Lucero served as a Lieutenant Governor under Governor Alvino Lucero’s administration. Torres introduced Lucero to the Council to afford them an opportunity to ask Lucero questions. The Governor then wanted the Council to vote on confirming Lucero as Chief Judge.

Former Lieutenant Governor Lucero explained to the Council that he is willing to accept the obligations of serving as Chief Judge for the Pueblo. In addition to serving as a Lieutenant Governor for Isleta, Lucero explained that he worked for the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS). During his tenure with the SFIS, Lucero also served as a judge for the school to hear cases involving students attending the school.

Council members did not ask Lucero any significant questions. Council member Douglas Jiron asked Lucero whether he had any college degrees. Lucero stated that he had a degree but not a law degree.

Governor Torres explained that Lucero will also undergo training to serve as a judge.

Torres told the Council that he spoke with the current Chief Judge Ernest Jaramillo and that Jaramillo is willing to continue serving as a judge while Lucero gets training.

President James Abeita stated to Lucero that serving as judge carries a heavy obligation to the people. President Abeita served as Chief Judge of the Isleta Tribal Courts for eight (8) years.

Abeita explained that one of the most important obligations for the judges is protect the Isleta Tribal Constitution by remaining independent of the Executive and Legislative branches of the tribal government. Abeita wanted Lucero to understand that the Governors and the Council do not control the judges.  He explained that “the judiciary needs to be independent to protect the integrity of the courts” and that the judges need to “stand fast on principal.”

The Council did not vote on whether to confirm Lucero as the Chief Judge because two (2) Council members were absent (Juan Rey Abeita and Joseph “Cougar” Lucero).   The Council decided that it would be more appropriate for the full Council to be present when voting on Lucero’s confirmation. President Abeita asked whether anyone on the Council disagreed with waiting for the full Council to be present. None of the Council members objected.

Liquor Ordinance

Tribal attorney, Pablo Padilla, informed the Council that the Pueblo is not complying with its own liquor ordinance.  He explained, the Pueblo is supposed to issue permits to persons that serve alcohol within the Pueblo’s jurisdiction.  The Pueblo, however, was failing to issue the permits.  Instead, the Pueblo is relying on the State of New Mexico to come to the reservation and provide a one day training course to servers. Thereafter, the State issues a permit to the server.

Padilla said the Pueblo will begin to enforce it own liquor ordinance by having the Governor issue permits to servers.  In order to the get a “Pueblo” permit, the server will have to provide the Governor’s office with proof that the State issued the server a “State” permit. Thereafter, the Governor will issue a Pueblo permit to the server.

The Pueblo will not provide any training to servers. The Pueblo will continue to rely on the State to provide training.

Legal Fees

The Council approved payment of legal fees to Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Mielke and Brownell, LLP in the amount of $ 33,942.08 for the month of January. The fees cover legal services on:

“General Tribal Matters, Gaming Matters, and Water Matters.”

President James Abeita wanted more details for the billing.

Governor Torres explained the Sonosky firm does not provide any legal services unless the Pueblo requests that they perform a specific task. The Council asked who is requesting the legal services on behalf of the Pueblo.  Torres explained that the Governors, Pablo Padilla and sometimes the Treasurer (Andrew “Tino” Teller) will request legal services from the Sonosky firm.

The Council, by motion, approved payment of the legal fees in the amount of $ 33,942.08.  The motion carried 10 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining.

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Virginia Graumann from Big Brothers and Big Sisters along with Gerald Maestas of the Isleta Police Department presented a proposed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to the Isleta Tribal Council. The agreement will allow Big Brothers and Big Sisters to provide a mentorship program for “at risk” children of Isleta. To start, the program will begin with 5 to 6 children.  It could grow to 20 to 40 children.

The program will match volunteers from Isleta Pueblo to serve as a big brother or big sister to children of Isleta. Essentially, the volunteers will serve as mentors to the children. The program aims to help children avoid risky behavior such as skipping school, using alcohol or drugs or getting in fights. The program strives to help children gain self-confidence, build self-esteem and succeed in school.

The Isleta Police Department, Isleta Social Services, Behavioral Health, Truancy and the Probation Department are some of the programs that endorse the Pueblo entering the MOA with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Council member Larry Jaramillo stated that he would like to see this program grow.  He wants the program to be successful.  He feels that many children of Isleta could benefit from this program.

The Council voted to approve the MOA unanimously 10 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining.

Field Trip to Comanche Ranch

Vice-President Michael Allen Lente informed the Council that their field trip to Comanche Ranch for March 13, 2013, was cancelled. Martin Abeita the Comanche Ranch Manager had a scheduling conflict. The field trip will be rescheduled to afford the new Council an opportunity to inspect the Tribe’s cattle and the operations at the Comanche ranch.

