Tulalip hiring policy in question

TULALIP — Tribal hiring practices are at least one of the hot-button issues heading for discussions as members of Tulalip Tribes prepare for an important meeting next month.

Today, grass-roots discussions begin in preparation for the tribes’ General Council meeting so tribal members can better direct their future.

“On its face, (the tribes) look like everything’s just as happy as could be,” former board member Les Parks said. “But it’s down in the trenches, the small guy, who is really not being paid attention to.”

Parks is organizing talks among tribal members to clarify goals and unify votes before the General Council meeting.

Tribal members have complained that it’s too difficult to get hired by the tribal government, despite a policy that guarantees that any qualified tribal member will be preferred for hiring over a nontribal member, Parks said.

Parks said he proposed a policy that would hire tribal members in every case over nontribal members at last year’s October General Council meeting.

“All we’ve had is a watered-down preference policy,” Parks said. “If a manager wants to find a way around it, they can.”

If job requirements are so rigid that tribal members don’t qualify, then the requirements must change, Parks said.

Tribal policy can only change under limited circumstances. Twice each year, members of the Tulalip Tribes gather to discuss the future of the tribe at General Council meetings, usually held in March and October.

In March, the tribes hold annual elections for the board of directors.

At the October meeting, tribal members have a chance to thank, question, scold and otherwise harangue leaders who sit on the tribes’ seven-member board.

At General Council meetings, tribal members can propose new ordinances or move to reverse a decision made by the board during the previous year. Any change requires a simple majority vote, board Chairman Mel Sheldon said.

By getting ready ahead of time, Parks said he hopes this year’s October meeting will be more effective than those in years past.

Sheldon said the tribal board has long struggled to employ all of the tribes’ members who have sought jobs with the tribal government.

He said he fully supports discussions that preclude General Council.

“The more everybody is educated on the issue, if they’re properly educated, they make better decisions,” Sheldon said.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

@2. Breakout Header:Meeting today

A meeting for members of the Tulalip Tribes to discuss issues facing them will be held at 5 p.m. today in the Housing Department’s public meeting space at 3107 Reuben Shelton Drive on the Tulalip Reservation.

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