Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

Isleta Language

Highlights ITC Meeting May 7, 2013

The Council was in break when I arrived at their meeting at 10:20 a.m. The Council resumed their meeting at 10:31 a.m.

Absent: Lieutenant Governor Isidor Abeita.

MESA DEL SOL

Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz and Mike Daly, an executive with Forest City and President of Mesa del Sol, answered questions about the Mesa del Sol development.
 
Mesa del Sol lies just north of the Pueblo’s boundary. Development will include homes and commercial buildings. Some homes will be age-restricted for senior citizens.

Daly explained that they hope to attract companies from out of state to bring jobs to New Mexico. 

Council member Juan Rey Abeita asked what types of businesses he was trying to bring in. Daly said he hopes to attract military contractors, companies that provide financial services and companies involved with renewable energy.
 
Secretary Verna Teller is concerned about the sustainability of water resources. How much water will Mesa del Sol take? Daly stated that residential water users will use 180 gallons per household per day. He did not state how much water commercial users would take.

10:45 a.m. Lt. Governor Isidor Abeita arrived.

ISLETA LANGUAGE

Pablo Padilla, Tribal Attorney, presented a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Isleta Department of Education and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) to the Council for approval.

The Council in 2012 adopted Resolution # 2012-090, which directs Isleta Elementary and the BIE to create a curriculum to teach the Pueblo’s native language and culture to students.

According to Padilla, the purpose of the MOA is to allow the Pueblo to use classrooms at Isleta Elementary to teach the Tribe’s native language and culture to students. 

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo stated that she thought that the BIE should be responsible for paying some of the costs associated with the effort to teach our language to students.  She stated that federal law requires them to implement such programs.

Council member Juan Rey Abeita stated that the BIE has a tight budget and that we needed to move forward with teaching our language to students.  He then made a motion to approve the MOA between the Pueblo and the BIE.  The motion carried 11 in favor, 0 opposed and 1 abstaining.  Council member Cynthia Jaramillo abstained.

UNCLAIMED PER CAPITA FROM LAND CLAIMS SETTLEMENT

In 2005, the Pueblo settled a land claims suit against the US.  Tribal members received a per capita distribution from that settlement.  Some tribal members, however, never claimed their per capita.

Since the money was not claimed, the previous Council requested the Special Trustee of the US to transfer those funds to the Pueblo of Isleta Proceeds of Labor Account, which is a trust account controlled by the Special Trustee of the US. The Council made this request by adopting Resolution # 2012-098. This means that the Pueblo may now use those unclaimed monies.

Attorney Padilla explained that this past March, Peter Fredericks who is a Special Trustee with the Department of Interior sent a letter to Governor Torres requesting a change to Resolution # 2012-098. Fredericks requested the Council to include language stating that 24 tribal members did not claim their per capita distribution checks.

The total amount of unclaimed money was more than $ 260,000.

Secretary Verna Teller made a motion to amend Resolution # 2012-098 as requested by the Special Trustee.  The motion carried 11 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining. Joseph “Cougar” Lucero was not in the room and he did not vote on the motion.

11:53 Break for Lunch.

AFTERNOON SESSION STARTED AT 1:08 P.M.

UNM SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Former Governor of Zuni Pueblo Norman Cooeyate is a liaison with the UNM School of Medicine. He introduced Dr. Cynthia Arndell a Professor at the UNM School of Medicine to the Council.

Dr. Arndell on behalf of the UNM School of Medicine requested that the Pueblo allow medical students to conduct research within Isleta.  Students will visit the community and conduct interviews and surveys of tribal members.  The project will take two weeks and it is set for July 16-25.

Last year, UNM medical students performed a similar research program within Isleta as part of their curriculum. The students met with tribal members and conducted interviews.  The students were very appreciative of the opportunity. The students gave a report of their experience to the previous Council.

Former Governor Cooeyate also introduced Julian Benavidez to the Council. Benavidez is a tribal member. He will be graduating from UNM on May 11, 2013, with a degree in Political Science. The UNM School of Medicine accepted Benavidez as a med student.

Secretary Verna Teller made a motion to allow medical students from the UNM School of Medicine to conduct research and surveys in Isleta from July 16-25. Council member James Abeita seconded.  The motion carried 12 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining.

REQUEST FOR DONATION

Roger Fragua from the Council of Energy Resource Tribes requested the Council to donate money for a memorial to David Lester. 

HARD ROCK CASINO & RESORT

Joe Anzara, Jr., a tribal member, requested that the Council listen to several people with concerns about allegations of mismanagement of the Isleta Hard Rock Casino and Resort.  Anzara was serving as their spokesperson.

According to Anzara, these people have evidence of “mismanagement,” “malfeasance,” and “gross negligence of duty.”

The Council did not allow Anzara to bring in the people he was representing.

Douglas Jiron, Josephine Padilla and James Abeita were the only Council members to speak in favor of allowing Anzara’s group to address the Council.

The following is the essential exchange between Anzara and the Council.

Anzara: 

Are you going to allow the people into the meeting? They want to present testimony on what’s happening at the Casino.

President Lente:

Only your name was on the application. So, the Council is only going to allow you to speak.

Anzara:

But, I don’t know personally about the problems. My only purpose was to open the door for the people that had complaints.

I will do my best to explain the concerns.

