Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

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Highlights ITC Meeting April 25, 2013

Meeting started at 9:08 a.m.

Absent: Governor Eddie Paul Torres; Lt. Gov. Antonio Chewiwi; Council members Barbara Sanchez & Juan Rey Abeita.

President Michael Allen Lente announced that the evaluation of Pamela Gallegos, CEO of the Albuquerque Hard Rock Casino, will be delayed because Gallegos is required to complete a “self-evaluation” and submit it to the Council.

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero requested that his travel and donation request be added to the agenda.

9:16 a.m. Council member Douglas Jiron arrived.

GOVERNOR’S REPORT

BOUNDARY DISPUTE WITH VALENCIA COUNTY

Tribal Attorney, Pablo Padilla, updated the Council on the Pueblo’s ongoing boundary dispute with Valencia County. He reported that Governor Torres met with two Valencia County Commissioners, the County Manager, the County Attorney and one person that represents a neighborhood association. The purpose was to discuss a solution to a boundary dispute.

According to Padilla, Valencia County is in trespass on our southern boundary. To correct the problem, the fence line must be moved. He explained that the Valencia County manager failed to attend a previously scheduled meeting with Governor Torres to discuss the problem. Valencia’s manager did not notify the Governor that he was unable to attend the meeting. So, Governor Torres asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to move forward on resolving the matter.

Valencia County will have 60 days to remedy the problem. Governor Torres is set to meet with Valencia’s officials on May 22nd to follow up on their corrective efforts.

LOBBYIST

Attorney Padilla distributed a renewal contract between the Pueblo and Drew Setter.  Setter is the lobbyist for the Pueblo. Governor Torres wants the Council to review the contract and approve it for his signature this coming week. 

TRAVEL REQUEST

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero requested approval of a travel request for himself and Council member Juan Rey Abeita. Lucero wants to attend a meeting in Fort Defiance concerning the building and development of solar plants.  He also requested the Council to consider donating up to $7,500 to a function relating to the meeting.

Council member Fernando Abeita expressed concern about the donation. Council member Lucero immediately criticized Abeita by stating that you brought Art De La Cruz in here, your buddy, asking for a donation.  

Council member Fernando Abeita wanted to know how the Tribe would benefit from the donation. He also stated, “We don’t have any policies or guidelines for donation requests, then we cry about it later.”

Council member Josephine Padilla ended their discussion by making a motion to approve travel for Council members Joseph “Cougar” Lucero and Juan Rey Abeita to travel to Fort Defiance to attend the meeting. Phillip Jiron seconded. Motion carried 8 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 abstaining. Joseph “Cougar” Lucero abstained. Secretary Verna Teller was out of the room when the motion was made.

LABOR BOARD

Dicky Garcia from Human Resources updated the Council on the Labor Board. Garcia will provide an orientation to the newly appointed Labor Board members.  He will provide the Board with the policies and procedures and he will go over those documents with them. Garcia said that Attorney Padilla will also hand over 5 to 6 employment appeal cases to the Labor Board.  The Labor Board will then be responsible for processing the pending appeals.

COUNCIL MEETING MINUTES

The Council began to review their meeting minutes for approval. Council member Cynthia Jaramillo stated that she was concerned about the format of the meeting minutes because the document did not identify the Council members.

Secretary Teller explained that the names of the Council members would be included. She stated that she needs help from the administrative assistant to get the meeting minutes complete. The assistant attends Council meetings and types out the meeting minutes during the Council session. Secretary Teller also takes handwritten notes of the meeting.  The purpose of meeting minutes is to record the Council’s decisions on issues they discuss.

Teller stated that she uses the notes taken by the administrative assistant and compares them with her minutes to ensure accuracy.  She also explained that recording the meeting minutes prevents her from fully participating in the Council’s discussion.  So, Teller requested that the administrative assistant attend all Council meetings including their meetings with Casino’s management. Currently, the assistant will only attend Council meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo said she does not feel it is appropriate for the Secretary to rely upon the administrative assistant.  She said it is the job of the Secretary to take the minutes. Jaramillo then said she was willing to help Teller by taking the minutes.

