COVID-19 forces partial tribal government shutdown

The COVID-19 outbreak forced the tribal government to partially shutdown, again.

Nearly all of the public services provided by the Tribes will be on hold until next week.

During the second day of a special full board meeting, the Tribal Executive Board approved of the partial shut-down of governmental functions through Sunday, October 4.

Unlike previous meetings, absent from this was Chairman Floyd Azure and Vice Chairman Charles Headdress. The TEB spoke with Tribal Attorney Majel Russell about the council appointing a temporary chairman to continue the meeting. Chairman Azure said in the past 11 years he has been in tribal government, the meetings were always postponed until the Chairman returns.

This was the first full board meeting without the presence of the Azure or Headdress.

Councilman Dana Buckles was selected for this position.

As of Thursday, October 1, 2020. at this time, Roosevelt County has 201 active cases, 246 cases have recovered, and seven confirmed COVID-19 related deaths. The majority of the county is encompassed by the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

The outbreak is rapidly spreading, and all residents are encouraged to stay home in self quarantine.

As for the Tribal Government, all departments needed for essential activity will continue functioning. This includes Central Finance, Community Services Program, Corrections, Law Enforcement, Dialysis, TSHIP, Relief Assistance, Disaster Emergency Services, Tribal Courts, Tribal Health, Human Resources, Red Bird Woman Center, and Indian Reservation Roads. Each of these programs directors must evaluate each of their departments and determine the number of staff necessary to report to their work stations to meet what program requirements, and the department directors shall determine what essential functions can be done remotely from home whenever possible, documents state.

Departments deemed non-essential shall be on-call and only report to their workstations when called by their director. All non-essential program directors must evaluate their programs and, whenever possible, have the necessary on-call work done remotely from home, documents state.

This doesn’t apply to gambling establishments.

Casino’s and other for-profit businesses, as well as other Tribal businesses, are “excluded from the partial governmental shutdown” and they will continue to operate under any applicable Tribal Health Order.

If a director has determined that it is not essential for an employee to physically report to their work station during business hours, and they are ordered to work from home or be on call, and if that employee is observed out in the public for anything other than medical treatment during their normal working hours, they “shall not be eligible for paid leave for the entire day.”

Further, if the a department director receives any information that an employee is not following a medical directive, tribal resolution, and Tribal Health Order related to COVID-19 reduction at any time (including during off-duty hours), that director must refer such a report to the Tribal Health Compliance Officer for further investigation and action, including criminal prosecution, documents state.

This resolution shall be effective immediately upon the signatures of seven TEB members, and will be ratified at the next full board meeting.

Absent from this meeting were council members Frank Gourneau, Tom Escarcega, Emerson Young, and Jestin Dupree.

When the final vote was taken it was five for and two opposed with one not voting. Voting for this were council members Alex Smith, Pat Runs Through, Kaci Wallette, Carolyn Brugh, and Justin Gray Hawk. Opposed were council members Terry Rattling Thunder and Leonard Crowbelt.

In a related motion, Hazard pay was approved for essential workers during the partial shutdown. This is from September 2, through October 4, 2020.

Hazard pay was also approved for all elected officials to the increasing number of COVID-19 infections. This is effective from September 22 to October 4, 2020.

COVID-19

Main Street Grocery will be used by the Tribes to provide ‘quarantine baskets.’

Hundreds of people on the reservation are infected or have been exposed to COVID-19 and are in quarantine. Tribal leaders are planning on using Main Street Grocery in Poplar to order 400 quarantine baskets at a time.

These baskets will be given to quarantined enrolled members and Indian Health eligible quarantined households.

Endorsement

Democratic Party candidate for Secretary of State Bryce Bennett was publicly endorsed by the Tribes.

Bennett is in his 30’s and attended school at the University of Montana. He started in politics when he was still in college.

Other candidates endorsed by the Tribes include Attorney General candidate Raph Graybill, US Senate candidate Steve Bullock. Both are Democratic Party candidates.

Buffalo

The TEB approved of donating a buffalo from the Tribes Cultural Herd.

