The National Congress of American Indians is once again without a chief executive officer, the organization’s highest ranking employee, after the organization dismissed its former CEO earlier this month.
On Aug. 12, NCAI, which acts as a representative congress for tribes throughout the country, released a statement announcing it was parting ways with Dante Desiderio, Sappony, who had been in the role for less than a year.
In the statement, the organization did not provide details as to why the move was made but said it is a priority “to serve as a leading voice for tribal sovereignty interests and initiatives.”
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“To continue to better serve our diverse sovereign Tribal Nations, we have parted ways with Mr. Desiderio. Our organization values accountability and has an ambitious agenda and we’re excited to strengthen our organization, build on our successes and achieve our strategic goals,” the statement reads.
An NCAI spokesperson said the organization is focused on its upcoming annual meeting in Sacramento, California and the White House Tribal Nations Summit. They added a search for new leadership has already been initiated.
“The Executive Committee will continue to work swiftly, diligently and thoughtfully as we identify and consider candidates for this important role," the spokesperson said.
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Desiderio was put on administrative leave ahead of the organization’s mid-year conference in June. As CEO, he was in charge of the day-to-day management and operations of NCAI, as well as the advocacy policy research.
NCAI board president, Fawn Sharp, Quinault, said in June that placing Desiderio on administrative leave was “appropriate under the organization’s policies governing the current facts as we know them at this point;” but would not comment further being that it was a “personnel matter.”
Desiderio’s quick departure comes after the man he replaced, Kevin Allis, Forest County Potawatomi Community, left the same position after 18 months.
Before Allis, Jackie Johnson Pata, Tlingit, held the position for 18 years before resigning in February 2019. Pata’s resignation came after complaints she mishandled sexual harrassment allegations against the organization’s former lead counsel.
Larry Wright Jr., Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, is currently serving as interim-CEO.
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