On November 6, 2014, Michael Allen Lente, President of the Isleta Tribal Council, announced that they received the letter that Charlene Seidl and I (Christopher Abeita) submitted on November 5th. To read the letter, click: Term Limits.
Lente provided a copy to John Antonio, Superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Southern Pueblos Agency. He also gave a copy to the BIA’s Election Board. The Board provided oversight of the Secretarial Election on the constitutional amendments.
The following Board Members were present:
Richard Jaramillo, Jr.;
Francine Jaramillo; &
The Council asked John Antonio whether he obtained an opinion from the BIA’s Solicitor about term limits. A “Solicitor” is another name for a government lawyer. Antonio said that he did not.
On September 2, 2014, Council Member Josephine Padilla requested that Antonio and Tribal Attorney, Pablo Padilla, get the Solicitor’s opinion about term limits. Now, more than 65 days later, the Council still doesn’t have an opinion from the BIA’s Solicitor.
Council Member Fernando Abeita asked Antonio about a verbal opinion that Antonio mentioned at a prior council meeting. Abeita explained that Antonio told the Council — that the Solicitor verbally told Antonio —- that the amendment on term limits would not apply to the current Council. So, Abeita explained, that this is the reason why he made the decision to seek re-election.
Antonio responded that he never obtained a verbal or written opinion from the Solicitor about the issue on term limits. All of the other Election Board Members remained silent. They did not contradict Antonio’s statement.
Nevertheless, President Lente asked Antonio to get the Solicitor’s opinion on term limits. Lente asked them to “expedite it” to allow the Council to address the issue this coming week.
Secretary Verna Teller expressed, that it didn’t make sense why they needed to get the Solicitor’s opinion because it was the Council’s responsibility to resolve the controversy. She then reminded the Council that they just asked voters to eliminate language in the Constitution that required the Tribe to get Secretarial approval on ordinances.
Attorney Pablo Padilla quickly stated, that although the Constitution no longer contained that language, the Council could still obtain opinions from the Solicitor on other issues. Padilla said, that he needed to meet with the Council in an “Executive Session” because he wanted to give them legal advice on — how to deal with the issue on term limits.
On September 2, 2014, Padilla’s legal opinion was that the constitutional amendment on term limits would not apply to the current Council Members. At that time, however, Padilla did not provide any legal reasoning or explanation to support his opinion.
In the end, the Council directed John Antonio to get an opinion from the BIA’s Solicitor to help them make a decision on the term limits controversy.