If Thanksgiving is approaching, it must be time for another controversy at the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, which is overseen by the state's lieutenant governor. Back in 1988, then-lite guv Mike Callihan created a ruckus with his plans for a feast in a Mayflower moving van. And now Carol Harvey, the commission's executive secretary who was dismissed this month, says, "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu."
The commission will have a short, conference-call meeting starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow; the agenda includes a welcome from Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia, 25 minutes for "personnel matters," and ten minutes for public comment.
Harvey, who'd held the executive secretary spot since March 2010, assumes that she's the "personnel matters," and she's been sending missives to supporters, noting that she's requested both civil and criminal federal and state investigations into her situation, as well as the status of native Americans in Colorado. "It is not enough that President Obama will meet with our trial leaders on December 2," she writes. "We have to act to protect ourselves."
The Lieutenant Governor's office can't respond to Harvey's allegations, says spokeswoman Julie McCluskie. "We did make a change," she acknowledges. "We are grateful to Carol for her two years of service to the state, the tribes and the commission."
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Details will no doubt emerge during tomorrow's meeting; Indian Country Today is already reporting on Harvey's dismissal.
Here's Harvey's letter to commission members regarding her termination:
November 6, 2011
Dear Commissioners and Ex-oficio Members:
Andrew Freedman, Chief of Staff, not the Lt. Governor, terminated my employment with the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs on Wednesday, November 2, 2011, at our regularly scheduled weekly meeting. I had no forewarning. I had not been informed of any infractions. He said my position was provisional and that I was "not a fit." A woman was also present. I had never been told that my position was provisional by anyone or that I was "not a fit."
Mr. Freedman said for a month's salary, because the Lt. Governor appreciated my contribution, I could sign a confidentiality agreement and waiver of any lawsuit for wrongful termination that is not normally offered to terminated employees. I did not and will not sign it. I received no other explanation, other than I was "not a fit," and I was given no chance to speak to the Lt. Governor who was not in the office. I was told to turn in certain property of the State (badge, office key, cell phone and credit card) which I did and to leave immediately which I did. I left without even filing my most recent Expense Report. Mr. Freedman said I could file for unemployment which means my termination was not due to my performance and I was given an unemployment benefits package.
The Lt. Governor had told me earlier in a brief conversation while we were walking up the hill by the Capitol that the CCIA Reinterment Committee was unhappy. He was displeased that I hadn't informed him. Not one member of the Committee had ever said a word of complaint to me. I had refused to give legal opinions on the Committee's responsibilities, explaining that those had to come from the Attorney General's Office. I had not been employed by the State as a lawyer. A previous opinion had cost them $2,000.00 so I sensed their displeasure. When Robert (Bob) Randall mentioned the type of land grant that might affect the issue, I was pleased that I had not ventured an opinion as I have no familiarity with that issue of state law. Also, I missed one meeting of the Committee in mid-October when I had to go to an emergency doctor's appointment which can be verified with office staff. I did send an advance email to Bridget Ambler that I would be absent and why. Lynn Hartman, who is a member of the Committee, took an instant dislike of me and communicates through Mr. Freedman. Mr. Freedman was aware of this issue. Certain members of the Committee were initially concerned at how I might handle issues raised by this Committee because of my Navajo cultural background. However, I never let this interfere in any way with my work, and I demonstrated the utmost respect and integrity on all matters.
Also, the Lt. Governor said the Tribe(s) was/were unhappy because of my lack of consultation. He did not specify any particular person or issue.
I have hundreds of emails showing I communicated every week and even more frequently with the Tribes, the CCIA, state legislators and the public. I sent detailed written Weekly Reports to the CCIA (which included Tribal leaders) and I gave written and verbal Quarterly Reports (which included Tribal leaders) at the CCIA meetings. In fact, two community members at the end of October asked that I aggregate information in emails to avoid sending so many. To address this concern, I sent a recent email where I aggregated current issues, of which there were about five. According to the Lt. Governor, the Tribe(s) was/were displeased with this. I also met with Mr. Freedman weekly, at which time I had never been counseled for my work performance.
However, my employment is by the Commission, not the Lt. Governor. It is a statutory appointment. I received no determination of unfitness from the Commission. In fact, Steve Moore, who is on the Budget and Personnel Committee, did not even know I had been terminated until I informed him by email. The Budget and Personnel Committee is also responsible for my performance evaluation, which I have not had. ---- 24-44-105. Executive secretary. The commission may employ an executive secretary to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities and business of the commission. The executive secretary shall be an ex officio member of the commission and shall be an enrolled member of a federally recognized Indian tribe.
