Tribes pay over $1 million to IRS

By Louis Montclair

Tribal Times

Tribal leaders paid over $1 million to the government for not abiding by Obamacare requirements for large employers.

During the February 24, 2020 full board meeting, the Tribal Council took care of paying penalties from the Affordable Care Act and the Tribes being qualified as a large employer.

With a final vote of 11 for (one absent), the Tribal Executive Board voted to pay $1,600,000 for the 2016 assessed penalty to the Internal Revenue Service, with money coming from the Tribes Fiscal Year 2020 budget per recommendation of the Tribes Chief Financial Officer. 

Because it requires a budget modification, the Tribes had to approve of motion by at least nine of 12 board members.

According to Finance Committee minutes, Tribal CFO Randy Redpath met with TEB members on the 2016 assessment for the Tribes who didn’t have a group health insurance. 

Under the ACA, the Tribes are qualified as large employers with over 500 people employed. This means the Tribes are required to provide group insurance for their employees, but it didn’t happen right away and the Tribes were penalized. 

Since then, the Tribes have purchased group insurance for all employees. Penalties and added government fees rose the amount the Tribes owed to $1,600,000. 

The meeting was very quick, being completely finished by lunch. The following are highlights from the full board meeting. 

Transportation

The council approved of a Road Priority Plan presented.

Connie Thompson, of the Tribal Transportation Program, met with tribal leaders during an Economic Development Committee meeting on February 11, 2020. 

The list is not permanent yet, and many of these roads have been on-going and selected from previous years. Council members voted to approve the plan as amended so it includes the projects from the Fiscal Year 2020/2024 Road Priority List.

Councilman Leonard Crowbelt, who voted against the motion at full board level, said the Make-It-Right Foundation received the same kind of help from the Tribes before. It took years for them to get anything done and the project is not finished yet, he said. 

The final vote was 10 for, one (Crowbelt) opposed, and councilman Buckles was absent for the vote.

Lagoon

The Tribes are still forbidden from doing any work in Frazer until the lagoon issue is resolved.

There has been a spending moratorium in place on the Frazer lagoon since 2006. Unless the Tribes can get the moratorium off they can put a new lagoon east of the current one. 

Houses on the south side of the town can smell the lagoon when it’s hot and they can get some chemicals to put into the water to reduce the smell.

Tina Magnan of Tribal Enterprises said the estimated cost could be between $400,000 to $600,000. The lagoon can get this fixed by fall time, if they can get the moratorium off, minutes state.

Magnan said she can get an engineer to come in and let the Tribes know if they can declare an emergency. It could bring in some funding to get this fixed, and there are other sources of revenue including Rural Development. They can give grant loans, and Magnan said this seems to be the best route to take at this time. There is some kind of funding that can be used but it would not be enough. 

The engineer is supposed to visit the reservation later this week. 

Old House

The Tribes voted to put the $58,000 under Natural Resources for the Anderson House so it can be put out to bid.

Before the final vote, Councilman Frank Gourneau asked if this was a situation where the Tribes buy property that costs more to rebuild. Crowbelt said this is to get the property out to bid.

Director

New Tribal Transit Program Director Henri Headdress thanked the council for their vote of confidence in hiring him.

The Head Start bus driver for Wolf Point should be returning soon, so there should be another bus driver available at transit. Driver Jeremiah Medicine Elk will be coming back to work from his sick leave absence. 

In the meantime, Transit is still finishing up reports, minutes state. 

Councilman Terry Rattling Thunder said there was a nation-wide concern about putting seat belts in public school buses. Headdress said he spoke with Head Start Director Viola Wood about this matter already. Transit doesn’t normally pick up children though, he said. 

Marvin Bull Chief was hired as a bus driver, and right now he works primarily in the Brockton and Fort Kipp area. 

Transit held their first advisory board meeting with members Craig Smith, Connie Thompson, Carole Bemer, and Max Bear. Transit Fiscal Planner Eric Romero is at Transit working with the program. 

Clean-Up

Redpath and Office of Environmental Protection Director Martina Wilson discussed the destruction and removal of old properties and the debris. 

Before any removal happens, they need to make sure the company has insurance. 

Lands

The Tribes voted to declare interest in 80 acres of land from JD Stensland. The land is near the buffalo ranch. The Tribes voted to declare interest and get an appraisal done on 80 acre tract, owned by JD Stensland.. 

Caul Kawasaki was added to the grazing permit for Range Unit 35.

Tribal leaders voted to declare interest and get appraisals for the property of David Tollefson located east of the Horseshoe Bar in Oswego on both sides of US Highway 2.

An extension on a buy/sell agreement was approved on the Thomas and Koreen Nyquist land purchase. 

A section of land with 38 acres of irrigated land owned by Diane Finnarty was approved for purchase at a cost of over $70,000. This land is southwest of Nashua. 

Curtis Forrest was approved for an enrolled member home-site renewal. 

Roger Flynn was approved for an enrolled member renewal for 146 acres.

Brandon Reddig was approved for a non enrolled member renewal. 

An extension for Darlyn Grainger was granted and it lasts until the end of March. She said she is waiting on her Farm Service Agency operating loan. It includes Oliver Payne until the end of March, who is waiting for some money due to a bad year. 

