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Tribal leaders to Program Directors: Do your job or no travel

By Louis Montclair

Tribal Times

Tribal Program Directors must have their finances taken care of before the Tribal Executive Board will approve of any travel. 

During the full board meeting of February 10, 2020. A motion came forward to put a moratorium on all Tribal Travel for every program until they are paid up on any outstanding bills and debts that must be covered. 

Everyone was present except Chairman Floyd Azure, who is in Washington DC for the week, and Patt Runs Through, who is on delegation at the National Congress of American Indians. Vice Chairman Charles Headdress presided over the meeting. 

Councilman Terry Rattling Thunder said this motion is something that shouldn’t be here because there are people in the program that are paid to do these things. If they are not paying their bills, then it should be up to the program to take care of the problem. 

“Do your jobs!” Rattling Thunder said before the vote on the motion.

Question was called for and the vote to approve of a moratorium on tribal director’s program travel when delinquent on financial and other grant related reporting and unpaid bills. The final vote was seven (Frank Gourneau, Alex Smith, Emerson Young, Terry Rattling Thunder, Jestin Dupree, Kaci Wallette, Carolyn Brugh) for and four (Dana Buckles, Tom Escarcega, Justin Gray Hawk, and Leonard CrowBelt) opposed. One (Patt Runs Through) is away on delegation to the National Congress of American Indians.

The following are highlights from the full board meeting.

Secret Ballot

Tribal leaders defeated a motion to re-advertise the Tribal Health Director position for another two weeks. It was defeated with six opposed to it, and only four (Gourneau, Young, Dupree, and Crow Belt) supporting it 

Councilman Buckles was the only councilman not voting.

With the failure of the re-advertisement, the council moved onto hiring the Tribal Health Director from two applicants: Shannon Hopkins and Michelle Trottier. A vote was taken and Vice Chairman Headdress counted the ballots. Out of 11 ballots, one was for Trottier, nine for Hopkins, and one with NV (not voting) written.

The vote to accept Hopkins appointment to the Tribal Health Director position was made official.

In a related motion, the council voted to extend the appointment of Karen Dubois as temporary Tribal Health Director for 30 days. This will be in place while Hopkins transitions from the Tribal Education dpeartment to her new position.

HPDP

The council voted seven to three to defeat a motion to approve of HPDP’s request for authorization that the Fort Peck Tribes Personal Care Assistant (PCA) Program has been approved to return the PCA additional funding tier payment in the amount of $24,937.22 through the Direct Care worker funding the State of Montana and the TEB does hereby authorize the Chairman/Vice Chair to sign any necessary documents. 

A related motion with no amount listed was sent back to the committee for further action. 

Councilman Buckles said there was no amount listed and the extra money not returned was to help people working on the program. 

Councilman Rattling Thunder said this boils down to people doing their jobs. If the people the Tribes hired to take care of these things then it wouldn’t be necessary to send money back.

Grants are awarded for specific amounts and every cent should be budgeted with no remaining money. If there is, then the program directors and employees hired to work out these things are supposed to handle it, not the Tribal Council. 

Tribal leaders should not have to approve of these programs sending unspent grant money back, he said.

In addition, this can also affect the Tribes reputation and risk future grant awards. 

Prejudice?  

Public Schools on the Fort Peck Reservation are complaining about the treatment of their basketball teams.

According to the minutes, councilman Escarcega said the council needs to get the Letter of Support for the schools regarding Glasgow Public Schools and the treatment of the players. He said they need to get this out soon before something else happens. 

Crowbelt said the council puts out resolutions like this all the time but nobody ever sees that these are carried out. 

Enrollment

Former Tribal Court Judge Danna Runsabove was appointed to the enrollment committee.

Before the resolution passed at committee level, the Enrollment Committee met with the Tribal Council, according to committee minutes.

Going by the strict system in place now is going to ensure there are no more Fort Peck Indians. Law requires fully enrolled members to be at least a quarter of Fort Peck Indian blood. Over generations, this blood will be diluted so much that there would be no tribe.

Lawyer 

Tribal Attorney Majel Russel of the Elk River Law Firm has been at most of the full board meetings to keep the Tribes updated on their legal matters.

Now she will be at every full board meeting. The council approved of a resolution that requires Russell to bring a legal review report from the in house team. This will be added as part of the regular board meetings. 

Rattling Thunder said Russell told them she wanted to be at all of the regular board meetings. 

Library

Fort Peck Community College got approval from the Tribal Council to submit an enhanced grant.

According to the motion, the grant is being submitted under the Institute of Museum and Library Services and authorize the Chairman to sign all related documents. 

Tribal leaders then approved of the library to submit an enhanced grant to the IMLS.

Their official website states the mission of IMLS is “to advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grant-making, research, and policy development.” Their duties include promoting lifelong learning by supporting learning and literacy for people of all ages through museums and libraries; build capacity by strengthening the capacity of museums and libraries to improve the well-being of their communities; increase public access by making strategic investments that increase access to information, ideas, and networks through libraries and museums; and ultimately achieving excellence by strategically aligning its resources and relationships to support libraries and museums nationwide.

Education Board

Ramey Growing Thunder and Francine Boxer were appointed to the Tribal Education Board.

Growing Thunder was appointed to represent Poplar, and Boxer is representing Fort Kipp.

But not all seats on the board are filled.

Vacant seats on the Tribal Education Board will be re-advertised until they are filled. Applicants are being sought from Wolf Point, Brockton, and Oswego communities. 

Classification

Tribal Comptroller Randy Red Path brought in job reclassification for a position in Central Finance.

The Final Job classification is for the Data Entry Operator/Accounting Technician for the Central Finance Office at a Grade 10 or $17.81 per hour or $37,044.80 per annum. 

At the last full board meeting, councilwoman Wallette said this motion is needed for the pay, but no increases or job re-classifications can be done because of a previous resolution that doesn’t go into affect until at least June 26, 2020.

Crow Belt asked why does the council want to handcuff our own people. There are people doing good but now the council made it impossible to get raises, he said.

Good directors can go through and adjust their budgets and they don’t need this intervention from the TEB. Crow Belt said he stands by this because it feels like the council threw their own people under the bus. 

“That’s how I feel and I will stand by it,” he said.

Councilman Rattling Thunder said this is something directors should do when they are figuring out their budgets.  

Final vote was eight (Smith, Rattling Thunder, Young, Buckles, Dupree, Wallette, Brugh and Gray Hawk) for, three (Gourneau, Escarcega and Crow Belt) opposed, and one (Runs Through) absent.

ICWA

The TEB voted to authorize the request to allow the Tribes Indian Child Welfare Act Office to access the Montana Family Safety Information System (MFSIS) in order to track their cases and cut down time on case management.

Leave

Tribal Court Judge Lonnie Headdress was granted administrative leave. 

Pool

A large donation from the Tribes was given to the City of Wolf Point. 

The donation was for $60,000 to the city for the public swimming pool. 

Funding came from the legal budget.

Titles

Now all of the Tribes upper management positions are classified as managers and directors, both separate.

All lead administrators of tribal programs and/or departments are now Directors. Managers are listed as separate but they only answer to the program director.

Councilman Rattling Thunder told the council education requirements must be met for this resolution because program directors cannot use “experience” over formal education.

In the past, the TEB came under heavy criticism for lowering education standards in hiring by removing the requirement for a high school diploma or GED. In their defense, the TEB said this was not lowering standards, it was making it easier for a tribal member to work on their own reservation.

Drains

A bid to fix the drainage problem at the Bureau of Indian Affairs was accepted.

LSC Inc., of the town Fort Peck, submitted a bid for $246,259.60 for phase I of the Medicine Bear Complex. The bid is for the drainage improvement project.

