Below, you will find highlights of the issues the Isleta Tribal Council discussed during their meeting on Thursday, March 14, 2013.
Vice-President Michael Allen Lente absent.
Council members Juan Rey Abeita and Joseph “Cougar” Lucero absent.
Governor Eddie Paul Torres Sr. absent.
Both Lieutenant Governors were present.
Approval of Agenda
Terry Lente, a tribal member, requested an opportunity to speak to the Isleta Tribal Council concerning amendments to the Isleta Tribal Constitution. Ms. Lente submitted a letter to James Abeita, President of the Council on March 8, 2013. To read the letter, click the following link: Task Force Letter.
Council member Cynthia Jaramillo immediately objected to Ms. Lente’s request. Jaramillo stated that Lente failed to submit her request on the Tribal Council’s official “agenda request form.” Jaramillo did not feel it was appropriate for the Council to listen to Ms. Lente because she did not follow the Council’s policy for placement on the agenda.
President James Abeita explained to Ms. Lente that the current Council is following a “process,” which requires tribal members to file an official form requesting placement on the Council’s agenda.
Council member Fernando Abeita spoke up. He stated the Council needs to listen to the people. He explained that Council members routinely add items to the agenda immediately before the Council approves an agenda for a meeting. He felt it was unfair for Council members to add items to the agenda and then require tribal members to fill out forms in order for the Council to listen to their concerns.
The “policy” of filing an “agenda request form” must be a secret policy because the prior Council never published their policy. Or, the current Council is choosing to honor an unwritten policy or practice as explained by members of the previous Council. Remnants of the previous Council include: Barbara Sanchez, Cynthia Jaramillo, Josephine Padilla, Fernando Abeita, Larry Jaramillo and Joseph “Cougar” Lucero.
Terry Lente is the President of the Task Force for Membership. The Council did not create the Task Force for Membership. It is independent. Ms. Lente organized the Task Force from members of the community.
At a prior meeting, the Council decided that they were going to discuss amendments to the Tribal Constitution on Tuesday, March 14th. This is why the Task Force submitted their letter to the Council. They wanted to ask the Council to add a proposed amendment to lower the Isleta blood quantum from one-half (1/2) to one-quarter (1/4). Six (6) tribal members attended the meeting to support Ms. Lente’s efforts.
Unbeknownst to Ms. Lente, the Council decided to postpone discussion of amending the Tribal Constitution. The Council decided that it would reschedule discussion of amending the Constitution for the following week.
President Abeita asked Ms. Lente to file an “official Agenda Request Form.” Ms. Lente complied with his request. She immediately obtained the Council’s “official” form and filed it with the Council’s office. To read her “official” request, click the following link: Task Force Agenda Request.
Lt. Governor Antonio Chewiwi reported that Governor Eddie Paul Torres plans on conducting a community meeting sometime during the second week of April.
He also reported that Governor Torres could not attend the Council’s meeting because he was attending a water coalition meeting along with Vice-President Michael Allen Lente.
Assisted Living Facility
Rita Jojola, Director of the Isleta Elderly Center presented information concerning the Assisted Living Facility. She explained that on October 22, 2009, the Council approved a resolution to establish the Living Facility (Resolution # 2009-151). The prior Council approved initial funding for the facility in the amount of $ 326,000 for the first three years.
The purpose is to provide a Living Facility for tribal elders in our community. The Living Facility will provide elders with full time care. Basic care includes bathing, grooming, and dressing. The facility will also provide other health care needs. The facility will have a doctor and a pharmacy.
Elders must qualify medically and financially to reside at the facility. Medicaid will cover some of the costs as well as any private health care insurance that a person may carry. Residents may also be personally responsible for paying costs. The State of New Mexico must license the facility to allow Medicaid to cover costs.
Olin Calderon, the Human Resources Director, informed the Council that the Pueblo will recruit a qualified tribal member to manage the Living Facility.
Council member Barbara Sanchez stated that the Pueblo may not have a qualified tribal member to manage the program. She stated she knew only one (1) tribal member that has a degree relating to this program. Secretary Verna Teller stated that, “we shouldn’t underestimate our people. We have plenty of people that have the qualifications.”
Rita Jojola also informed the Council that the Elderly Center has 36 employees and that only 3 are non-tribal. She explained the Elders and the young people working at the Center both benefit from their interaction. Ms. Jojola said the young people learn new words in our language every day. She said, there is a “good exchange and interaction” between them.