On April 23, a group of people asked me to be their spokesperson.  These persons were casino employees and tribal members. They wanted to present testimony and documents to the Council about their mistreatment by the Casino’s management. These people believe that the Casino is mismanaging its resources and that there is gross negligence of duty and they are in malfeasance.

The Casino is also in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act, they are engaging in employment discrimination and there may be potential criminal activity occurring.

These problems were reported to the Governor and the Regulatory Agency [Isleta Gaming Regulatory Agency (IGRA)].

These problems at the Casino have lead to a drastic decline in revenue and low employee morale.

Employees are fearful of retaliation from the Casino’s management. Employees fear job termination.

I ask you to hear the testimony from the people that are waiting outside.

President Lente:

No testimony. I don’t think so. Do these people have grievances?

Anzara:

The employees filed grievances.

CM Fernando Abeita:

The Council cannot overrule any decision that’s been rendered.

Anzara:

They just want the Council to know about the unfair practices of the Casino. Not necessarily to overturn decisions of the Labor Board.

[Anzara and his group submitted documents to the Council].

Anzara:

If you look at exhibit 1 about George San Miguel, he received a sponsorship of $2,500 approved by Pamela Gallegos. [Gallegos is the CEO of the Casino].  The sponsorship is in violation of policies.

President Lente:

I gave you the courtesy to come before the Council. Now, I want your courtesy to know where you got these documents.

Anzara:

That’s why you need to hear from these people.

President Lente:

I’ll take that – as you don’t want to tell me.

Anzara:

Look at exhibit # 5, these documents show quid pro quo because Pam authorized the purchase of surveillance cameras from a company.  The company then nominated her for an award. Pam then hired the person that nominated her as a director.

It’s unfair to the people that you are not allowing them to testify. 

CM Douglas Jiron:

I would like to hear from these people.

Vice-President Larry Jaramillo:

It depends on how the Council feels.

CM Josephine Padilla:

I can listen to them. They can give a thorough explanation of what happened. We don’t have to ask questions. I would like to hear from them.

CM Joseph “Cougar” Lucero:

How many of these people are tribal members?

Anzara:

I don’t know?

CM Joseph “Cougar” Lucero:

Are you trying to tell me that these people went to you for help and you don’t know how many are tribal members?

We are opening the door for outsiders, but not for our own members.

Are we gonna hear testimony? I don’t feel comfortable doing that because it’s like we are rehearing a case.

Anzara:

We are not hearing any case.

CM Joseph “Cougar” Lucero:

You said testimony! I don’t need to hear testimony! I can read your package myself. If I have questions, then I can request to ask questions.  This information is proprietary and confidential and I don’t understand how you got this information.

Anzara:

As usual, I’m beginning to sense side stepping of the issue.  These people want to make the Council aware of these issues. These people were willing to show up to testify about what is happening at the Casino. Don’t just sit aside and let it go. Bring these people in and hear from them.

CM James Abeita:

We have the written information. I suggest that we bring in the people one at time. Maybe we need to look at this information and glean questions from the documents.

CM Joseph “Cougar” Lucero:

We should read the information first and then have a meeting with tribal members that are employees and assure them that there won’t be any retaliation.

CM Juan Rey Abeita:
 
My concern is the credibility of the information. You don’t want to tell us who you are bringing before the Council or how you got this information. This lacks credibility and it makes it difficult for me to want to hear this.

Secretary Verna Teller:

I haven’t had a chance to look over all of the documents.  But, one of the documents complains about Ray Jojola.  He’s not even at the Casino any more. He’s been gone a long time.  So, that complaint is really old.

[Ray Jojola was Director of Human Resources at the Casino.  He is no longer employed with the Casino.]

We are concerned about the health of the business.  We want to make sure that the business is functioning in a good way. This Council has had discussion of the problems at the Casino.

How do you know we are not doing anything about it?! 

We are addressing problems. We are creating laws left and right.

The HR Department is getting restructured. But, it’s not gonna happen overnight.

If I see that something is happening to correct the problems then I have to let it go through that process.  HR is starting to redevelop.

The Gaming Agency [IGRA] is taking action to ensure that the casino is following policy and some of those items we cannot discuss with you. 

I am concerned that these people are just disgruntled employees. And, I have a problem with non-tribal members taking out documents from the reservation and publicizing it to the outside. These documents are propriety and confidential.  We gave these people jobs and gave them a paycheck.  Now, we are stabbed in the back!

We need to follow our own procedures.  I agree with Mr. Lucero.  We should listen to our own tribal members first.

Anzara:

These problems are continuing. These problems persist.  People don’t see what you are doing about it. And, they still see the problems as occurring.

CM Douglas Jiron:

There are always two sides to a story.  I think we need to hear from them.  There may be some truth to what they have to say. We should hear from them.

CM Josephine Padilla:

Just because we listen, doesn’t mean we are agreeing with them.  How they got this information is anyone’s guess. They are giving this information to a tribal member to make the tribe look bad.  It’s our own tribal members that are putting out this information and our own Tribe is being hurt.

Information is getting onto Facebook and we are pointing fingers at each other about leaking information.  Now, we [the Council] are divided ourselves.

You need to think about what you are doing and how it affects the Tribe.

President Lente:

You need to think about what information you are putting out.  We will look at these documents.

Anzara:

I just want you to know that I came here because people came to me to express their concerns and that’s why I’m here.

Council adjourned at 3:38 p.m.

By Christopher Abeita

Isleta Pueblo Politics © 2014 Frontier Theme
%d bloggers like this: