Five Yakama Nation Tribal Council members were recalled during a special session last week in the wake of allegations of misappropriated funds within one of the tribe’s enterprises.
Recalled were Chairman Delano Saluskin, Raymond Smartlowit, Virgil Lewis, Dana Miller and George Selam.
Two alternates, Nathaniel Pinkham and Deland Olney, filled two of those positions while Ruth Jim, Arnold Eyle and Christopher Wallahee were selected to fill the three remaining positions.
Initially, the recall sought the removal of all 14 Tribal Council members in addition to the two alternates, but most retained their positions by a vote of the people.
On Monday, the tribal council reorganized its executive board and 10 standing committees to reflect the new members.
Named to the executive board were Gerald Lewis as chairman; George Meninick Sr., vice chairman; Charles Tillequots, secretary; Christopher Wallahee, assistant secretary; and Terry Heemsah Sr., sergeant at arms.
The recall stemmed from allegations from workers at internet provider Yakama Networks. They allege that management in the tribe’s Land Enterprise, which oversees Yakama Networks and several subsidiaries, gave themselves bonuses and other perks during the COVID-19 pandemic while other workers faced furloughs or were laid off.
The employees were eventually fired for accessing confidential personnel information of other workers, and at least one of the fired workers used the tribe’s computers to download pirated movies, TV shows and pornography, according to a tribal council resolution.
The tribe’s Code of Ethics board — which handles employment disputes and issues concerning the conduct of elected officials — said the tribal council members on the committee that oversees Land Enterprise didn’t follow through on launching an impartial investigation into allegation of misappropriate funds. The code of ethics board then suspended those council members.
Suspended were Raymond Smartlowit, George Selam, Gerald Lewis, George Meninick Sr., Gene Sutterlict Sr. and Dana Miller.
But the rest of the tribal council blocked the suspensions in a resolution affirming the council members did launch an independent investigation and that the outcome was forwarded to the ethics board.