Ms. Jojola also stated that she is “really proud of our young people working for the Elderly Center.” She also commented that everyone in our community forgets about “our differences when it comes to our elders.” We set aside our differences to protect our elders.
The Council, by motion, unanimously approved a resolution to create an assisted living facility administrator position and establishing a cost control center with the Isleta Treasury Department. The vote was 8 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining. (Council member Phillip Jiron was not present for the vote on this issue).
Review of Constitutional Amendments
President James Abeita stated that the Council will reschedule review of the proposed constitutional amendments for Tuesday, March 19, 2013, along with the Constitutional Task Force Committee.
Council member Cynthia Jaramillo immediately questioned the President on why he was including the Constitutional Task Force. She stated that the entire Council should decide whether to include the Constitutional Task Force Committee in their discussion. She felt it was inappropriate for the President to decide such matter by himself.
At this point, it is not clear whether the Council will allow the Constitutional Task Force Committee to participate in the discussion of amending the Constitution.
A previous Council established the Constitutional Task Force Committee. Members of the Task Force include:
Larry Lucero (Not the current nominee for Chief Judge of the Tribal Court);
Joe Anzara; &
Isidor R. Abeita.
The purpose of this Task Force was to develop proposed amendments to the Isleta Tribal Constitution.
Pablo Padilla, the Tribal Attorney, provided the Council with his “redlined revisions of the constitutional amendments.” The Constitutional Task Force developed the proposed amendments and Padilla made revisions to their proposed amendments.
Padilla told the Council that the “attorney/client privilege protected the document.” He stated that the Governor’s office is his client on the “constitutional amendments.” He said that his client has the privilege of giving out the information to the Council and the Task Force only.
Executive Session on Personnel Issue
Council member Barbara Sanchez made a motion to enter into an executive session to discuss a personnel issue. The vote carried with 7 in favor, 2 opposing and 0 abstaining. Barbara Sanchez and Cynthia Jaramillo abstained.
Secretary Teller asked Council member Barbara Sanchez why she voted against the motion when she made the motion to move into executive session. Sanchez stated that she could make a motion and then vote against her own motion.
Pablo Padilla, the Tribal Attorney, Dicky Garcia from Human Resources and the Acting Chief of Police Kevin Mariano joined the Council in their executive session along with both Lt. Governors.
Vice-President Michael Allen Lente arrived approximately 20 minutes later and joined the Council in their executive session.
The Council was in executive session for approximately two (2) hours. The Council adjourned for lunch after their executive session.
Isleta Appellate Court Résumés
The Council delayed review of the résumés for persons interested in serving on the Isleta Appellate Court.
On February 26, 2013, the Council appointed Samuel Abeita to serve as a Justice on the Appellate Court. Abeita informed the Council that he was unable to accept their appointment. So, there is one vacancy on the Appellate Court.
The Council also discussed the possibility of removing one or all of the Justices currently serving on the Appellate Court on February 26th. The Council has not yet made a decision on removal of the current Justices.
Alcohol Server Permits
Tribal Attorney, Pablo Padilla, presented a resolution to the Council to issue licenses and alcohol server permits to employees of enterprises owned by the Pueblo. Patrick Sanchez, the Executive Director of the Isleta Gaming Regulatory Agency was also present.
Padilla explained that in 2008, the Council enacted a Liquor Sales Ordinance, which was published in the Federal Register. The United States government publishes the Federal Register. It contains public notices of governmental agencies, proposed rules and regulations, and changes to existing rules.
The Tribe’s Liquor Sales Ordinance states that it is within the discretion of the Council to grant, deny or renew licenses or server permits. Padilla, at a prior meeting, informed the Council that the Pueblo has never enforced its ordinance. So, the Isleta Gaming Regulatory Agency raised concerns on the Pueblo’s failure to enforce its own law.
The resolution Padilla presented sets up specific rules and regulations on the process for issuing and revocation of the permits. Padilla recommended that the Council delegate its authority to revoke a permit to the Isleta Gaming License Revocation Hearing Officer.
The Council had various questions and concerns on the proposed resolution. One of the primary issues was whether the Pueblo should impose a fee on employees to get an alcohol server permit. Some Council members felt that it should not impose a fee because the Pueblo is requiring the employee to obtain a permit. But, the Council is also concerned about the costs to administer the process of issuing and revoking alcohol server permits.
