Tribal leaders voted to terminate Tribal Health Director Shannon Hopkins from her position with the Tribes.
During the full board meeting Monday, August 24, 2020, Tribal Executive Board members voted seven to two to terminate Hopkins from the job. In favor of termination were council members Alex Smith, Terry Rattling Thunder, Emerson Young, Patt Runs Through, Jestin Dupree, Kaci Wallette, and Carolyn Brugh.
Voting against this was councilmen Tom Escarcega and Leonard Crow Belt.
Councilman Dana Buckles didn’t vote. Buckles could not be reached for comment.
Absent from the meeting were council members Frank Gourneau and Justin Gray Hawk.
Hopkins was terminated from her job for less than a year after being hired. She was removed for failing to take her job seriously, tribal committee minutes state.
During the August 17, 2020, Constitutional Reform meeting, councilman Young said the council needed to do something about the Tribal Health Director not reporting to Tribal Committee regularly. Councilman Escarcega said the council could pass all of the resolutions they want at committee level but when it gets to full board they are not allowed to move forward. Hopkins should be present to hear the accusations and respond, according to tribal documents.
Councilwoman Brugh said Hopkins is supposed to come in every Thursday and update the Tribal Council on the program. Hopkins doesn’t come in, and the Tribal Health finances are in shambles. Many Tribal Health employees want to resign or have been fired, documents state.
After the vote was taken, Chairman Floyd Azure issued a public letter condemning the action.
Even though it states in the Tribal Constitution that the Chairman has authority over all officers and employees of the Tribes, the council moved forward with terminating Hopkins, who was trying to make the Diabetes Manager take charge of the budget, spending, grants, and program reports, Azure stated. “I think the director was not a puppet for them,” he stated.
He further denounced the voting council members, accusing councilwoman Runs Through of going after Hopkins as part of trying to take over a business Hopkins mother ran when Runs Through was on the council in a previous term and going so far as to bring a legal custody battle into the Council Chambers to demand all checks of the child mother to Runs Through, according to the letter.
Council members Brugh, Dupree Wallette and Young also called out by Chairman Azure for their vote.
The letter further praised council members Crow Belt and Escarcega for voting against, as well as Vice Chairman Charles Headdress.
“These council members are true leaders they could see their hidden agenda and basically told the council member that they were going up a dangerous path and should think about it before they vote,” Azure said. “I know the rest of them are just followers and can’t think for themselves and don’t want to get on the bad side of the rest of the board.”
The Chairman’s letter was printed locally and council members penned a response that was posted to social media.
According to the letter, which was posted on a public forum by councilwoman Wallette, the Tribal Council has always hired directors and the TEB determined by majority vote to terminate Hopkins.
“The Chairman has been ruling resolutions out of order before the TEB can even debate them to prevent the TEB from exercising its authority.” the letter states. The council requested legal counsel be present in case they had questions on the procedure. This was done so the TEB could appeal something ruled out of order by the Chairman, according to the letter.
The council did nothing to change the Constitution or Bylaws, and instead were exerting the powers granted to the TEB by the Constitution.
The TEB is not trying to create division, and they are holding the constitution in high regard when it comes to leading the Tribes, the letter states.
Though it wasn’t as long as the Chairman’s letter, the ending was very precise and to the point.
“Now is not the time for mudslinging, name calling and baseless allegations, so please Chairman Azure, let’s unite and get back to work.”