Brockie Standing was approved for a voluntary cancellation of his lease. \

The Tribes voted to put land out to bid for pasture land so it is put to use and not idle. 

Fish and Game

Tribal Fish and Game Director Robbie Magnan told the Tribal Council how someone can get eagle feathers from the US Repository. The federal government doesn’t keep track of enrolled tribal or associate members.

Word of the successful transfer reached the Secretary of Interior and he declared interest in visiting the ranch. 

The next meeting of the Inter Tribal Bison Council

WPCO

The Tribes voted to approve $100 annually for the Wolf Point Community Organization.

Excavator

Tribal Enterprise will be buying an excavator for the program.

According to minutes, Tribal Enterprises Program Director Leonard Youngman recently dug a grave for someone, and for future use they need an excavator to use in the grave yards.

The machine purchase was approved for $49,906.10

Culture Grant

Tribal Cultural Resources was approved to endorse any reciprocal “Offer of Grant/Financial Assistance Award” which may be tendered by the National Park Service and for the Tribal Chairman/Vice Chairman to endorse all official correspondence and documents related to the submission of the Tribal Heritage Project application for $50,000.

Tribal Cultural Resources Director Dyan Youpee met with the council for this approval at committee level, minutes state. The grant would help with sign posts in English and Indian languages on the reservation. 

Jails

One correctional officer withdrew her resignation on February 7, 2020. Rick Morales Jr. was arrested on banishment charges, and he will be held in the jail for violating the order. Corrections Director Ron Jackson said the Tribes need to look a jail sentence with a severe punishment for breaking banishment order. 

For sentences that go on for years, the Tribes need to work out something with the Montana Prison System. 

As of these minutes, there were 73 male inmates and ten female.

Juvenile Detention Center Director RJ Young said they have five girls and four boys incarcerated.

Work is underway for the doors and cameras at the facility.

Seven inmates are going to the Rosebud Indian reservation in South Dakota treatment center. 

Supervisory Criminal Investigator said he is working on a grant for $900,000 for equipment, new vehicles, radios, weapons, search and rescue equipment. 

Former Tribal Police officer Jay Brugh was re-hired to the police force as a Narcotics Officer.

Break-in’s were reported at several homes on the West End in Wolf Point. 

Disaster Emergency Services Director Rusty Boxer said he applied for another government grant for a scanner and other equipment since the first application was misplaced at the BIA. When it’s passed he will see what else is available for federally funded programs. 

Councilman Jestin Dupree said DES needs to develop evacuation plans for an active shooter or related disaster. He suggested Boxer put one in place for accountability. 

Boxer said he needs to develop that and related responses for various situation, like a disease outbreak or terrorist attack.

Prosecutors

Dave Mrgudich and Scott Seifert were present with an update of cases in the system for January 2020. This includes charges pending, time served, probation, dismissal, revoked, banished, fines and the total number for January.

They may be able to get a “True Drug Tester Machine that has a laser and can go through the drug and tell immediately what it is, minutes state. The machine is expensive but it would save a lot of time drug testing someone.

Right now, they are sending some of the drug tests to Missoula but now the Law and Justice Committee has the money to purchase the machine.

Students from the University of California Irvine are going to be visiting with the Tribal Court, the TEB and will be touring the Tribal Jail. 

Prosecutors are planning a trip to Billings to see how others deal with cross deputization issues. 

ICWA

An investigator will be working with the Tribes Indian Child Welfare Act Office. 

The motion orders ICWA Director Ingrid Firemoon to initiate contracting procedures to brin an investigator/adjudicator on board. Firemoon will work with the In-House Attorneys and Finance Department in the contracting process. 

Tribal Health

The Tribal Sanitarian/Supervisor position description from Tribal Health was approved by the council.

This position encompasses various responsibilities to provide service as follows: Supervisor of the Mosquito Control Program, Environmental Health Program, Safety Officer and the Emergency Preparedness Grant Coordinator. 

Assistant

The Council accepted the request of the Red Bird Woman Center to develop an Office Support Staff position. 

According to council minutes, the RBWC needs three full time and six part-time employees to assist with the Children’s Lodge. Darryl Ricker was hired on a 30 day appointment. 

HPDP

A payment for the Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program was approved. 

The motion approves of the HPDP tier payment for $24,937.22 through the Direct Care Worker funding to be returned to the state of Montana.

Before the vote, councilman Rattling Thunder said these workers are different because even though they are hired for Tribal work, they were hired through HPDP. Because they are contracted then they are not covered under the Tribes insurance. 

Councilman Dana Buckles said Smoker is looking at contracting individuals. 

New Business

The Tribes authorized and approved of a contract with a new local business.

The contract is with RezKast Media, LLC, of Poplar. It is to provide professional video services, professional website development, video graphic designs for posters, shirts and social media as reviewed and approved by In-House Attorney Majel Russell. 

Councilman Dupree reminded the council the Tribes previously paid for a broadcast license and a tribal radio station that didn’t work. That money was supposed to be repaid, and he asked if anyone knew it’s status.

Nobody had an answer.

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