Secretary Teller said “you are missing the point.” She asked why was the administrative assistant attending the meeting. She said their purpose is to help with taking the meeting minutes.

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero agreed with Jaramillo. He did not feel it was “fair or equitable to throw the ladies under the bus.”  He said it is the “duty of the the Secretary to prepare the minutes.”  He said, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”  He said, the Council never had a problem before and that now the Council is having a problem getting the minutes done.

Teller said she was not throwing anyone under the bus.

Council member Fernando Abeita explained that the purpose of the administrative assistant was to help the Secretary of the Council. He said that was the original purpose of hiring an administrative assistant.  But, somehow it changed.

Council member Josephine Padilla asked why was the Council suddenly having this problem. She was concerned that it was a matter of liking or disliking the person responsible for the minutes.

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo took offense from Padilla’s comment. She stated that the prior Council suspended Mark Dixon because he was not getting the minutes complete. She also attacked Council member Fernando Abeita and told him that he never wants to accept responsibility for doing the minutes because he knows it is a lot of work.

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero demanded an audit of the meeting minutes to find out how many minutes were outstanding.

President Michael Allen Lente pounded the gavel and told the Council that he was ending the discussion. He tabled the issue.

ISLETA ELEMENTARY

Shawna Castillo, Principal of Isleta Elementary, and several staff members came before the Council to provide a report. Only 1 person from the School Board attended the meeting. According to Castillo, the Board nembers were unable to attend because they all work during the day.

Principal Castillo explained her efforts to encourage students to get perfect attendance. As a reward for perfect attendance, Castillo said she plays bingo with the students and they have popcorn. She reported that in March 82 students had perfect attendance.

Council member Josephine Padilla asked about the children that do not have perfect attendance. She asked the Principal whether those children felt left out.

Principal Castillo stated that they do not feel left out. They feel okay. She said that the all the children strive for perfect attendance due to the reward.

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero stated, “I don’t buy what you say that the children feel okay about being excluded.” He said, “There has to be an internal feeling of resentment” for being excluded. Lucero said he has heard disturbing complaints about children being verbally abused.

Principal Castillo said she has received no such complaints. But, if parents contact her with complaints, she listens to them and takes action to address the issue with the teachers.

Secretary Teller explained that she dis-enrolled her grandchild from Isleta Elementary because she was not satisfied with how the school is educating children.  She also stated that “it takes an act of God to get rid of teachers.”  Teller explained that the school has many teachers that are tenured and that some of these teachers have no incentive or motivation. She feels the teachers who have been there for so long only care about getting their paychecks. These teachers are now receiving high pay only because they have been there for so long.

82% of the school’s budget goes to salaries.

The teacher/student ratio is 11 to 1.

Principal Castillo said that the Principal can initiate a RIF (Reduction in Force).  But, the Principal has no say so in who goes or who stays.

Vice-President Larry Jaramillo said at a prior meeting a teacher commented that “kids come into school not wanting to learn.” He did not appreciate the comment.

President Michael Allen Lente emphasized that the entire Council will do whatever is needed to help the school.

AFTERNOON SESSION

I arrived at 1:13 p.m.

ISLETA ELDERLY BOARD

The Isleta Elderly Board was informing the Council of their activities. The Board also wants to have better coordination of services from the Isleta Recreation Center, Isleta Social Services and the Isleta Health Clinic for tribal elders.

Secretary Verna Teller wanted the elders and their families to know that they could come to Tribal Council meetings.

COMMUNITY MEETING

Governor Torres arrived at 1:40 p.m. He handed out a tentative agenda to the Council for the community meeting set for Saturday, April 27, at 9:00 a.m. He said the agenda will be provided to tribal members at the door. The meeting will occur at the Hard Rock Casino in the showroom. He said the meeting will be for three hours. He then left because he was working on the presentation to the community. [NOTE: The community meeting was subsequently canceled due to a death in the community.]