Million Dollar Promotion

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo passed around a flyer she received in the mail from the Hard Rock Casino.  She explained the flyer advertises a promotion for St. Patrick’s Day at the Casino, which offers $ 1,000 in “free play” to each person.

According to Jaramillo, the promotion promises that the Casino will give away 1 million dollars of “free play.”  Jaramillo is unhappy with the promotion and believes it will negatively impact the Casino.  She is concerned that the Casino’s promotions are failing to generate revenue for the Casino. She explained that people use their “free play” and then go home, which means the Pueblo is not benefiting from the promotion.

Retroactive Compensation for Joseph “Cougar” Lucero

President James Abeita informed the Council that Dicky Garcia from Human Resources contacted him to ask whether Joseph “Cougar” Lucero was entitled to compensation from the Pueblo for the days that Lucero was not present for Council meetings.

The President explained that Lucero went to Human Resources concerning retroactive compensation for the days that he did not attend Council meetings due to his appointment as Chief Judge.

Council members asked whether Lucero was on the Tribe’s payroll when the he was in the process of undergoing his background check for Chief Judge.  Governor Eddie Paul Torres stated, “I don’t know, I don’t think so.”  The Governor told the Council that he will find out whether Lucero was on the Tribe’s payroll.

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo stated that Lucero would not have missed those Council meetings, if he didn’t think that he was appointed as the Chief Judge.

The Council will wait to hear back from Governor Torres on whether Lucero was on the Tribe’s payroll.

County Commissioner Art De La Cruz

Art De La Cruz  came before the Isleta Tribal Council to express his gratitude to the Council and the people of Isleta for their support.

De La Cruz is a Bernalillo County Commissioner. He wanted to give the Council an opportunity to express any concerns they may have between the Pueblo and the County. He also wanted the Pueblo to know that he will always make himself available to listen to the Pueblo’s concerns.

Council member Michael Allen Lente expressed concerns relating to trespassing issues.  De La Cruz explained that he will make the Sheriff aware of those issues. He made it clear, however, that the County does not have control over the Sheriff.  The Sheriff is independent of the Commission because the Sheriff is an elected official.  Nevertheless, he explained that the County has a very good Sheriff and he is responsive.

The Council adjourned for lunch.

Afternoon Session

The Council reconvened at 1:25 p.m. for their afternoon session.

Executive Session

President James Abeita asked the Council for a motion to enter an executive session. He stated that the purpose was to discuss the status of the Ethics Board, the status of a court case on Diane Peigler vs. the Pueblo of Isleta and the case of the Ethics Board vs. the Alternate Ethics Board. Peigler’s case is pending before the Isleta Appellate Court and the Ethics Board vs. the Alternate Ethics Board is pending before the Isleta Tribal Court.

Vice-President Michael Allen Lente made the motion to enter an executive session, Phillip Jiron seconded the motion. The motion carried 8 in favor, 0 opposed and 1 abstaining. (Secretary Verna Teller abstained). The executive session began at 1:25 p.m.

All council members present entered the executive session along with Governor Torres and his Lieutenants.  Pablo Padilla, the tribal attorney, also attended the Council’s executive session.

When the Council enters an “executive session,” they go into a private room to conduct their meeting. They exclude all tribal members from listening to their discussion.

During an executive session, the Council does not record their discussion in any way.  This means that they do not have any audio recording of the meeting. Also, the Council Secretary does not take down any meeting minutes of the issues discussed.

Further, the Council does not take any official votes when they are in executive session.  This means that after they terminate their “executive session,” they reconvene in a “regular” meeting to conduct business.  When they enter a “regular” meeting, the Council will then take action, by motion, to vote on any issues they agreed upon during their executive session.

Executive sessions are controversial because it enables the Council to conduct business in secrecy.  Since the Council does not record the meeting in any way, it allows tribal officials to avoid accountability for their decisions. Tribal officials can easily abuse executive sessions. Essentially, each Council member has to decide whether the Council, as a whole, is abusing its authority by entering an executive session.

At 2:20 p.m., Vice-President Michael Allen Lente left the executive session. He did not return for the remainder of the meeting.

At 2:28 p.m., President James Abeita, Secretary Verna Teller and Council member Cynthia Jaramillo left the executive session.

At 2:47 p.m., the Council allowed President Abeita, Secretary Teller, and Jaramillo back into their executive session.

At 3:02 p.m., the Council ended their executive session and reconvened into a regular council meeting.

Council member Barbara Sanchez made the motion to adjourn from the executive session. Phillip Jiron seconded the motion.  The motion carried 9 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining.

Upon reconvening, President James Abeita asked the Council to make a motion to approve whatever decision they agreed upon during their executive session.  No Council member would make a motion.  Abeita asked once again for a motion. Again, all of the Council members remained silent.

