Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

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Padilla v. Olguin, Constitutional Precedent

Absent: Council Member Juan Rey Abeita & Governor Eddie Paul Torres.

Meeting started at 9:05 a.m.


Council member James Abeita explains that Isleta Tribal Constitution does not cover a situation where a person steps down as President and remains on Council. Nevertheless, a general practice is for a person serving as vice-president to become president.  This is the purpose or intent of having a vice-president.  

So, Abeita makes a motion for Vice-President Michael Allen Lente to become President of the Council.

Council member Barbara Sanchez requests that the Council wait for Tribal Attorney, Pablo Padilla, to arrive at the meeting before entertaining the motion.  She wants Padilla to provide legal advice on the matter.

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo also wants Council to wait for Pablo Padilla.

Council takes a break to wait for Padilla. He arrives at 9:26 a.m.

Attorney Padilla explains the Isleta Tribal Constitution does not contain a provision that applies to a situation when a person simply steps down as President and remains on the Council. Isleta’s Constitutional provisions on the vice-president assuming presidency only applies when president is temporarily absent, dies, resigns from Council or the president is unable to serve due to some type of incapacity.

Padilla also explains that generally under Robert’s Rules of Order, laws of other countries and under general statutory law, a vice-president assumes the presidency.

Council member Fernando Abeita makes reference to a decision made by the Isleta Appellate Court in 2006.  The decision is Padilla v. Olguin, IAC-05-016-CZC. Abeita explains that the Appellate Court determined that the Council “had the authority to decide whether to replace the president by election or succession . . .”

In the Olguin case, Moses Jojola was serving as President of the Council. Jojola steps down as President. But, he remains on the Council. The Council votes to select a new President instead of allowing the vice-president to automatically become president.

Vice-President Ron Olguin challenges the Council’s decision to elect a president instead of allowing him to automatically become president.  The Isleta Tribal Court rules in favor of Olguin. 

Council member Nick Padilla appeals the decision. 

The Isleta Appellate Court overturns the lower court.  The Appellate Court determined that the Tribal Constitution did not apply to the situation because Moses Jojola remained a council member and merely relinquished his position as president.  Therefore, the Council had discretion to decide how to select its new president by succession or election.

Council member Phillip Jiron suggests that the Council delay selection of a new president because Council member Juan Rey Abeita was absent. 

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero also states, “We need to wait for a full Council.”

Council member Josephine Padilla states, “We have a quorum” and there is nothing requiring the Council to wait for a “full” Council to address the situation.   She then seconds the earlier motion made by Council member James Abeita.

Before the Council votes, Barbara Sanchez states that she opposes the motion because Juan Rey Abeita is absent and that the matter was not on the agenda.

The motion for Vice-President Michael Allen Lente to become President of the Council carries with 7 in favor, 4 opposed and 0 abstaining. Joseph “Cougar” Lucero, Barbara Sanchez, Cynthia Jaramillo and Phillip Jiron oppose.

Cynthia Jaramillo states, “I’m rather surprised. A rash decision was not necessary.”


Council member Josephine Padilla motions to declare the vice-president’s position vacant. Council member Fernando Abeita seconds.  Motion carries 11 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining.

Fernando Abeita nominates Larry Jaramillo;
Phillip Jiron nominates Joseph “Cougar” Lucero; &
Cynthia Jaramillo nominates Barbara Sanchez.

Douglas Jiron moves to cease nominations. Secretary Teller seconds. Motion carries 9 in favor, 1 opposed and 1 abstaining. Joseph “Cougar” Lucero opposes. Barbara Sanchez abstains.

Joseph “Cougar” Lucero states he opposed because there was not a full Council.  He states the Council should have waited for Juan Rey Abeita “as a matter of common courtesy.”

Fernando Abeita motions to vote for vice-president by secret ballot.  Secretary Verna Teller seconds. Motion carries 10 in favor, 1 opposed and 0 abstaining.  Joseph “Cougar” Lucero opposes.

Council votes by secret ballot.

Larry Jaramillo receives 7 votes;
Joseph “Cougar” Lucero receives 2 votes; &
Barbara Sanchez receives 2 votes.

Fernando Abeita motions to install Larry Jaramillo as vice-president.  Verna Teller seconds. Motion carries 9 in favor, 1 opposed, and 1 abstaining.  Joseph “Cougar” Lucero opposed.  Larry Jaramillo abstained.

