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Nez Perce won’t dump health board

(MCT) – The Nez Perce Tribe’s governing board has denied one request approved by tribal voters last month, and set a work group in motion in order to approve another.

General Council voters approved separate resolutions during their meeting in Kamiah last month, one calling for the dissolution of the tribe’s health board and the other for a dividend distribution to all tribal members.

A resolution that passed Sept. 26 by a 53-48 vote to dissolve all but one member of the Nimiipuu Health clinic’s advisory board was denied by the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee at the meeting. According to a news release from the executive committee, the health board will remain as a functioning body.

Members of the executive committee’s human resources subcommittee were not available to comment Oct. 29 on the action.

General Council Chairwoman Carla Timentwa also could not be reached for comment.

No action has been taken on a second resolution calling for the distribution, also known as a per capita, which General Council voters approved by a 95-66 vote last month. The resolution calls for payments of $1,500 to be distributed to every tribal member in December and June from gaming revenue generated by the tribe’s two casinos. The cost of the disbursement totals about $10 million.

The temporary work group with representatives including executive committee members, General Council officers, and other tribal representatives began meeting Oct. 28 to examine the mechanics and requirements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The act spells out how tribes can distribute gaming revenue, including the formulation of a revenue allocation plan that itself must be approved by the BIA.

Because of those time constraints, executive committee Treasurer Joel T. Moffett said one option being looked at by the work group is whether the tribe can distribute the funds through non-gaming revenue. The tribe has a revenue allocation plan in place for a distribution approved several years ago from a settlement with Avista Utilities, he said.

One of the reasons the workgroup is looking at options instead of from gaming revenue is because of the time it would take for a plan to be approved, according to the tribe. The BIAs’ Office of Indian Gaming has 60 days to approve a revenue allocation plan.

“I think the intent of the working group was to work quickly, but prudently and responsibly,” Moffett said.

He said the budget and finance subcommittee will also post a survey regarding the distribution available to tribal members next week on the tribe’s Web site to gather input on the plan.

“We don’t want to be hasty, we want to be prudent, and come up with a plan that’s right for the Nez Perce,” Moffett said.

In a news release, executive committee Chairman Samuel N. Penney said the board understands the importance of the issue and is taking appropriate steps to ensure the tribe fully complies with federal requirements.

“The NPTEC is working toward resolving this issue as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Penney said.

Moffett said the planning group would meet again, and a distribution plan will likely go before the budget and fiance subcommittee soon. The board is on track to approve a plan at its Nov. 10 meeting.