The long term policies and procedures of the CCIA as it pertains to the Budget and Personnel Committee are as follows:
BUDGET: Fiscal records CRS 24-44-103(1)(b) To investigate the needs of the Indians of this state and to provide technical assistance in the preparation of plans for the alleviation of such needs; (f) To employ and fix the compensation of an executive secretary of the commission, who shall carry out the responsibilities of the commission; (g) To petition the general assembly for funds to effectively administer the commission's affairs and to expend funds in compliance with state regulations; (h) To accept and receive gifts, funds, grants, bequests, and devices for use in furthering the purposes of the commission; (k) To make and publish reports on findings and recommendations.
PERSONNEL CRS 24-44-103(1) (f) To employ and fix the compensation of an executive secretary of the commission, who shall carry out the responsibilities of the commission. CRS 24-44-104 (1) (T)wo at-large members who shall be selected by the commission at its first meeting and annually thereafter. (2) The lieutenant governor shall serve as chairman of the commission and shall, subject to the provisions of section 24-44-105 and the ratification of a majority of the full commission, appoint an executive secretary. CRS 24-44-105 The commission may employ an executive secretary to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities and business of the commission. ---- I am focusing though on what I did accomplish because no one can take it away.
I am happy that I had almost two years to address key issues impacting American Indians in Colorado: cultural preservation, economic development, education and health care. With community input, we created a comprehensive website for the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs. It has received stellar reviews from the community via email which I saved.
We started building Indian education curriculum developed by American Indians - so for the first time in Colorado the native voice will be heard, even though there has been legislation since 1996. The Lt. Governor told me the Governor was pleased with this effort. I informed the community of this by email. I saved all emails on the community effort on this subject.
With the support of CO DPHE, we formed the American Indian Health Council Inc. to address health disparities - in the Denver Metro area the infant mortality rate is 15.2 per 1000 births - well above the 5.8 per 1000 for the general population. Mauricio Palacio, CO DPHE, has congratulated me on this effort via email and asked me to speak at the upcoming CO Minority Health Commission meeting.
I requested a meeting at the direction of CO DPHE with US HHS Regional Director Salazar to discuss federal funding given to states with an expectation that a portion of that funding go to American Indian tribes and urban health organizations. The Secretary of the Interior recently sent a letter to all state governors on this issue.
I notified the Tribes of the timing for bringing an appeal on the CO HCPF Medicaid issue at the direction of the Lt. Governor.
We have a new solid and talented Economic Opportunities and Resources Committee which is seeking Tribal direction.
Two State Capitol Committees, at my request - with the Tribes' support, approved permanently displaying the Colorado Ute Tribal flags in the State Capitol to honor their sovereignty. The approval came with the proviso that we have a flyer for the public on American Indian Tribes and Citizens in Colorado. We developed that flyer with widespread community and legislative input. I saved the emails documenting the community conversation which was totally positive. I received absolutely no objections, from the CCIA or anyone else.
We were working to make Indian education and health data transparent and available to the public. Commissioner Hammond, CO DOE, will address the next CCIA meeting on Indian student drop-out rates and disciplinary issues in the southwest region.
We had a wonderful public American Indian education reception and exhibit. We had over one-hundred members of the Indian community attend. The Lt. Governor congratulated me for an excellent job on this. The education posters are on the website under Education. We also developed Indian health posters for children.
Senator Suzanne Williams (Comanche) has introduced an Indigenous Language Instruction with a Teacher Certification Waiver bill which will make it possible for our youth to maintain their indigenous languages. Senator Williams has also introduced legislation regarding fishing. I did let her know that she needed to get the Lt. Governor's, Tribal and CCIA input as I have no authority to endorse legislation.
We had the chance to use Indian-owned businesses.
We spent over six months preparing Resource Directories in the areas of Education, Economic Development and Health, as well as a General Directory. We added state and federal contract procurement information. We posted grant information, along with alternative teacher licensure certification procedures. Over 32 media articles done on the CCIA in the last year are on the website as well. A compendium of Colorado state statutes which I prepared pertaining to Indians is also on the site, as are links to the other state Indian commissions and the Caucus of Native American State Legislators. I had the good fortune to give small business formation and development classes based on over 11 business seminars I had given in the past in the Indian community.
I was able to attend and speak at numerous events hosted by the Indian community. Many community members, for whom I can verify, stated CCIA's Executive Secretary had never done this. The community didn't even know we had a logo until the education poster exhibit.
When it was reported to me recently that a female middle school student had been kicked and yelled racist slurs by a male in her class, which was confirmed by the Principal via email to me, I was able to hug and comfort her.
Each day as I rode on the Light Rail to work and passed the University of Denver, I prayed to my Navajo deities that I would use the education I received (BA, MBA, JD), for the benefit of the American Indian community. I can say that I did every day and for that I am truly thankful.
I want to thank the Colorado Indian community that I had the honor to humbly serve. We are so lucky to have such a talented group of Indian leaders in this State!!!
The momentum is building and we will begin to improve opportunities for American Indians in Colorado. I have received a tremendous outpouring of support from the Indian community which I value. They do not understand what led to my termination.
More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Diamond Lil's was the most historically accurate adult store in Denver."