The animal will be harvested and given to the Assiniboine Council to feed attending members, whenever they are able to convene for the Assiniboine General Council.

Census

The council voted to accept $3,000 to ensure tribal members fill out the 2020 Census.

The Native American Development Corporation gave the money to the Tribes for a more accurate count of the population.

Accurate population counts in Indian country are essential for tribal governments to be eligible for millions in federal funding over the next 10 years.

Graveyard

The council approved of the new Poplar Cemetery, and with it the Tribes authorized it to be paid with the remaining Salazar settlement funds.

The new graveyard is delegated to the Development Committee, and they will work with Interstate Engineering under the Master Services Agreement for the design, which is $40,000.

Poplar’s aging graveyard is over 100 years old and has over 1,000 bodies buried, some of which are not marked.

Education

Three women were appointed to the Tribes Education Board of Directors. This includes Carolyn Beauchamp for Oswego, Amber Black Dog for Riverside, and Shannon Hopkins for Wolf Point. This was done by secret ballot.

Gaming

Elizabeth Lingle, Michelle Day, and Bob McAnally were approved for new Gaming Commissioners.

Raleigh Small and Kermit Boyd were selected as alternates for 90 days.

This was also done by secret ballot.

Diabetes

Michelle Trottier was appointed as the Diabetic Project Coordinator.

Reclassified

An outside source for employee reclassification’s will be hired.

According to the motion, the council approved of hiring an outside source for reclassification of Contracts and Grants, Human Resources, and Central Finance positions.

The supervisor should be responsible for signing off on the job descriptions.

Construction

The council voted to accept A1128 (construction funds) FY2021 for project “Wiota Canal 56 check/drop cross structure” for $600,000 to design, construct, and inspect this project under contract A18AV01097.

A relation motion accepts funds for Vibratory Compaction for $50,000. The purchase of an excavator arm is allowable under this award.

Jail Guards

New Corrections Officers were hired permanently at the Adult jail.

These workers include Krystin Youngman, Walker Magnan, Quentin Failing, and Shelby Lezard to be hired on as permanent guards.

Agreement

Tribal leaders approved of modifying an agreement between the Tribes and the Snyder Design Group.

According to the motion, the agreement is a Personal Services Agreement executed on November 18, 2019, increasing the total amount of the project to $141,620 to $152,330

Wellness Center

New Market Tax Credits will be put toward making the new Wellness Center a reality.

According to the motion, the TEB approved of the preliminary “Term Sheet for the New Tax Credits investment to finance the construction of the Tribes new ‘Thundering Buffalo Health Facility’ and requires $25,000 to be wired at the execution of this Term Sheet to cover transaction costs, the funds for which will come from the Project’s funds.”

The next motion approved preliminary Term Sheet for the New Market Tax Credit investment to finance the Thundering Buffalo Health Facility.

Medical hires

The Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program was approved to contract Dr. Roman Hendrickson as the programs Chief Medical Officer through September 30, 2022.

Cynthia Leaphard was approved for a contract for Clinical Nursing services.

A contract with Dalton Consulting, LLC Mary Dalton for professional administrative Medical consultation services through September 30, 2022 for the HPDP program.

A two year contract was also approved for Dr. Pamela Pearson to provide dental services through September 2022, and Dental Hygienist Jill Ferdina.

Finally, a contract was approved between the HPDP program and Loveland Consulting LLC for professional strategic planning services.

Helping hand

Using Indian Health Service CARES Act funding, tribal leaders approved of assisting IHS with their request for medical professionals, including dentists and doctors.

Docs Star Medical Partners is who will be paid, as this company already works with IHS, documents state.

FPES Inc.

The council approved the articles of incorporation and initial by-laws of Fort Peck Engineering Services Inc., a corporation wholly owned by the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation with the articles being inspected legally and approved.

Tribal leaders then approved and granted a Charter establishing Fort Peck A&S Engineering Services Inc., as a corporation owned wholly by the Tribes.

Travel Agency

From now on, the Tribes will use Wesley Medical Staffing Inc. Locum travel agency.

This will be used to assist with nurses at the area hospitals, Indian Health Service clinics, and COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

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