Investigation Request Details Complaint

Investigation Request Details Complaint

Carol Berry
11/13/11

The ousted executive secretary of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA) is requesting federal and state civil and criminal investigations into her recent termination by a staff member in the office of the state’s lieutenant governor, Joseph Garcia, who serves as CCIA chairman.

Carol Harvey, Dine’/Hispanic, said the requests were sent November 10 to the CCIA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Urban Indian Health Institute and the staffs of U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both of Colorado.

Harvey, who was CCIA executive secretary nearly two years, said she was terminated without any forewarning by Andrew Freedman, Garcia’s chief of staff, who, along with the lieutenant governor, has been unavailable for comment.

She charges the Colorado Sunshine Law was violated when the decision to terminate her employment was not made by the CCIA in a public meeting. She also contends the state’s Administrative Procedure Act was violated because she was employed by the CCIA, not Freedman, and the state erred when it allowed Freedman alone “to terminate (her) without cause, other than I ‘was not a fit.’”

Colorado’s at-will employment law—which, in broad terms, means an employer does not need good cause to fire an employee—does not apply in her case, because “ratification for employment of the executive secretary by a majority of the CCIA constitutes an implied contract of employment until proper procedural action by the CCIA to the contrary.”

In addition, because tribes are nations, intertribal discrimination on the basis of national origin can violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, she said, asserting the lieutenant governor had told her that although “the Ute Tribes wanted a Ute person in (her) position, he did not think anyone was qualified.” She noted her many visits to the two Ute reservations and her “high esteem for the sovereign Ute Tribes of Colorado.”

Apart from issues related directly to her termination, Harvey requested an audit of the HHS Office of the Inspector General over

possible irregularities in the Indian share of federal grants to Colorado and she charged the state failed to consult with tribes on Medicaid amendments.

She also said an investigation should be conducted by the Colorado DOE and civil rights officials concerning the civil rights of minority students, whose “drop-out rates, low academic performance and disciplinary issues” call for action. The state’s compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act is also low—estimated at 37 percent, a figure she said she had not confirmed but that had been provided by the Denver Indian Family Resource Center.

The CCIA director acts as liaison between the state and the state’s two tribal nations, the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute  tribes of southwestern Colorado, and off-reservation American Indians, including the urban Indian population located primarily in the Denver metro area and along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

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