Members of the newly installed Ute Tribe Business Committee are denying rumors of mass firings of tribal employees.
After the committee members took office July 11, about nine people who "were political appointees" named to positions by the former Business Committee were terminated from employment, said Business Committee member Larry Blackhair."We are concerned about statements of widespread firing. That is simply not true," he said. "We are looking at each individual situation one by one, based on performance and if they were hired through the policy and personnel manual. We're taking it nice and slow making sure everyone gets a hearing."
Those who were given jobs based on political allegiance to the former administration should realize their appointments were bound to change or terminate, he said. The political positions targeted included the four-member executive board and the three-member election board appointed by former tribal chairman Stewart Pike and incumbents Wendell Navanik and Floyd Wopsock. Navanik and Wopsock lost their bids for re-election. Pike has two years remaining in his term.
Two appellate court judges appointed by the former Business Committee were also given termination notices, and Martin E. Seneca, the Virginia attorney who argued the tribe's jurisdiction case in Hagen vs. Utah before the U.S. Supreme Court, was given notice "terminating his special counsel contract with the tribe." The contract between the tribe and a 10-member Compliance Enforcement Security Force that was put in place earlier this year was also abolished by the new Business Committee.
The Business Committee voted to reinstate Shirleta LaFramboise and Cecelia Jenks, both longtime tribal employees who were fired by Pike after a civil rights lawsuit by them and another woman against Pike was remanded back to tribal court by a federal court judge.
The new Business Committee chairwoman is Ruby Atwine. Rose Taveapont was named vice-chairwoman.
Daily operations of the business committee were disrupted when the tribe's election commission voided the results of the May 16 general election.