Another concern was whether to require alcohol servers to provide their finger prints for a background check when applying for a permit. Patrick Sanchez explained that the law does not classify alcohol servers as “key employees” of the Casino. He said federal law defines a “key employee.”
Council member Cynthia Jaramillo wanted all persons applying for a permit to undergo a background check. Mr. Sanchez explained that all employees do undergo a background check. The Isleta Gaming Regulatory Agency, however, provides different types of background checks depending on the job position. For instance, a person applying for a job classified as a “key employee” must undergo a background check that is more stringent than an ordinary background check.
Padilla informed the Council that the Pueblo had only 60 days left to come into compliance with the Pueblo’s law to issue permits to alcohol servers. He stated that Governor Eddie Paul Torres obtained a 90 day delay from the Isleta Gaming Regulatory Agency on enforcement of the Pueblo’s ordinance requiring a server to have a Pueblo permit.
Padilla told the Council that they could approve the resolution and he would include the amendments they discussed. This means that the Council is approving the resolution without reviewing the language that Padilla uses on the amendments discussed by the Council.
Council member Josephine Padilla made a motion to approve the resolution for the “rules and regulations to issue licenses and alcohol server permits, to impose a fee of $ 25 on the employees applying for a permit and to delegate authority to the Isleta Gaming License Revocation Hearing Officer to revoke alcohol server licenses.” Council member Phillip Jiron seconded the motion. The vote carried 10 in favor, 0 opposing and 0 abstaining.
Isleta Human Resources
Olin Calderon, the Isleta Human Resources Director, gave a report to the Isleta Tribal Council concerning employment issues with the Pueblo.
From October 2012 thru February 2013, the Pueblo hired 51 people. 25 were Isleta Tribal Members or descendants, 7 were Natives from other Indian Tribes and 20 were classified as “others.”
Terminations were: 8 Tribal Members or Descendants, 3 Natives from other Indian Tribes and 17 others.
Calderon explained that “termination” did not necessarily mean that the Pueblo fired the person. For purposes of his presentation, terminations included persons that may have quit their jobs or persons that ended their employment with the Pueblo to transfer to the Isleta Business Corporation (IBC) or the Casino.
Calderon’s report does not include employment with the IBC or the Casino because they each have their own Human Resources Department.
Calderon also explained that persons with a criminal conviction may apply for a job with the Pueblo. The Pueblo does not prohibit anyone from applying for a job. He explained that a specific job position controls whether a person is eligible for a particular job. For instance, a person with a DWI applying for a job in a “non-driving capacity” is eligible to get a job with the Pueblo.
According to Calderon, federal laws also control whether the Pueblo may hire a person for a specific job. It depends on the position. Persons applying for work involving children or other vulnerable persons are required to undergo stringent criminal background checks.
Council member Phillip Jiron asked Calderon why he was giving the Program Directors only the top three (3) applications for a job vacancy instead of all applications. Calderon said he understands that a department head may want to see all the applications. However, it is HR’s (Human Resources) responsibility to screen the applicants to prevent favoritism and nepotism.
Calderon explained that it is also HR’s obligation is to find the best qualified applicants for the job and provide those applications to the Program Directors. He said that screening applicants is a function of Human Resources not the director heads. This is a standard practice for all HR departments. He said this prevents directors from playing favorites by looking for a specific applicant.
Calderon also explained that job applicants have a right to ask Human Resources for an explanation on why the Pueblo did not select them for a job. HR will then provide the person with an explanation. Council member Larry Jaramillo asked, what about a person that has a problem with the operations of HR? Calderon said that such person may go to the Governor to express their concerns.
The Isleta Tribal Council was going to discuss the process they use for committee appointments. But, due to the time, President James Abeita will reschedule such issue for another day. Council members are concerned about the vetting process the Council is using to make appointments.
Council member Josephine Padilla commented that several tribal members told her that they would be interested in serving on a committee. But, they do not know how to get on a committee.
Council member Verna Teller announced that two (2) persons have filed appeals to the Council concerning their residency. The Council is obligated to hear the appeals within a designated time pursuant to the Pueblo’s Residency Ordinance.
The previous Council enacted a Residency Ordinance that requires all non-Indians or non-members to submit an application to the Governor requesting permission to reside with their loved ones on the reservation. The applicant must undergo a criminal background investigation. The Governor then decides whether to allow the person to reside on the reservation. If denied, an applicant may appeal to the Isleta Tribal Council.
The Council adjourned at 4:20 p.m.
By Christopher Abeita