Isleta’s Secret Tax

Is the Isleta Resort and Casino Collecting an Illegal Sales Tax?

The Isleta Resort and Casino and various tribal enterprises are collecting a 6% sales tax from tribal members and anyone else buying goods and services from those enterprises.  To collect this tax, the Isleta Tribal Council had to adopt a sales tax ordinance. 

The question is: Where is it? Where is that ordinance?

Several past and present council members have no knowledge of ever adopting a sales tax.

Doesn’t the Casino’s CFO, Maria Otero, have a copy of the sale’s tax ordinance? She should because she is the Chief Financial Officer of the Casino.

Doesn’t the Tribal Treasurer, Kurt Weber, have a copy of the sales tax ordinance? He should, he’s the Treasurer.

Nevertheless, the Casino is still collecting the tax. So, the ordinance must be lying around in somebody’s office at the Casino.

The Isleta Tribal Constitution gives the Council the power to impose taxes on tribal members and non-members.  But, the Council must do so in accordance with our Constitution and the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA).

If the Council enacted a sales tax and failed to provide the public with notice of their tax, it raises a serious legal question.  Is the sales tax constitutional?

The Isleta Tribal Constitution and the ICRA require our tribal government to provide due process.  In this case, due process means the Council must provide the public with NOTICE of the laws that they’ve enacted. This means the Council must publicize their laws. And, we, the people, must have access to those laws.

Exclusive Limited Interview

Here’s my fictional interview with the Isleta Tribal Council followed by their answers — based on the legal advice of their attorney, Pablo Padilla. 

Q: When did the Council enact their sales tax?

A: Nobody knows.

Q: Where is the sales tax ordinance so people can read it?

A: It’s confidential, you can’t see it. 

Q: When did the Council submit their tax law to the Secretary of Interior for review and approval?

A: We don’t know.

Q: Where are the documents that prove that the Council lawfully enacted their sales tax?

A: Governor has dem. But, they’re confidential. 

Q: How much revenue has been generated from the tax?

A: That’s confidential!

Q: How does the Council spend the sales tax revenue?

A; None of your business!

Q: Why is the current Council failing to publicize their laws?

A: We don’t believe in that — cuz that’s the white man’s way.

Q: Why is the Council failing to make their laws easily and readily available to tribal members?

A: Cuz we don’t want to. 

Joking aside – The questions are legitimate. But sadly, those are the types of answers that you’d likely get from council members. Give it a try and ask them questions about the tax.

The Council’s failure to publish their laws is a serious issue because the Council demands that we comply with their laws. But, how do you comply with secret laws?

This Council should make their sale tax law easily available to the public because the Casino is collecting this tax from tribal members and all other patrons. Indeed, they should ensure that they are taking action to make all tribal laws available to the people. 

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