A facebook firestorm erupted after it became known that the Tribal Council had awarded themselves a $5,000 bonus. Tao Etpison and the council were roundly condemned and staunchly defended when Etpison posted an explanation for council actions on Facebook. Initial reactions were mostly negative, but later most comments were neutral or positive.
Some people questioned the propriety of a governmental agency awarding its members money from public funds. Etpison said that the council was like a corporate board, and that corporate boards award bonuses. During the Chairman’s meeting at Bylas on Saturday, July 27, he insisted that when the tribal government was set up, the council started out as both a government agency and as a corporate board.
There was a lot of caviling about “getting to work late and leaving early” and earning two to three times the average wage and getting extra money on top of that.
There were insinuations of graft, but speaking in the vein of many people, Winifred Gibson posted, “So I ask all of you complaining about our elected officials getting their money. Wouldn’t you want them to be honest about how much they get rather than commit fraud and stuff it in their pockets like past officials of ours and other tribes have done? Don’t you agree a lot has been done for the tribe financially in the past?.. We should appreciate the candor, the hard work the commitment our council has done so far.”
One constituent asked about per cap money that was being held in trust for people under 18, did it earn interest? Etpison answered that it did earn interest.
Some people posted positively, but suggested projects the council might spend money on. Some critics pointed out instances where projects or benefits were denied on the grounds that there was not enough money, and if there wasn’t, why was council getting a bonus?
There were a lot of personal exchanges between posters about who really had standing to speak as an Apache, and who had the knowledge and experience to speak. Having been praised for candor by many, Etpison none-the-less decided to take down the entire thread in favor of other means of communicating with his constituents.
On Saturday, July 27, at a community meeting in Bylas, Tribal Chairman, Terry Rambler spoke at length, in Apache about the council’s achievements. Etpison, a skilled orator, followed Rambler, speaking mostly in Apache and pledged that his goal had always been to be a good vice chairman. And he denied any interest in advancing to the Tribal Chairmanship. Work on Indian 6, the refurbishment of the active adult center in downtown San Carlos, the new one being built in Bylas, the new aquatic center going up in Gilson Wash, and the new activity center and boys and girls club building in Bylas were mentioned in the speeches, which followed dinner.
The band “Apache Spirit” performed traditional songs and mellow country and western for the assembly. Rambler had no comment on the bonus controversy to the reporter who attended from The Moccasin.