Let it Rot

A motion to fix up an old house for $58,000 was defeated at full board level.

Disaster Emergency Services Program Director Rusty Boxer presented the council with a list of items which need to be fixed at the old Anderson house that the Tribes now own. The total came to about $58,000, and nobody would be allowed to reside there during renovations. A contract would need to be drawn up after being fixed stating the property will be used to rent to residents after construction.

The motion did not have discussion at full board level and the TEB voted three (Gourneau, Rattling Thunder, and Crow Belt) for and seven (Smith, Young, Buckles, Wallette, Brugh, Escarcega, and Gray Hawk) against, one not voting (Dupree) and one absent (Runs Through). 

Leases

Employees of the Tribes who acquire approved Tribally Owned Home Lease Agreements with the Tribes must immediately fill out a payroll deduction form for rent payments if they are employed by the Tribes or to have an agreement form filled out to have the rent taken out before payment of contracted work in they are a contracted employee.

Final vote was nine for, one (Dupree) opposed, one not voting (Buckles) and one absent.

Reward

The Tribes put a higher amount on the incentive program for tribal members attending school. 

According to Education Director Shannon Hopkins, they have been wanting to help give students motivation to do better, this includes perfect attendance.

The final resolution was to increase the education incentive awards, including $200 for the Salutatorian and $400 for the Valedictorian.

Let there be Light

The dark streets of the Make it Right village in Poplar will soon be a thing of the past.

Tribal leaders approved of putting 10 new street lights in at $170 per light.

Extension

Wayne Sandu Jr., who was appointed temporarily as a pipe fitter/truck driver, was given another 30 day appointment. 

Honor

Vernita Buckles was honored by the TEB for 42 years of service to the Tribes, coming out of retirement once already. 

Minerals

The Minerals Department was given permission to modify the contract with Big Sky Energy Partners to include Attachment C and the Lustre/Benrud Work Plan.

Land

Cynthia Welch and Julian Diserly are approved of an enrolled member new home site lease. 

A lease modification was for Hal Rosencrans and John Pankratz was approved. 

Gary Grainger was approved for lease cancellation. He voluntarily cancelled three agricultural leases.

Paul Smith wants to sell four of his tracts which he has undivided interest on. These fractionated allotments include 60 owners on one, another with 28 co-owners, 62 co-owners, and 71 co-owners.

Irrigation

The Water Resources Department applied for a grant IDG Grant in the amount of $19,500 for the VFD Control Panel Project for the Fort Peck Irrigation Project for five years.

There were no details in the minutes as to what this is about.

Special Judge

The Tribal Court requested a Special Judge John Robinson to preside over a case involving minor Indian children; counsel for one party filed an unopposed motion to disqualify and appoint an outside judge. 

Because of the sensitive nature of custody cases, these are rarely, if ever, reported in the news. 

Special Court

Tribal Court Administrator Rita Weeks presented a request to create two new positions in the Tribal Juvenile Healing to Wellness Court.

The resolution for it was started in November, but the position was created in 1992. Since that time, the Tribal Court has grown in the type of work provided, including computer programming. 

All clerks are paid out of the PL 93-638 BIA Contract funds.

The motion states the Tribes authorize the development of a JHTWC Project Coordinator – Grade 10, Step One, at $17.81 per hour or $37,044.80 a year; and a JHTWC Compliance Officer at Grade nine, Step one, at $16.25 per hour or $33,800 per year; and to advertise these positions. Funding for these positions will come from a JHTWC Grant Award for the period of October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2022.

Jobs

The council authorized the new positions development classification of the Project Manager, Grade 11 or $18.79 per hour or $39,083.20 per year and steps increase with years of experience and salary in accordance with the TEB and advertise this position.

Also approved was authorizing the Justice System IT Administrator reclassification and salary in accordance with the Tribes Primary Schedule as a Grade 11, Step four, or $22.01 per hour or $45,780.80 per year with steps varying by years of experience.

