Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

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People of Isleta in the Dark

ggSecretary Barbara Sanchez Fights to Keep Tribal Members in the Dark

On January 20th, the Isleta Tribal Council discussed the status of the “Ethics Code”. Don’t be fooled by the name – “the Ethics Code” – because the true purpose of the “Code” is to maintain governmental secrecy. So, it is a very dangerous weapon.

Secretary Barbara Sanchez pushed the Council to re-instate the Isleta Ethics Code. If re-instated, the Ethics Code will allow Tribal Officials like Barbara Sanchez to maintain a strict order of governmental secrecy.

How? Because the Isleta Ethics Code allows the Council:

to punish political opposition;

to punish officials holding minority viewpoints;

to punish officials that speak against the status quo; &

to punish tribal members that speak out for a transparent government.

The Isleta Ethics Code is a tool that tries to legitimize the illegal suspensions of duly elected officials.

Does our Tribe need an ethic code? Sure. But, we don’t need the current Ethics Code.

There are numerous problems with the Isleta Ethics Code. Here are a few examples:

“No Tribal Official shall undermine or publicly disagree with official Tribal Council action.1)Isleta Ethics Code, Section 2(D)(10)

This provision is designed to silence political opposition. It is designed to eliminate public debate of critical issues affecting our Tribe. It prevents us from learning and understanding different viewpoints. Without public debate or criticism of “official Tribal Council action” it prevents us from improving our government. 

The Code states,

“[n]o Tribal Official shall use or disclose confidential information . . . .”

“Confidential information shall mean all technical and non-technical information disclosed to anyone covered by this Code, including but not limited to trade secrets, proprietary information, notes, marketing plans, financial data, analyses, compilations, studies, reports, memoranda or other documents, and includes information that is not in written form.” 2)Id at Section 2(C)

This definition makes every scrap of paper generated by our Tribal Government and its enterprises “confidential.” This enables our government to keep us in the dark. It enables our government to prevent the people from the learning the truth. It enables our officials to hide corruption.

“No Tribal Official shall knowingly misinform individuals or the community to purposely discredit the integrity of the government or individual elected or appointed officials.3)Id at Section 2(D)(6)

Again, this language is so overly broad that it allows anyone to accuse a Tribal Official of violating this provision. The true purpose of this language is to silence officials from expressing a viewpoint that differs from tribal officials standing in the majority.

Ultimately, the provisions that I’m highlighting are designed to maintain governmental secrecy. A government that operates in secrecy breeds corruption. Is that what we really want?

If not, then it’s our responsibility to ensure that our government operates openly. We need the ability to see what our Tribal Officials are doing once they are elected into office.

Tribal Attorney Pablo Padilla

So, who is responsible for drafting and advising our Council to adopt such a poorly designed document? Tribal Attorney Pablo Padilla.

Interestingly, on January 20th, Attorney Padilla told the Council that he began working for the Tribe in July 2009. He tried to minimize or disclaim responsibility for the Ethics Code by stating that 3 Council Members already developed the Code by the time he started working for the Tribe.

Well, the Ethics Code was not adopted until November 30, 2010. Strangely, the Council had to re-adopt the same Code once more on December 30, 2010. So, by this time Attorney Padilla had already been working with the Tribe for a minimum of 16 months. And, according to Tribal Officials, at that time, Padilla was responsible for drafting the Code and advising the Council on how to enforce the Ethics Code.

Padilla, however, is well aware that most professionals would consider the Isleta Ethics Code seriously flawed, poorly designed and subject to abuse. So, now Padilla is trying to distance himself from the monstrosity that he advised our Tribe to adopt.

Attorney Pablo Padilla has produced a very poor quality of work. In fact, time after time, the Council has had to amend Resolutions and Ordinances that he drafted to correct flaws. We are paying him $140,000.00 annually plus fringe benefits for his half-assed work. Our Tribe deserves better.


Governmental Secrecy vs. Your Right to Know

References   [ + ]

1. Isleta Ethics Code, Section 2(D)(10)
2. Id at Section 2(C)
3. Id at Section 2(D)(6)

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