DECISION REAFFIRMED: After Oneida Business Committee Chairs Ed Delgado & Cristina Danforth Appeal Oneida Personnel Commission’s Decision, Dale Wheelock Is Again Vindicated By Oneida Appeals Commission Which Ordered He Be Reinstated As Executive Director Of Oneida Housing Authority

There’s a lot to consider in the 31-page Final Decision of the Appellate Court of the Oneida Appeals Commission in Docket No. 14-AC-004, but the following deserves special attention:

The Oneida Business Committee administration of 2011 tried to have Resolution GTC# 2-25-82 rescinded however that resolution stands in place. The GTC should take a long look at what has attempted to be done and has failed. The administration of 2011 violated Resolution GTC# 2-25-82 when they got rid of the General Managers and became involved in the day to day activities. When the Oneida Business Committee placed themselves as the Supervisor over all Directors they violated a direct order from the General Tribal Council and therefore acted outside their scope of authority.

The [OBC] administration of 2011[–2013] tried to find ways to implement Plan B that was introduced in the July 2000 GTC meeting. The GTC Resolution 2-25-82 is still in effect and the [OBC] continues to find themselves in the day-to-day activities acting as the supervisor to all directors.

More excerpts from the Appellate Court’s Final Decision:

Mr. Wheelock was placed on Investigative Leave on August 3, 2012, however he was informed in a letter from [Oneida Human Resources Dept.] dated August 6, 2012, that he was ineligible for insurance benefits as of August 2, 2012, which is one day before he was placed on leave.

Throughout the testimonies submitted there is no clear reason for the error that removed Mr. Wheelock from insurance benefits before he had been placed on any leave. …

The Oneida Personnel Commission found there were several procedural irregularities that presented themselves during the Investigative Leave issue. The most glaring procedural irregularity was the [former] Chairman of the [Oneida Business Committee, Ed Delgado,] authorizing an investigation based on a complaint from an employee. …

Another procedural irregularity in the issuance of Investigative Leave; in the evidence submitted, [former OBC] Chairman [Ed] Delgado and [HR Director] Geraldine Danforth both admitted they erred in issuing the Investigative Leave, retracting a portion of the memo that accompanied the leave form addressing the entry to tribal buildings and then reissued an Alternative Work Assignment. …

Oneida Personnel Commission asked [then-OBC Treasurer and current OBC Chair] Cristina Danforth…as Mr. Wheelock’s Supervisor if she had informed HRD of the change in supervision from Edward Delgado to Cristina Danforth; her response, on the audio recordings, was HRD was not informed because the entire Oneida Business Committee was supervisor to all the division directors. She felt that all directors knew that all Business Committee members were their immediate supervisor, therefore there was no need to alert HRD.

Because Mr. Wheelock was not notified that [Tina Danforth] was now his Supervisor, he was hesitant to respond to her request for a meeting and he did not respond to her calls. In addition, Mr. Wheelock was requested to meet at the Oneida Housing Authority office which would have created a problem based on the conditions of his Investigative Leave barring him from any and all Oneida Housing Authority offices and buildings.

Cristina Danforth testified: the entire [OBC] played the role of supervisor, particularly in the case of the Oneida Housing Authority in that, Oneida Housing had been identified as the Tribal Designated Housing Entity. Cristina Danforth further stated Chairman Delgado could not act in the capacity of supervisor because he had a pending case in the Brown County Court system that involved a restraining order between Mr. Wheelock and Chairman Delgado.

The supervision of Mr. Wheelock could not be passed to [former] Vice-Chairman Greg Matson because he had been working at the Oneida Housing Authority during the period of time the issues of concern were being investigated.

Oneida Personnel Commission asked Cristina Danforth how Mr. Wheelock would have received the information that she was now his supervisor; her response was, the action to appoint her supervisor was in the December 12, 2012, [OBC] minutes. Mr. Wheelock was on leave from his office at the time and may not have been privy to that information. …

[Fmr.] Chairman Delgado and [current OBC Chair] Cristina Danforth appear to have lacked the knowledge of the tribe’s disciplinary process. …

Were there Procedural Irregularities in this case?

Yes, there were numerous procedural irregularities exhibited throughout this case from the very beginning.

Improperly placing Mr. Wheelock on Investigative Leave due to a Complaint by an employee, barring Mr. Wheelock from all tribal buildings, violating Mr. Wheelock’s constitutional rights, the list goes on. …

Was Mr. Wheelock placed on Investigative Leave as a result of a comlaint from an employee?

Yes. Mr. Wheelock was placed on Investigative Leave as a result of a complaint from a tribal employee. 

The Oneida Personnel Polices and Procedures Investigative Leave Policy states: ….

Scope: Investigative leave does not apply to investigations regarding appeals of disciplinary actions or to complaint investigations. (Approved by OBC 04-07-99)

Did the Oneida Personnel Commission err in their decision to overturn the termination of Mr. Wheelock?

