Tribal Chief LaFrance Responds To Ethics Complaint
Apr 29, 2016
Akwesasne, NY—Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance provided the following clarification today following an article that ran in the Indian Time newspaper on April 28, 2016. The article, titled “Community Members Files SRMT Ethics Complaint Against Three Chiefs” reports on a complaint lodged with the Tribe’s Ethics Officer for purported decisions involving an investment in a production plant, individual insurance coverage and renting space to house the Seaway Valley Ambulance in a central location of Akwesasne.
“The Ethics Ordinance was developed to ensure accountability to membership and that the highest standard of conduct, honesty and integrity is upheld by elected officials,” said Tribal Chief LaFrance. He added, “It is an independent and autonomous process that protects the interests of all members and the reputation and integrity of the tribal government. The process is supposed to be confidential and entails an initial review of the allegations to determine the complaint’s merit, which can take up to thirty-one (31) days.”
Tribal Chief LaFrance, as well as Chief’s Beverly Cook and Eric Thompson, will honor the initial review process and look forward to the Ethics Officer’s findings. Given the nature of the complaint, the confidentiality requirement, and the timing of its filing however, Chief LaFrance is hoping to correct the misinformation by reiterating information presented to membership at the April 2016 Monthly Tribal Meeting. Anyone desiring to hear the audio recording of the tribal meeting can do so in the Tribal Clerk’s Office. The April 2016 Tribal Meeting discussion resulted in an action item to have the SRMT Office of Economic Development to provide an update at the following meeting scheduled for Saturday, May 14, 2016. The investment agreement includes public non-disclosure provisions, so tribal members are encouraged to attend the May 2016 Monthly Tribal Meeting to learn more details.
“The discussions on investing into a soybean production plant were held with the Tewatahonni Corporation, not with Tribal Council,” stated Chief LaFrance. Tewatahonni is the ‘for profit’ entity that oversees and administers the Tribe’s revenue-generating operations; such as Mohawk Gaming Enterprises, LLC (Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort) and Mohawk Networks, LLC(Wideband and Akwesasne TV). Chief LaFrance noted, “The investment is likely to generate a significant financial return to the Tribe and employment, so the Corporation approved the creation of another subsidiary called Mohawk Soy to facilitate the investment. It’s not a budget expenditure covered by the Procedures Act and supports the Tribe’s ongoing efforts to diversify our revenue to meet the needs of our growing community.”
“For the remaining two issues raised in the article, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) prevents us from responding either way to her statement regarding an individual’s health insurance coverage. It’s protected by federal law,” stated Chief LaFrance. He added, “It was also stated that efforts were undertaken to situate an ambulance unit in a centralized location of the community to decrease emergency response times. Following several site visits that entailed an engineering analysis of one structure, an ideal location was identified that met all of our requirements to provide for the operation of an ambulance unit. Negotiations with the property owner were conducted in a professional manner, with the owner agreeing to make improvements for the added safety of ambulance workers.”
As elected leaders, the Tribal Chiefs continue to keep their doors open to hear from community members through weekly work sessions; as well as through the monthly meetings of committees, commissions, board and tribunals. They encourage individuals to utilize any of these means, as well as attending the May 14th Monthly Tribal Meeting, to have concerns addressed and questions answered.
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk People.