Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

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Highlights ITC Meeting May 2, 2013

Meeting started at 9:06 a.m.

Absent: Council members Juan Rey Abeita & Phillip Jiron.


Andrew Leo Lopez presented himself as a candidate for the Board of Directors of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD). He is seeking position # 4.  He made the following points:

* he’s been a Forensic Accountant for 40 years;
* graduate of Stanford University;    
* born & raised in the South Valley;
* believes that Isleta people should continue to operate the MRGCD Diversion Dam;
* does not believe the Pueblo is getting quality services for the money the Tribe pays to MRGCD;
* fought to reduce legal fees for the MRGCD;
* wants Isleta to support him because he is not competing with the Pueblo for water unlike other candidates; &
* said that if it was not for Isleta and Sandia, Albuquerque would have polluted the Rio Grande.



Carolyn Dailey, Director of Isleta Social Services, submitted a request for supplemental funding. She is requesting tribal funds to hire two persons for Social Services. At a prior meeting, the Council advised Daily to submit the request.  Governor Torres asked Council to review the documents for approval at their next meeting.


Lt. Governor Isidor Abeita presented a home site application for Matthew Lucero. Lucero is requesting permission to use his property as a storage yard for construction materials. This is a parcel of property he purchased from Emily Schuler. Lt. Abeita said that the materials would include rock, sand and possibly other materials, which he could not specify.  The application did not include building a structure on the property.

Governor Torres told the Council that all necessary departments reviewed Lucero’s application and gave approval on his proposed use of the property.

President Michael Allen Lente and Council member Fernando Abeita were concerned that the information was not specific enough as to the types of materials to be stored on the property.

Council member James Abeita had safety concerns due to the proposed area. He said that the straight away traffic is very fast in that area.  He was concerned that there would be accidents, if heavy trucks are coming and going from that area. 

Council members Cynthia Jaramillo, Barbara Sanchez and Joseph “Cougar” Lucero wanted the Council to approve Lucero’s application because the various tribal departments already approved the application.

Council member Barbara Sanchez made a motion to approve Matthew Lucero’s home site development application for a construction yard only and with no water services.  Motion failed 4 in favor, 5 against and 1 abstaining.

Voting Yes:
Fernando Abeita
Barbara Sanchez
Joseph “Cougar” Lucero
Cynthia Jaramillo

Voting No:
Michael Allen Lente
James Abeita
Douglas Jiron
Larry Jaramillo
Josephine Padilla

Verna Teller


Josephine Padilla stated that she voted no because the Council has too many questions on the use of the property.

Council member James Abeita stated that he opposed because “we need to have our questions answered.”

President Lente made a motion to have Matthew Lucero come before the Council to answer questions concerning the use of his property for storage of construction materials.  Josephine Padilla seconded.  Motion carried 5 in favor, 4 opposed and 1 abstaining.


Voting Yes:
Michael Allen Lente
Josephine Padilla
James Abeita
Larry Jaramillo
Douglas Jiron
Voting No:
Barbara Sanchez
Joseph “Cougar” Lucero
Cynthia Jaramillo
Fernando Abeita
Verna Teller


The Council brought in Denny James, Executive Director of the Isleta Pueblo Housing Authority (IPHA), to answer questions concerning the application for Vernon Abeita.  The following Board Members for IPHA were also present: Allen Zuni, Chairman; Debbie Lente-Jojola, Vice-Chair; and Richard Lucero. Francis Sandoval, Home Ownership Counselor, was also present.

Vernon Abeita is the Director of Isleta’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Abeita stated that he submitted an application for Housing to make emergency repairs to his home in 2005.  He said his bathroom was falling apart, vigas were cracked and his ceiling had many leaks.

Abeita explained that Paul Lujan for Housing conducted an assessment of the home and decided that Vernon’s home was “substandard.”  Abeita then said that Housing told him that he met the requirements of HUD to qualify for a “free home.” [HUD = Housing and Urban Development, an agency of the federal government.]

Abeita said that later Housing told him that he would have to pay $200 to $250 a month for a new home.  But, Housing was not taking action to build him a home.  He then stated that when his dad was on the Council, his dad told him that “the money was there” to build him a home. Vernon was referring to Leonard Abeita his father and a former Council member.