HEALTH CLINIC

David Antel, Director of the Isleta Health Clinic, and Clem Romero a member of the Health Board updated the Council. Romero stated that the terms for the Board members expire on December 31st. The Health Board meets on the second Monday of every month. Their meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m.  She told the Council that they have “no significant problems that require attention.”

Secretary Verna Teller expressed concerns about a hostile working environment at the clinic.  She said that she understands that there are several complaints. She was concerned that the complaints were not moving up the chain of command to Antel.  She said there is a “clique” at the Clinic that is causing problems. Antel said he was not aware of the issue and could not respond.

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo asked Romero whether the Health Board receives complaints and how the Board handled the complaints.

Romero explained that when the Board learns of a complaint they discuss the complaints without “naming names” and then the Board makes recommendations to Antel on how to resolve the problem.  Romero said there was a complaint box at the Clinic to enable people to submit complaints.

Jaramillo also asked about problems with Contract Health failing to pay for referral services. Antel said he was unaware of any complaints. According to Jaramillo, Contract Health is failing to pay for referral services. As a result, service providers are sending unpaid bills to collection agencies.

Antel said that Contract Health processed 2,000 referrals and that without specifics he could not respond.  He also said that due to patient confidentiality he is limited in what he may discuss on specific cases.  He said that a patient may sign a release to allow him to discuss a specific case and respond to patient needs.

Jaramillo also asked about a complaint concerning an Eye Doctor. She wanted to know the the status of the complaint. Antel explained that the complaint was investigated and there was no evidence to support the allegations.

ISLETA ETHICS BOARD

The Chair of the Isleta Ethics Board, Sharon Lente-Burch and the Vice-Chair Charlene Seidl provided an update to the Council. Lente-Burch stated they submitted a report to the Council on December 12, 2012, pursuant to memorandum issued by Council President Fred Lujan. She understood that the report was to inform the newly elected Council members of the activities of the Board. But, the prior Council never provided the Ethics report to the incoming Council members.

In 2012, 17 ethics complaints were filed. 11 were dismissed.  The Board issued 6 formal decisions.

Lente-Burch and Seidl also expressed concern about the failure of the prior Administration and prior Council to publish decisions of the Ethics Board in the Isleta Tribal Newsletter.  The Isleta Ethics Code requires the Ethics Board to publish their decisions in the Newsletter.

According to Lente-Burch and Seidl, the Ethics Board submitted their decisions to Ulysses Abeita because he is responsible for publication of the Tribal Newsletter.  Abeita, however, would not publish the decisions unless Governor Frank Lujan approved of the publication.

The Ethics Chair Lente-Burch and Vice-Chair Seidl were frustrated because they received absolutely no support from the previous Administration and prior Council. They each explained that they were simply trying to ensure compliance with the Ethics Code, which requires their decisions to be published.

President Michael Allen Lente turned to Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero and asked, “Do you know anything about this Joseph?”  Lucero did not respond. Lucero served as Vice-President of the previous Council.

Council member Josephine Padilla stated “my remarks would ruffle feathers.”  She also served as a Council member during the prior term. According to Padilla, the prior Council was aware that the Ethics Code required decisions to be published. She explained that at that time, Fred Lujan reported that Sharon was slamming down the paper and demanding that Uly publish an article.

Secretary Verna Teller stated that she had several concerns regarding the Ethics Code. But, she explained that she did not want to speak out at this time because of a case pending before the Isleta Tribal Court. There is a case before the Tribal Court  between the Ethics Board and the “Alternate Ethics Board.”  Apparently, the previous Council created an “Alternate Ethics Board” to investigate complaints against the original Ethics Board.

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero finally stated that it was Governor [Frank Lujan] that “blocked” publication of the report. he then told the Council, “Be honest, you want to get rid of the Ethics Code and the Ethics Board.”

Ethics Chair Lente-Burch said that the Tribe should have an Ethics Code and that as a sovereign nation we should be able to police ourselves.  She then explained that the Board itself had several concerns about the Ethics Code itself. She stated that it has many “ambiguities.”

The Council thanked the members of the Ethics Board.

After conclusion of this topic, I left the meeting at 3:09 p.m.

 

By Christopher Abeita

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