Tribal council chair takes leave

Hayes is also target of recall effort

Keywords: Poll question,

Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council Chairman Gary Hayes, at his own request, was placed on 45-day administrative leave effective June 28, tribal members are reporting.

The request was discussed in a council executive session on June 28, and Tribal Council Vice President Bradley Hight has reportedly told groups of members that he has assumed the role of chairman that was held by Hayes, said Regina Lopez, who works in the Ute Mountain Ute tribal government office.

Lopez is also a member of a group behind a petition drive that asked for Hayes to be recalled.

Lopez said since the June 28 meeting, no one has seen Hayes and he has not made an appearance at his office.

The leave by Hayes follows tribal members gathering enough signatures to trigger a recall election of Hayes, and Lopez said members will vote within 45 days of June 28 whether to keep him in office or to oust him and have a special election.

Lopez said the employees of the tribe have not seen any memorandums from Hight or anyone else on what transpired with Hayes and are going by what he has told groups of people.

“Gary has not been in the area or the office,” she said. “Officially, (Hight) has not met with employees, but he has informed small groups of tribal members.”

She said the reasons Hight gave for Hayes’ request was that the chairman said he was stressed out and frazzled over all the things that were going on within the tribe.

“It will go to an election for the people to decide whether they want to keep him,” she said of the recall.

At least 25 percent of voters, or about 500 members, had to sign the petition in order to trigger an election, according to tribal policy, and Lopez said that number was reached and the petitions were turned in.

Another tribal member, who asked that she not be identified, said it was her understanding that Hayes had been voted off the council by a unanimous vote of the other council members, and added Hayes no longer has power as a government official since he is no longer a member of the council.

Lopez said if a recall is voted for by tribal members, Hayes could possibly run if he went through the same procedures and regulations other candidates would have to follow, including collecting the required number of signatures.

The petition drive was completed nearly three months after the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe received $42.6 million as a part of a settlement with the federal government.

While the petition is in response to several long-standing issues with the tribe’s leadership, organizers said officials’ resistance to distributing the settlement money directly to members was what prompted the recall petition drive.

In early May, the tribal council agreed to give each adult tribal member $2,000 and every child $1,000.

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