Joseph “Cougar” Lucero states, “To me, this looks like it’s rigged.”

Council member Larry Jaramillo thanks the Council and he states that it is very important for the Council to work together.  If not, the Council will cause the community a lot of hardship.  He tells Council member Lucero, “If you want this position, just tell me, and I’ll mover over and you can have it.”

Joseph “Cougar” Lucero walks out of the meeting at 10:08 a.m.

Council member James Abeita states that the Council must do their best to get along to take care of the Tribe’s business.

Council member Fernando Abeita also states the Council needs to get along to take care of the Tribe.

The Council takes a break because the next issue required Joseph “Cougar” Lucero to be present because he is Chairman of the Law and Order Committee.

The Council resumes their meeting at 10:19 am. Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero returned. Juan Rey Abeita also arrives. Douglas Jiron left the meeting.


Tribal Attorney, Pablo Padilla, explains that the prior Council authorized the development of a Probate Code.  Padilla provided the Council with a December 3, 2012, draft Probate Code.

A probate code contains laws relating to inheritance.

John Romero, Director of the Isleta Realty Department and Chief Justice William Johnson of the Isleta Appellate Court were also present.

Attorney Padilla emphasized that the proposed probate code will have a direct affect on all tribal members. He urges the Council to give the proposed code careful consideration.

The Council discussed a variety of issues relating to probate matters.  Some issues were the failure of credit unions and some banks to recognize Tribal Court orders, statute of limitations problems on probate cases, the failure of the tribal courts to bring probate cases to a close, and differing interpretations of tribal customs and traditions.

Douglas Jiron returns at 10:59 a.m.

It will take the Council several more sessions to finish discussion on the proposed probate code.

Council breaks for lunch at 12:03 p.m.


Absent: Governor Torres and Lt. Governor Antonio Chewiwi.


Chip Martin, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Isleta Business Corporation (IBC) and Pablo Padilla, Tribal Attorney, present an agreement between the IBC and the Pueblo concerning Mesa Del Sol. 

Mesa Del Sol is 23 acres of land the Pueblo purchased. It is adjacent to the Pueblo and lies on our Northern boundary.

According to Martin, the IBC wants to “market the land for future development.”  The contract between the IBC and the Pueblo will enable the IBC to negotiate with outside entities to develop the land.

According to Padilla, since the land belongs to the Pueblo, the IBC needs the contract to serve as proof or authority to outside parties that the IBC has the right to develop the property.

Joseph “Cougar” Lucero motions to approve the contract between the Pueblo and the IBC with IBC having the right of first refusal to develop the Mesa Del Sol property. Phillip Jiron seconds. Motion carries 11 in favor, 1 opposed and 0 abstaining.

Barbara Sanchez opposed.  She opposed because the motion did not include another parcel of land known as the “Brown property.”

Lt. Governor Chewiwi arrives at 1:32 p.m.


Council members Cynthia Jaramillo, Douglas Jiron and Fernando Abeita developed policies and procedures for the Council to follow concerning the selection and appointment of individuals to the various boards, committees and commissions the Council sets up. 

The Council wants to establish a standard practice of nominating and appointing individuals.  The Council had various revisions to the proposed policies.  Council member Cynthia Jaramillo will make the changes suggested by the Council and present them to the Council this coming week.


Chief Justice William Johnson of the Isleta Appellate Court reports to Council.  He explains his concern with Council’s decision to replace Associate Justice Francine Jaramillo with a non-lawyer.  He said Justice Jaramillo is one of the brightest attorneys he has ever met. She has excellent legal writing and legal research skills. It is very important for her to remain a Justice due to the legal issues the Court must resolve.

Francine Jaramillo is a tribal member.  She is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Law. 

Apparently, at a prior meeting, the Council decided to appoint Roseanna Toya-Lucero to the Appellate Court. Ms. Lucero is also a tribal member.  The Council decided that Toya-Lucero would replace Justice Francine Jaramillo.

Essentially, Chief Justice Johnson explained that removing Jaramillo and replacing her with a non-lawyer would be detrimental to the Appellate Court because of the complex cases the Court hears. 

Secretary Verna Teller states one of the factors for the Council’s decision was due to Francine Jaramillo applying for a job as Assistant General Counsel for the Pueblo.

