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Editorial on the Trust Board’s Future…
By Tom Moore
I made a pretty bold statement at the last Trust Board meeting and I would like to back it up. Let’s start out with some facts:
1.Only $59,227 of the $118,857 in the Trust Board budget for 2012 is actually earmarked for the programs listed in the trust documents that were established to protect and serve our people. This number is 50% of the total, I know this because I had the dishonor of doing the budgets for the 2012 Trust Board and was disgusted every time I had to take the budget totals and divide by half to make sure that at least half of the money was going to our people. (The budget number for 2011 was only 46% of the $120k, so I guess we can tout a 4% increase?)
2.The other $60k or so that could’ve been spent on helping out our tribe’s people gets tossed into the following pits; $13k for the election of the Trust Board; $8k for stipends paid to the Trust Board; $13k for mileage to get the Trust Board to and from meetings that could be held over the phone in most cases; $5k to audit the $120k of expenditures; and finally $11k is paid to the Tribe as an administrative fee for fielding all of the calls, managing the program funds, cutting checks, verifying tribal membership, and coordinating Trust Board Meetings and packets. To put it simply $34k is allotted to establishing a board to oversee $11k worth of work dolling out $59k of benefit to our tribe, much of which is in direct rollover accounts like the $12k for reinvestment, the $15k for an Economic Development Director, and the rest goes to the more time intensive tasks of helping out with $6k in prescription benefits or $12k in scholarship opportunities. (So the actual direct tribal benefit to our people out of $120k per year is more like $27k because the education and community services programs are the only ones out there that anyone can actually see or wouldn’t run themselves through volunteer efforts or some already existing tribal function.)
3.Of the 6 active current Trust Board members, only 2 were actually elected to their positions - Chet Brooks and Verna Crawford. Wayne Stull was elected to the Board but now holds the seat of Chair by appointment; Joe Brooks, T.J. Aaroe and Tom Moore were all appointed by the remaining members of the Board. The final position is held by Bill Hatch who, although elected shows his frustration with our process in his lack of attendance and participation. Regardless, we spent $26k in the last 4 years on electing the 2-3 people on the Trust Board to appoint the other 4-5 people… what’s so sacred about that?
4.The Trust Board was basically established to give our tribe functionality during the interims where our federal recognition was withdrawn because the government needed somebody to cut a check to because they couldn’t recognize us as a “tribe” at that time. The fact that the Trust Board still exists either shows our sentimentality for our second loss of recognition or an inability to understand that the Tribe voted in a new constitution that absolutely usurps all of the duties of the Trust Board in regards to the jointly held property of our Tribe. For reasons obvious to anyone familiar with the politics of a coup, the Trust Board should have been absorbed by the Tribe once our Constitution was ratified due to an obvious need to NOT duplicate work, like elections or meetings that run together once a month with only a few people shifting chairs between the end of the Trust Board meeting and the beginning of the Tribal Council meeting. Even through attrition we have managed to prove that it does not take 7 people to sit around once a month to discuss how to best spend the $60k per year on programs ran by the tribal employees and other volunteers who have ran them for years, hence the reason for all of the shared and cross-over positions.
5.The Tribal Council already exists to manage ALL of our tribal money which includes grants and fuel taxes that far surpass the monies managed by the Trust Board without nearly as strict of guidelines for the benefit of our people and most of those people were ACTUALLY ELECTED! We don’t need a secondary government structure to ensure that our money is not capable of being tampered with, just as with our current trust documents, if our constitution disallowed any tampering with our Trust Monies, then it would take an act of our tribe either through a full tribal vote or general council before that money could be touched. Everyone on the Tribal Council understands their duty to our people with that money and if it is tied up in trust then it is untouchable without the full action of the tribe. The only thing protecting our Trust money is a piece of paper ratified by the tribe, I fail to see what makes that piece of paper any more forceful than a new one that simply copies the language to the true Constitution of our people to eliminate duplication, confusion and waste.
6.We have sent people from the Trust Board to all sorts of different meetings and conferences over the years, including a $5k trip for two members to go to a conference just a few months back. I mean no disrespect to the members who went, but it wouldn’t matter who went – they are a waste of money because they have brought us NO RETURN ON INVESTMENT. If we were operating a business on $60k, there is NO WAY we would burn up $10k to go on trips that have yet to yield any positive results. After the next conference in October, the Trust Board will have spent $10k or just under 20% of our administrative funds on 2 trips to 2 conferences for 2 people with no appreciable results on money that was supposed to benefit 11,000. If we were finding useful models or grants or some other mine to dig then I could see it, otherwise find out who is going to be there leading the sessions, plead poverty and send them letters asking for their handouts, flyers and presentation materials and let’s put that $10k to use helping people out or hiring some grant writers to get our people some other form of relief or assistance.
It is my understanding that the only substantial withdrawal from our Trust Monies since the inception of the Trust Board was when the General Council voted to withdraw monies to cover the interim expenses during the time spent regaining our federal recognition. The Trust Board has been a good steward, but as anyone can tell you who is familiar with the organization, the true hero is the restrictions put in place to maintain the fund and those will remain on the cash regardless of which entity directly manages it, the current constitutional government, or the past trust government. I don’t disagree with the concept of the Trust Board but I disagree with its execution. We shouldn’t have to pay $13k every other year for an election to tell us that Verna Crawford is capable of administering our current Education Programs with the help of the folks at the Tribal Office like Lacey and Shirley and the diligent volunteers like Darrell Glenn. The fact of the matter is that regardless of whether the current incarnation of the Trust Board exists or not, the same folks will be running the programs out of the Tribal Headquarters with the help of some dedicated volunteers with time to help keep up on the checks and balances. People who run for positions on the Trust Board aren’t after some sort of title, $100 a month stipend, or gas money – they want to help out! Most of them would prefer to help out without having to go through all of that political nonsense to get a position that should essentially be a volunteer job to help use the fairly modest amount of money earned by our trust funds.
We should ALL be ashamed of the budgets that were approved and the wastefulness of our antiquated system that ceased its usefulness the moment a new governmental structure was put in place. If we trust our Tribal Council with EVERYTHING else including managing hundreds of thousands of grant dollars, our tribal membership rolls, our property holdings and fuel tax monies every year, why not trust them with the simple administration and appointment of $120k of EARMARKED money dedicated to programs they are totally supportive of? The chairs of our trust committees and those programs are perfectly capable of being appointed by our Tribal Council rather than waste $13k on another Trust Board election for a group of people who appear to be unable to complete their full term. At the end of the day, most of the program expenditures are specifically mandated by the Trust Documents and most of the work for the programs is done by people on the Tribal payroll and they have plenty of layers of management to deal with already. I’m pretty sure I speak for more than myself when I say that the rest of us could use the break from the nonsense generated at the Trust Board level and spend that time dreaming up some new programs or find some new grants to help the existing ones be more effective and leave the politicking to the politicians and the good of the people to those of us who are just here to help out.
So what is the plan and how do we stop this madness? Simple, it was already done in 2009 but no one bothered to follow through on the language of our Constitution, but here is a step by step plan of how I would handle this once and for all:
1.Form an ad hoc committee with our Tribal Justices to draft the necessary Constitutional Amendments that would protect the trust funds from any possible tampering and adopt the Master Plan of the Trust Document as the administrative tool for those funds as required at the time of their original distribution. Use that format as a resolution passed by the Tribal Council to administer the funds until the next election cycle hits and have the tribe ratify the amendments to protect the funds from the next generation of Tribal Councilors. We have to obey the Master Plan, not ratify it as a people, but if it were ratified then we would be bound by it forever without question.