The Clerk of Court jobs were reclassified and so were the salaries in accordance with the Tribes Primary Salary Schedule as a Grade nine, Step one, at $16.25 per hour or $33,800 per year, Grade nine Step four at $19.19 per hour or $39,915.20, Step six at $20.68 per hour or $43,014.40 or Grade nine Step nine at $22.27 per hour or $46,321.16 per year, steps vary by years of service.

During the vote, when it was councilman Escarcega’s turn to vote, he said he was “going to be a fence rider on this one” and not vote. Gray Hawk followed, also not voting. The lone vote against this was from Leonard Crowbelt. 

Emergency

The Frazer Lagoon has been put off too long and can’t be ignored anymore.

The Tribes voted to declare the Frazer Lagoon situation a public health emergency. A letter declaring the emergency and the resolution will be sent to Indian Health Service.

Minutes state councilman Gourneau spoke with Tina Magnan and she had the paperwork for the lagoon. She sent a copy to Maureen Dionne because there are some funds available for emergency public health situations. 

At full board level, councilman Young asked why this vote was being taken now and how much was it going to cost. There are other needs too, and they need priority just as bad, he said.

Councilwoman Wallette said the lagoon has to be top priority and fully addressed before any renovations, repairs, or new home construction can begin. 

Right now it would cost the Tribes nothing to declare the Frazer Lagoon situation a public health emergency. 

The motion passed with seven for, and three opposed with one not voting.

Media

The council approved changing the title of an administrative assistant/legal assistant to administrative assistant public relations/media coordinator.

The new job is classified as Grade 11, Step One, and pays $18.79 per hour or $39,083.20.

Transit

Henri Headdress was permanently hired as the new Director of the Tribal Transit Program (public transportation). 

He was the only applicant for the job. 

The hire was approved with one (Gray Hawk) opposed and one (Young) not voting, and one (Runs Through) absent.

Sex Offenders

The council approves supporting the Memorandum of Understanding for the Adam Walsh Act Implementation Program, Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act. 

Corpse of a Car

Tribal leaders gave the Tribal Transit Program permission to move two vehicles with no value that don’t run back to their lot. 

Without being able to start, the car is dead and it’s physical remains are the “corpse of a car.”

License

Trial leaders approved of a Regular/Emergency license for six children and one renewal for Regular/Emergency license for one child. 

THIP

The Tribes approved of the classification of the Tribal Health Improvement Program Billing Technician position for the HPDP.

 Wellness Program.

Contract

Tribal leaders approved of a contract with Mountain Pacific Quality Health Care through November 30, 2020 for the HPDP Program and authorize the chair/vice chair to sign any necessary documents. 

Waiver

The council approved of waiving the right to the personal property of Charles Pribbernow, Jr., and Jessica Pribbernow on trust land until the contract for a manufactured home they are buying, is completed in 27 years.

Credit Card

The Veteran’s Affairs program is always on call for transporting vets to their medical appointments off the reservation. Program Director Ryan Beston said they had six transports in one week, and this past month they had 16 transports.and that with the cost of gas, lodging, allotment, it is over $1,800 for all the emergency cost.

To help curb this, the Tribes approved of Beston’s request for a credit card through Independence Bank. The spending limit is $2,000 per billing cycle.

TERO

The Tribal Employment Rights Office Review Board was changed in terms of it’s composition.

The TERO board now composed of one appointment to a one year term and one appointment to a two year term, and one appointment to a three year term, with subsequent appointments of TERO Review Board members to three year terms conducted annually thereafter as each member’s term expires. 

Business Lease

Tom Reeves was approved of a business lease for 80 acres in exchange for a previously issued home site lease of Jackie Hippe.

Group

The Tribes went on record to recognize the volunteer men’s group known as the “Ways of the Buffalo Society” and authorizes the Tribal Chairman/Vice Chairman to sign any related documents.

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