[It is unclear whether the Pueblo has actually offered the position to Ms. Jaramillo].

The Council notified Chief Justice Johnson that Ms. Toya-Lucero accepted the position on the Isleta Appellate Court.

Chief Justice Johnson asked whether this meant that Justice Jaramillo had to step down. 

The Council did not respond directly to his question. Johnson also explained that he submitted a memo to the Council concerning the ordinance establishing the terms for the Appellate Justices. According to Johnson, the ordinance establishes that their terms expire in December of 2013.

Council never received the memo from Johnson because none of the Council members had any knowledge of the memo. Chief Justice Johnson is going to re-submit the memo.  He asked the Council to review the memo and to please take it seriously.

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero read a provision from the Appellate Court ordinance, which seemed to indicate that the terms of the Appellate Justices coincide with the terms of the Council.  Justice Johnson did not comment on the provision read by Lucero.

President Michael Allen Lente advised the Chief Justice that the Council would be discussing the appointment of Appellate Justices in an executive session of the Council later in the day.

Chief Justice Johnson explained that the Appellate Court Justices serve on a part time basis and that was the primary cause for why the Court was slow in processing appeal cases. Most of the Justices hold down full time jobs.

Secretary Teller was concerned that the other Justices of the Appellate Court were not attending the Council meeting whenever the Appellate Court was on the Council’s agenda.  She did not understand why the Chief Justice was the only one appearing.

The Chief Justice submitted a written report to the Council on the number and types of cases that were pending.  The Council, however, did not make the report available to tribal members attending the meeting.  Also, the Council did not get into an in depth discussion of the numbers reported by Johnson.


Council member Josephine Padilla asked whether it was a conflict of interest for Michael Paquin, a member of the IBC Board of Directors, to receive contracts for his business while serving on the Board.

Paquin owns a landscaping business known as Landscape Technologies, Inc.

Council member Barbara Sanchez stated that Paquin does not get paid for the services he provides.  She stated that Paquin was providing landscaping services as a “contribution” to the Tribe.

Council member Padilla stated that Paquin did receive compensation of $ 110,000 for a job.  Sanchez replied that the contract was with the Tribe and not the IBC.

Secretary Teller stated that she could not determine whether it was a conflict.

The Council did not discuss the matter any further. They moved on to filling two vacancies on the IBC Board.

Council member James Abeita motioned to nominate Jessica Jaramillo as a possible candidate to the IBC Board.  Phillip Jiron seconds.  Motion carries 12 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining.

The four nominees to the IBC Board of Directors were:

Frank Lujan (former Governor);
Fayla Kovacs;
Michael Paquin; &
Jessica Jaramillo.

Secretary Verna Teller motions for the Council to vote by secret ballot to fill the two vacancies on the IBC Board.  Phillip Jiron seconds. Motion carries 12 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining.

Sheriff Benny Piro collects the ballots and Lt. Governor Isidor Abeita reads the ballots.

Former Governor Frank Lujan receives 4 votes;
Fayla Kovacs receives 6 votes;
Michael Paquin receives 7 votes; &
Jessica Jaramillo receives 7 votes.

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo motions to appoint Michael Paquin and Jessica Jaramillo to the Board of Directors for the IBC for 2013-2014.  Motion carries 11 in favor, 1 opposed and 1 abstaining. Secretary Teller opposed.


The Council tabled appointments to the Labor Relations Board because they did not have a sufficient number of candidates.

Council member Josephine Padilla reminded the Council that at a prior meeting, she motioned to nominate Joe Anzara to the Labor Relations Board but no one seconded her motion. 


Council member Barbara Sanchez motions to appoint Eugene Wade to the Ethics Board and for the Council to later select someone else to serve as an alternate member of the Ethics Board. Juan Rey Abeita seconds. Motion carries 9 in favor, 0 against and 3 abstaining.  Abstaining were Secretary Verna Teller and Council members Cynthia Jaramillo and Josephine Padilla. 


At 3:45 p.m., Council member Barbara Sanchez motions to enter into executive session to discuss appointments to the Isleta Appellate Court. Douglas Jiron seconds.  Motion carries 10 in favor, 0 opposed and 2 abstaining. Secretary Verna Teller and Council member Juan Rey Abeita abstained.

I left the meeting when the Council went into executive session.

By Christopher Abeita

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