Hush Money

Nambè Falls Casino Hires Pamela Gallegos

Pamela Gallegos, former CEO of the Isleta Resort and Casino, is now the new General Manager of the Nambè Falls Casino. Gallegos was forced to leave Isleta in January 2015.

At that time, the Isleta Tribal Council and Governor Eddie Paul Torres wanted to terminate Gallegos as CEO. To do so, they relied on the legal advice of Tribal Attorney Pablo H. Padilla.

In the end, the Pueblo spent almost $100,000.00 when the Council paid Gallegos hush money to keep quiet. They used the Pueblo’s money to pay her off so she wouldn’t expose tribal officials for abusing their public office.

Here’s what happened . . .

January 2015

Eddie Paul Torres was re-elected and he began his second term as Governor for 2015-2016. The New Year also brought in Frank Lujan, Michael Allen Lente (I), Barbara Sanchez (I), Verna Teller (I), Betty Lente, Fernando Abeita (I), and Ulysses Abeita to serve on the new Council. Four (4) of these persons were incumbents.

Governor Torres and the majority of the incoming Council wanted Pamela Gallegos gone. Their only problem was HOW to get rid of her.

The Council held a meeting in “executive session,” which is a secret meeting. The Council does not keep an official record of their discussion or decisions when they are in executive session. They also kick out any tribal members that are in attendance.

The purpose of the Council’s secret meeting was to find a way to terminate Gallegos. The Council called in Patrick Sanchez, Executive Director of the Pueblo of Isleta Gaming Regulatory Agency (POIGRA). The POIGRA is responsible for ensuring that the Casino complies with all gaming laws to protect the public. It’s also supposed to protect the Casino’s assets.

Torres and the Council were hoping that the POIGRA discovered some type of evidence that would allow them to revoke the gaming license of Gallegos.

To work at the Casino, all employees must maintain a gaming license. If the POIGRA revokes an employee’s gaming license, the employee loses their job automatically.

Torres and the Council, however, would soon be disappointed because Sanchez reported that the POIGRA found no evidence that would justify revoking the CEO’s license.

Nevertheless, Torres and the Council still wanted Gallegos gone. But, they needed to find some other excuse to justify terminating her contract. The employment contract was preventing them from terminating Gallegos.

So —- who would help the Council and Governor terminate Gallegos despite her contract?

Pablo H. Padilla, Attorney at Law . . .

Padilla is the in house lawyer for the Pueblo. This means that he’s a full time employee. He has one assistant — Attorney Kaydee Culbertson. Together, they provide legal advice to every branch of tribal government including tribal agencies, programs, enterprises, employees and tribal officials. (Conflicts of interests be damned; but — that’s a story for a later date.)

Padilla told the Governor and Council that he could get rid of Gallegos by using the ice skating rink fiasco as justification.

Flash Back December 2014 . . .

To refresh your memories, in December 2014, the Isleta Resort and Casino was in the process of making a deal with the City of Albuquerque.

The Casino owns an artificial ice skating rink. The ice rink turned out to be a disaster for the Casino because patrons began suffering injuries, which exposed the Casino to liability. The ice rink also failed to generate the anticipated revenue. So, the Casino was forced to throw the rink into storage.

Gallegos then saw a chance to salvage the ice rink by negotiating a deal with Albuquerque. The deal was for the Casino to give the ice rink to Albuquerque at zero cost. The City would then place the ice rink downtown. The Isleta Resort and Casino would then benefit from the advertising generated from the rink’s location.

Governor Torres, his Lieutenants and Council President Michael Allen Lente were the select few that were aware of the deal with Albuquerque.

Eventually, the media broke the news. This caused several council members to become angry because they didn’t know about it.

Joseph “Cougar” Lucero was one of those council members. He was upset because he was left in the dark. So, Lucero led the attack against Gallegos. He tried to use the ice rink deal as a basis to terminate Gallegos.

Gallegos, however, had enough political support and the smarts to force the Council to spin in circles. Ultimately, Council members reached a compromise between each other by agreeing to punish Gallegos with a two week suspension on December 19, 2014. And, the entire deal with Albuquerque fell apart.

Fast Forward . . .

Back to January 2015, Attorney Padilla told the Council that he could use the ice rink deal as justification to terminate Gallegos.

Padilla’s theory was that Gallegos overstepped her authority in making the contract with Albuquerque because she failed to get prior approval from the Council. (He was actually wrong because the Governors were well aware of the deal and they signed off on the contract. But, the Governors failed to get the Council’s approval on the deal. So, it was their fault not Gallegos.)

