NOT HER PLACE TO TELL

 

At the October 2004 tribal council meeting, the tribal attorney, Kathy Clack, threatened to withdraw from the tribe’s civil lawsuit case and was forcing the council to go along with her plans to keep me from executing my duties as chair. The attorney also verbally assaulted me out of earshot of the rest of the council. My personal attorney advised me to file a complaint, to the BAR association, against the tribal attorney for violation of ethics, which I did.

 

I sent the letter of complaint explaining that I did so on my own authority and not that of the tribal council. I even made sure that their names were not on the letterhead. It was my plan to present a copy of this letter to the council at the next council meeting so they would know what had transpired. I wrote a memo on October 12, 2004, informing the council of this matter and had planned to deliver it at November’s meeting with a copy of the complaint. But, thanks to my illness and Louise Ramirez’ opportunistic actions, they never got to see that memo or hear what I had to say.

 

Because I believed Louise Ramirez was truly concerned about the tribe’s welfare, I shared non-confidential matters of importance about the tribe with her – something we had done for years. Part of what I shared was my concern over the recent developments between the tribal attorney and ex-chair Rosales and how the council was being held hostage. I gave a copy of the complaint letter to her to educate her on the situation we were in. This letter was not confidential.

 

I planned to bring copies of the letters to the December meeting but I contracted bronchitis again. Despite my miserable coughing spells, I worked for two days to develop a business plan, write out a newsletter for approval, and prepare materials for the agenda items that we needed to address at the next council meeting. Knowing that I could not possibly make the meeting in person, I arranged for someone to pick up the materials to deliver to the council meeting. I also arranged for Al Rodriguez to disseminate specific materials for the meeting (but he never followed through). The only item I had not included was the letter of complaint because this was a sensitive matter that I wanted to present personally.

 

In my absence, Louise Ramirez used this letter to incriminate my actions as Chair. She intimated that I was leaking confidential information which was not true. Since I was not there to explain the context, she took full advantage of my absence, spinning the situation to demonize me. That set the stage for a free-for-all ruckus for council control. The council was thoroughly misled, deceived and reacted without knowing all the facts.

 

It was not her place to tell anyone about that letter; it was my place as the elected Tribal Chair. It was also my place to take a stand on behalf of the tribe when no one else would. I do not regret sending that complaint letter. If I had the same choice before me, I would do it again. The interests of the tribe were then, and are now, first and foremost. In my book, no employee should be in a position to threaten the welfare of the tribe.

 

Lorraine Escobar