Council member Josephine Padilla finally stated that she would not make any motion because she did not vote in favor of the issue they discussed during the executive session.

President Abeita stated that if no one makes a motion, then the issue would die. Abeita waited a moment to give someone an opportunity to make a motion. No one did. So, President Abeita told tribal attorney, Pablo Padilla, that there was no motion to approve whatever action the Council agreed upon during the executive session.

This means that Pablo Padilla cannot act on whatever decision the Council agreed upon in their executive session.

Amending the Isleta Law and Order Code

Pablo Padilla, the tribal attorney, and the acting Chief of Police Kevin Mariano presented a resolution to the Council to include a provision into the Isleta Law and Order Code.

Padilla explained that when a prior Council adopted the revised Isleta Law and Order Code, they excluded section 1-1-63 of the old law and order code.  Section 1-1-63 established a law prohibiting the obstruction of a judicial or law enforcement officer.

The purpose of the resolution is to reenact section 1-1-63. The resolution, however, will codify the law into the Revised Law and Order Code as Section 30-17-15.  In other words, the resolution will give a new number to the law. The resolution will also classify the offense as a “class c misdemeanor” as recommended by Mariano.

Council member Barbara Sanchez made the motion to approve the resolution enacting Section 30-17-15 as recommended by Pablo Padilla and the Chief of Police Kevin Mariano.  Douglas Jiron seconded the motion. The motion carried 8 in favor, 0 opposed and 1 abstaining. Larry Jaramillo abstained.

Grant Application

Kevin Mariano, Acting Chief of Police, presented a resolution to the Council to submit a grant proposal to the Department of Justice to fund various tribal programs for the fiscal year 2013. The motion carried 9 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining.

Associate Judges

Originally, Governor Eddie Paul Torres planned to have his Lieutenant Governors present his appointments for associate judges to the Council on Thursday, March 14, 2013.  Torres, however, advised the Council that he will not bring in his appointments for associate judges on Thursday due to the Council’s earlier decision to postpone the vote on his Chief Judge. The Governor said he will wait for the full Council to be present.

Closure of Council Meetings to Tribal Members

President James Abeita asked the Council to vote on the Governor’s request to conduct all future Council meetings with the Casino’s management in executive session.

As discussed earlier, Governor Torres explained that after meeting with the Council’s officers and the Casino’s management, he felt it would be best to conduct the Council’s meetings with the Casino’s management in an executive session.  Torres believes this will prevent the Casino’s proprietary information from going out to public.

Council member Fernando Abeita explained that he did not appreciate the Governor and CEO excluding Council members from his meeting with the Casino’s management.

Abeita stated that he understands the necessity of the Council entering into an executive session on certain issues concerning the Casino.  He did not, however, believe it was appropriate for the Council to conduct every meeting with the Casino in an executive session in its entirety.  He said some issues warrant discussion in an executive session and others do not. Abeita stated that he was disappointed in the little information the Governor provided the Council on his meeting with the officers of the Council and the Casino’s management.

Secretary Verna Teller elaborated on the Governor’s meeting with the President, Vice-President and herself. She stated that the meeting included the Casino’s CEO, Pamela Gallegos and Zeke Perez, General Manager.

She explained that Gallegos wanted to close the meetings because of the Casino’s financials. Teller told the Council that during their discussion yesterday, Gallegos expressed concern about information getting out to the public on the decision to switch from Wells Fargo to Bank of America.  Gallegos was concerned about the “legal ramifications” because the Casino had not notified Wells Fargo of the decision.

Teller explained that Gallegos intends on discussing the Casino’s marketing strategy on the Casino’s new name during the transition period from Hard Rock to Isleta. Gallegos fears the Casino will lose its competitive edge because other casino’s will learn about her marketing plans for a “grand opening” under the Casino’s new name.  Gallegos wants to keep their marketing strategy quite.

Council member Fernando Abeita stated that he was “perturbed” by the CEO failing to bring in all the Council members to discuss her concerns.  He did not feel it was appropriate for her to meet with just the Governor and the officers of the Council. Abeita stated that “all of us [the Council] need to hear what is being discussed.”

Teller then explained that they [the officers of the Council and the Governor] also discussed a personnel issue with Gallegos.  Apparently, the Casino terminated a tribal member that was a long time employee with the Casino.  Teller explained, however, that she would not go into any detail because it was a personnel matter and the employee was still in the grievance process.

Council member Barbara Sanchez ended discussion of the issue by making a motion, “for the Council to conduct all council meetings on hotel/casino issues in executive session because the information is not for the public until the transition phase is completed as recommended by the Governor.”  The vote carried 7 in favor, 0 opposed and 2 abstaining.  Council members Cynthia Jaramillo and Verna Teller abstained.

The Council adjourned at 3:54 p.m.


By Christopher Abeita

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