Council Member Juan Rey Abeita Wants Secrecy

During the meeting on August 12, 2014, Lt. Governor Antonio Chewiwi requested that the Isleta Tribal Council approve payment of legal fees to the Sonosky Law Firm.

Council member Josephine Padilla asked why their bill included legal fees of approximately $10,000 for water issues. She was concerned because the Tribe has a full time in house attorney that is supposed to be handling water law issues.

Pablo Padilla is the in house attorney for the Pueblo. This means that he works full time for the Pueblo as a tribal employee and he receives a salary. So, Padilla does not bill the Tribe on an hourly basis for his time.

The Tribe also has a contract with the Sonosky Law Firm. This firm provides legal services to the Tribe whenever requested by the Governor or the Tribal Council. This firm then bills the Tribe on an hourly basis for their legal services.

Council member Fernando Abeita explained that during a previous term, Pablo Padilla gave the Tribe an ultimatum. According to Abeita, Padilla told a prior Council that he was a water law attorney and that he would handle the Tribe’s water law issues.

However, Padilla wanted a substantial pay increase to handle the water law issues or else he would quit his job. So, a prior Council approved a very substantial pay increase for Padilla.

Council member Juan Rey Abeita immediately stated that he is opposed to the Council discussing the salaries of employees in front of the public. He did not feel it was appropriate because he said that it was a personnel issue.

Council President, Michael Allen Lente, asked the Council to stay focused on whether to approve the bill from the Sonosky Law Firm. So, the Council approved the payment request.

EDITORIAL COMMENT

Do you agree with Council member Juan Rey Abeita? His position is that the Tribal Council should keep the compensation of tribal governmental employees’ secret, er, I mean “confidential.”

Tribal employees are governmental employees. Therefore, they are public employees. Our tribal government pays public employees with your money, your children’s money, our money. So, why shouldn’t we have the right to know how much money our Tribe is paying governmental employees?

If the mentality of people like Council member Juan Rey Abeita prevails, then it will be impossible to give scrutiny to the compensation of governmental employees. In other words, the Council and the Governors will be able to increase salaries of whomever they want without our knowledge – without scrutiny. This means, if our tribal officials like a specific person, then they can give that person a salary increase regardless of whether that person deserves it.

At this point, I do not know whether Pablo Padilla deserved a salary increase. But, I do know that our government is paying him with our money. Therefore, we have a right to know how much money the Council is choosing to pay him or any other governmental employee. 

If the Council or Governors believe that, an employee should get a large salary — that’s fine. But, they should be able to justify their decision to us. Why? Because it’s our money, it is money that we entrusted to them to spend wisely.

There is a high threat of governmental abuse when our tribal officials are able to keep the compensation of governmental employees secret. Secrecy enables our tribal officials to make dirty deals. Secrecy prevents us from learning how they are using OUR money. Secrecy allows Tribal officials to escape accountability. So, do you agree with Council member Juan Rey Abeita?

4 Replies to “Council Member Juan Rey Abeita Wants Secrecy”

  1. First of all, Fernando Abeita is absolutely correct. Pablo Padilla informed the Tribal Council that he would tackle the Water Rights Issue because of his background in water rights and previous work with another Pueblo. Pablo Padilla then requested that the Pueblo of Isleta increase his salary from $90,000 to $140,000 if the Pueblo decided to use Padilla and his background on water rights
    issues for Isleta. The Tribal Council approved the $40,000 pay increase for Pablo Padilla because it would eliminate the use of the Sonosky Firm (David Mielke, Tribal Attorney) and charging Isleta by an hourly rate. Big mistake, has Isleta Pueblo tackled the water rights issue yet?
    Second, I do not agree with Juan Rey Abeita! You bet we, as tribal members, have every right to be informed about OUR tribal finances, the key word here is “OUR” finances, not just the Isleta Tribal Council. Juan Rey Abeita’s statements are uncalled for and this information should be distributed to the entire tribal membership. AND a question should be posed to Juan Rey Abeita at the Community Meeting on Saturday. Besides discussing Pablo Padilla’s salary, maybe the Tribal Council should discuss whether to impose a drug test on Juan Rey Abeita.
    Finally, the Isleta Tribal Election is around the corner so consider the statements by Juan Rey Abeita. Does Isleta Pueblo really want this type of caliber making decisions for us? I think not but to those who voted for Juan Rey Abeita should think twice before casting their vote again for Juan Rey Abeita.

  2. Juan Rey is a kid. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Why does the council like to hide in secret meetings? Why do they have meetings in executive status? Can they do that?

    For years Isleta has acted in secrecy about our tribal budget, salaries, housing, state and federal grants, and casino profits or losses. This method is outdated and must be stopped.

    The facebook page shows Pablo and Juan Rey in jail. Did Pablo get arrested for aggravated DWI? If so, why is he still our attorney when he can’t obey the law? It’s embarrassing enough to have a governor busted for DWI, now a council member and tribal attorney. Isleta used to be well respected now we look stupid and drunk.

    Chris, thank you for these reports. I share them with my mother and family. Will you run for council this year? You have my vote.

    1. Thank you for the comment. I did edit one sentence of your statement because it was raising an issue that I have no knowledge about and it was potentially defamatory. As for executive sessions, there is nothing in the Constitution that allows the Council to have secret meetings. Nevertheless, every Council has utilized executive sessions to conduct business in secret. My position is that executive sessions need to be used very rarely. Indeed, the Council should create a law that specifies under what circumstances they may use executive sessions. Further, there needs to be a mechanism that requires them to record those executive sessions and then after a specified period of time elapses then the discussions of those meetings should be made available to our people. That is the only way to ensure that our officials do not do dirty things behind closed doors. They should not be able to use executive sessions to protect themselves from scrutiny. The problem is that each Council does whatever the hell they want and there is very little that we can do about it because they will hide behind sovereignty to avoid accountability. We need to elect people that will take action to create laws that serve the people. Unfortunately, once people get onto the Council, they become more interested in getting their free concert tickets to shows at the Casino instead of dealing with the problems of our Tribe.

      As for running for the Council, I would like to run for Council but Alvino Lucero banned me for the rest of my life from ever running for any public office. He did this because his ideas were weak and he could not compete with the ideas that I expressed as a council member. Thank you for sharing this information and for your comments.

What are your thoughts?