Nevertheless, after the deal fell apart, Padilla told the Council that Gallegos made statements to the media about the ice rink deal without the prior approval of the Council or Governor. Those statements, according to Padilla, could be deemed as adverse to the Casino and the Pueblo.

Padilla felt that those reasons would provide the Council and Governor with sufficient legal justification to terminate the Pueblo’s contract with Gallegos.

Padilla was so confident that he told the Council that once Gallegos knew why she was being terminated, she would offer to resign and there would be no problems. In their desperation to get rid of Gallegos, Governor Torres and the Council agreed with Padilla’s strategy.

The Council then voted to terminate the Pueblo’s contract with Gallegos. The vote was 5 in favor, 2 opposed 0 abstaining. President Frank Lujan, Secretary Barbara Sanchez, Ulysses Abeita, Verna Teller, and Betty Lente voted yes. Vice-President Michael Allen Lente and Fernando Abeita voted no.

The next day, Padilla met with CEO Gallegos to deliver the news. Of course, by this time, Gallegos already knew. Her political allies on the Council tipped her off that she was getting the axe. So, when Padilla met with Gallegos to explain, she was prepared.

Gallegos, without batting an eyelash, told Padilla that she was going to the media to report everything that she knew about Attorney Padilla and Isleta tribal officials using the Casino for their own personal benefit. She was going to disclose how tribal officials, past and present, were abusing their power with the Casino.

Pueblo Pays High Cost to Protect Tribal Officials

Immediately, Attorney Padilla folded. He asked Gallegos what she wanted so she wouldn’t go to the media.

At that point, Gallegos had nothing to lose. She asked for a significant sum of money to keep the secrets of Governor Eddie Paul Torres, President Frank Lujan, Secretary Barbara Sanchez, Attorney Pablo Padilla and numerous other officials past and present.

After his meeting with Gallegos, Padilla immediately ran back to Governor Torres and the Council. Attorney Padilla told them that “Pam” was threatening to go to the media. So, they needed to pay her to keep quite.

Governor Torres was the first to urge the Council to follow Padilla’s advice to pay off Gallegos. And, with little resistance, the Council quickly agreed. All together the Pueblo paid almost $100,000.00 to keep her lips sealed about the secrets of Isleta’s tribal officials.

Editorial Comment

OUR Pueblo wasted close to $100,000.00 to cover up the actions of tribal officials abusing their power. The Pueblo’s money was also wasted to protect Attorney Pablo H. Padilla.

Gallegos got paid because she knows where the bodies are buried.

Who else knows where the bodies are buried? Attorney Pablo H. Padilla . . .

This is why Padilla remains on the Tribe’s payroll with a salary of $140,000.00 plus fringe benefits despite his many blunders. President Frank Lujan, Governor Eddie Paul Torres and Secretary Barbara Sanchez are Padilla’s primary protectors. Why? Why are they protecting him?

Abuse of Power . . .

Isleta tribal officials, past and present, have been using the Casino to pay for their birthday parties and the parties of their relatives. They give themselves expensive hotel rooms for random parties just to get drunk. They give themselves countless concert tickets. At one point, tribal officials had Gallegos so terrified that she was paying for their expensive meals out of her own pocket.

And, Attorney Pablo H. Padilla was in on the action. Padilla, with the blessing of tribal officials, was getting free hotel rooms from our Casino/Hotel for himself, his friends and his family.

To this day, Governor Torres and none of our current Council Members will discuss how Attorney Padilla was able to get free hotel rooms. Why?

Pueblo of Isleta Gaming Regulatory Agency . . .

The Pueblo of Isleta Gaming Regulatory Agency (POIGRA) is supposed to be protecting our Casino and Hotel. It is supposed to prevent people like Padilla from coercing the Casino’s management. But, it’s not. As a result, at the expense of the Pueblo, Attorney Padilla along with various tribal officials used the Casino and Hotel for their own personal benefit.

For years, the POIGRA has failed to execute its obligations due to the incompetence of key personnel within that agency. Not to mention that it’s becoming a dumping ground for former tribal officials that should not be working there.

As a result, we have persons in key positions at the POIGRA that are jeopardizing the Casino’s operations.

The current Council is well aware of these problems. This Council is also well aware of how Pablo H. Padilla abused his position. Yet, this Council lacks the political will to correct those problems. Instead, they are busy traveling around and finding excuses to maintain governmental secrecy to protect themselves and people like Pablo H. Padilla.

 

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