9:50 a.m. — Council member Juan Rey Abeita arrived.

Vernon Abeita was speaking very sternly and he stated several times, “I want a house.” He explained that he has three children and that he should qualify for a home. He also said that he has a child with dyslexia, which is a disability and that should also qualify him to get a home. He said that he does a lot for the Tribe. He volunteers his time with the cub scouts and does many other things for the Tribe without pay.

Frances Sandoval for Housing explained that Vernon Abeita never qualified for a home through HUD because he was over income by $ 15K.

To use federal money, the IPHA must comply with HUD regulations.  HUD money is intended to help persons that are low income. HUD regulations specify how housing entities like IPHA must spend federal money. Violations of HUD regulations could cause IPHA to lose future funding.

Vernon Abeita stated that no one from Housing ever told him that he did not qualify.

Sandoval explained that she prepared a letter to Vernon, which explained why he did not qualify for Housing under the HUD program. She then gave the letter to the Housing Director for his signature.  The Housing Director, at that time, was Eddie Paul Torres. According to Sandoval, Torres did not want to sign the letter. Instead, Torres told Sandoval that he would tell Vernon “in person.”

Governor Torres explained that Vernon was over income by only $23 dollars and that he was on the “borderline.” So, when he was the Director of Housing he contacted HUD to obtain a waiver for Vernon.  The purpose of the waiver was to allow Housing to use HUD money for Vernon despite his income.  Torres said that HUD granted the waiver, which meant that Vernon qualified for housing assistance through HUD.

Sandoval stated that Housing never received any waiver and that she was not aware of Torres contacting HUD to request a waiver for Vernon. 

Chairman Allen Zuni stated that there was never a waiver.

Denny James the Executive Director stated that HUD is extremely strict in granting waivers. He said if HUD did grant a waiver, it would solve the problem.  

Torres stated “I can’t remember if I actually got a document for the waiver.”  But, HUD granted the waiver. Governor Torres said that he would have his people call HUD to find out about the waiver.

The Council also asked Housing to contact HUD to find out whether a waiver was granted.

Vernon Abeita stated that he was told that he was going to get a “free house.” Later, Torres told him he would have to pay $250. But, now he is being told that it is $700 or $750.  He said he cannot afford to pay $ 700 because he has 3 children, a truck payment and other bills.  It is expensive to raise kids.  He said he is not willing to pay more than $ 300 a month for a home.

Council member Juan Rey Abeita said that he knows Vernon and that he deserves a house.  He does a lot for the Tribe. He also said “I know his kids and they are good kids.”

Council member Barbara Sanchez asked, “Is there a transitional home for him?”

Director Denny James said that Housing has 2 homes for emergency purposes that might be available.

Council member Sanchez said that Vernon needed to work with the Housing Board.

Chairman Zuni stated that because of Vernon’s salary the only option for him was the Tribe’s Home Loan Program.

Council member Josephine Padilla wanted Vernon to understand that Housing is bound by policies and that Housing must comply with the policies to be fair to everyone.

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero told Denny James, it concerns me that you have to be told to do research to find the waiver.  He said these are our people.  We need to help them.

Vernon Abeita stated “I don’t want to be on the bottom of the list. I don’t want to pay $800 a month. I’m willing to pay $300 a month.” He is concerned that Housing will place him behind other people on the list under the Tribe’s Home Loan Program.

Vice-President Larry Jaramillo was worried about Vernon’s children and he asked Vernon whether he was willing to move into another home temporarily.

Vernon Abeita replied, “I don’t want to pay for something I’m not gonna own.”

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo stated that it would take 51 years for Vernon to pay back the Tribe at $300 a month.

Vernon said he would go no higher than $ 500 a month.

Council member Barbara Sanchez stated that she did not feel comfortable with the meeting because the Council was getting involved with housing matters.  She wanted the IPHA to work with Vernon Abeita on his housing problem. 

The Council advised Vernon to work with the Housing Board and Council ended their discussion on this issue at 11:15 a.m.

I left the meeting when the Council ended their discussion of this topic.


By Christopher Abeita

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