2.Draft a resolution that appoints a “Trust Board” to manage the programs that need managing and appoint each Trust Board member as the Chair for each of those committees, I think it would be proper to bar the Tribal Councilors from sitting as the Chair of any Committee or otherwise be part of this new “Trust Board” except as committee members, which all Tribal Councilors should sit on at least 2 of the 5 committees.
3.Call it a day.
BUT THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!?!?! Not really.
The Constitution that we passed and ratified in 2009 has some pretty heavy handed language in it that seems to have been ignored…
“Article V – Powers of the Tribal Council – The Delaware Tribal Council shall have the following powers: A. To represent the Delaware tribe and act in all matters that concern the general welfare of the tribe…” then in G it adds “...and to generally provide for the proper use and development of all tribal lands, natural resources and other Tribal property.” then adds “H. To appropriate Tribal funds for Tribal purposes.” then adds “K. To manage and control community/tribal property, enterprises, and other economic projects and programs of the Delaware Tribe, including, but not limited to, the establishment of housing and rental authorities, education programs and elderly programs, and appointment of planning, programming, and development committees.” then “L. To authorize, charter, establish and regulate associations and corporations formed for the benefit of the Delaware Tribe…” then finally in “M. To establish rules to regulate its own proceedings, to appoint subordinate committees, commissions, boards, tribal officials and employees not otherwise provided for in this Constitution and Bylaws…”
I’m sure we can all argue about whether or not this language was directly intended to completely usurp the authority of the Trust Board, but in my opinion it did and quite frankly everything the Trust Board has done since the Constitution was adopted was all done at the magnanimity of the Tribal Council.
The Trust Document clearly states that the judgment funds are the property of the Delaware Tribe of Indians and that the Trust Document can be rejected by the members of the Delaware Tribe as a specifically reserved power. The simple act of the adoption of a document (i.e. our Constitution) that placed all of the Tribe’s property and boards under the authority of the Tribal Council is all it would take to render the Trust Board moot. (Just as the Articles of Confederation were never repealed during the formation of our current federal government, the new Constitution simply usurped those powers and superseded it. While the Master Plan clearly identifies the judgment funds as the property of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, making the Constitution usurp any other internal tribal claims to those funds. The only other restrictions lie in the Master Plan and those are easily met when the Tribal Council appoints the new Trust Board and follows the letter of that document until a determination can be made at the appropriate levels as to how binding those rules actually are over those trust monies (hence our need to incorporate some of that language into the Constitution with an amendment.) The Master Plan outlines how the trust money is to be spent, but it never mentions the origin of the Trust Board it foresees managing those funds and since the new Constitution puts control over those assets in the hands of the Tribal Council, it only seems logical that they also appoint the Trust Board since it does not state anywhere that the Trust Board cannot be a function of a later established and constitutionally mandated Tribal Council that was given full authority over all tribal assets by the majority of its voting members.
My personal preference would be to just get this over with now and try to get this sham election canceled before we toss another $13k down a big empty hole that gets us nowhere closer toward helping our people. Let’s use the money for the programs and not for some overhyped shadow government board that was killed and replaced by our Constitution but unwilling to die. I will have a hard time not questioning the integrity of anyone who feels like the Trust Board (in its current state) is necessary to protect our funds from the Tribal Council considering that there are 4 identical people on each board who could take control of both groups if they could ever agree on anything all at once. Beyond that – the Trust Board is a horribly wasteful entity and my primary concern at the moment is saving the trust funds from the Trust Board, not the Tribal Council. I pray for our people to see the truth in the Constitution they ratified to create the ruling government of our tribe rather than the farce that has existed with our mock dual government for the last 2 years. Let’s end the wastefulness and move forward, then at least if the system is still broken it will be far easier to identify the culprits and make adjustments.
Thanks for wading through this and for any help you can provide seeing justice done for our people.
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this is from a man that is new to this area. the constitution was illeagaly put into place when jerry douglas sent out ballots to people that did not request them with a self addressed stampted envelope and an instructional letter on how to vote and on top of that, not every one got the ballots. just a selected group of absentee voters got these ballots.