No, the Oneida Personnel did not did not err in their decision to overturn the termination of Mr. Wheelock. 

The Oneida Personnel Commission’s decision brought to light many of the procedural irregularities that had been levied against Mr. Wheelock. …

The Oneida Personnel Commission uncovered many errors that had been levied against Mr. Wheelock and they are to be commended for their vigilance in this case.

Another error uncovered, as evidenced at the hearing, Mr. Wheelock had a counseling session with a licensed counselor at Oneida Behavioral Health.

The information from that session was shared outside the counseling session which created a breach of confidentiality. The hearing records show Mr. Wheelock’s counselor, Bob Fresen, reported his concerns to his supervisor, Barb Kolitsch, who then took it beyond the scope of confidentiality. …

Due to this action Mr. Wheelock was placed on what was first identified as a second Investigative Leave by [former] Chairperson [Ed] Delgado and later identified as an Involuntary Leave of Absence with a requirement to submit a doctor’s report before returning to work. The court records substantiate the harassment and intimidation that Mr. Wheelock endured during this case, more specifically from Chairman Delgado.

Mr. Wheelock was working at the Division of Land Management when he was again placed on an Investigative Leave/Involuntary Leave of Absence as a result of the information taken outside the confidential counseling session he had with his counselor.

As a result of the breach of confidentiality, the information from Counselor Bob Fresen to Barb Kolitsch to Chairman Delgado; a restraining order against Mr. Wheelock was filed in the Brown County Court, Green Bay by Chairman Delgado. Brown County Court rendered the case as an unfounded incident. As a result Mr. Wheelock was barred from a General Tribal Council meeting and was escorted out of the meeting by Oneida Tribal Police.

Mr. Wheelock was prohibited his Constitutional right to enjoin fellow members sharing int he wealth of the tribe through a meeting stipend of one hundred dollars. In January 2013, Mr. Wheelock was sitting quietly in the overflow room at the time waiting for the General Tribal Council meeting to commence when the Oneida Tribal Police escorted him out under the orders of [former] Chairman [Ed] Delgado.

On December 12, 2012 the Oneida Business Committee took action to delegate supervisory responsibility to conclude an investigation and any action necessary regarding Mr. Wheelock. [Former] Oneida Tribal Treasurer [and current OBC Chair] Cristina Danforth was the delegated person.

[Former]Treasurer [and current OBC Chair Tina] Danforth attempted to contact Mr. Wheelock about the results of the investigation and to meet with him at the Oneida Housing Office; however she was unable to inform him.

Was Mr. Wheelock informed he had a new supervisor and if so when?

No. Mr. Wheelock was not informed he had a new supervisor.

According to the hearing documents, Mr. Wheelock did not know the supervisor was now the [former OBC] Treasurer [and current OBC Chair], Cristina Danforth. When he received a call from her he told her all communication had to go through his attorney. HRD did not notify Mr. Wheelock of the change in his supervision. Unknowing that [former OBC] Treasurer [and current OBC Chair] Tina Danforth was now his supervisor, Mr. Wheelock knew he could not go to the Oneida Housing Authority office so as a result of not knowing Cristina Danforth was assigned as his new supervisor he was suspicious about the meeting and he refused to meet at the Oneida Housing Authority office. His termination was based on failure, on his part, to meet with his Supervisor, Cristina Danforth. The questions from the investigative audit findings that Cristina Danforth had wanted Mr. Wheelock to answer concerning the investigations were answered at the Oneida Personnel Commission hearings. …

This court finds there was a conflict of interest that existed between [former OBC] Chairman [Ed] Delgado and the members of the Oneida Business Committee, and Mr. Wheelock, Oneida Housing Authority Executive Director.

The conflict was due to the fact the Oneida Business Committee took action that made all Business Committee Members the immediate supervisor to all Directors with no process in place for directors such as Mr. Wheelock to appeal.

In the evidence submitted at the hearing, it is documented, Mr. Wheelock petitioned for a GTC meeting on November 13, 2012 requesting a meeting to be held for violations of Code of Ethics and Civil Rights violations by Ed Delgado.

Mr. Wheelock obtained 67 signatures which met the requirement for calling a special meeting of the General Tribal Council as specified in the (Amended) Constitution and By-Laws of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. It stated in the petition. “This is not a removal petition but call for a GTC meeting for Code of Ethics/Oneida Constitutional Civil Rights violations by Ed Delgado and [HR Director] Geraldine Danforth.”

In this petition under Delegated Authority it states, “The Oneida Business Committee cannot determine the disposition of this petition due to Conflict of Interest. The nature of the petition is the result of action taken by [former OBC] Chairman [Ed] Delgado and [HR Dir.] Geraldine Danforth to deny a tribal member their civil rights without due process of law by issuance of an Investigative Leave due to a complaint. [Former OBC] Chairman [Ed] Delgado placed an article in the October 4, 2012 issue of the Kalihwisaks, ‘Chairman’s Corner,’ indicating, “Early in this term concerns were brought to my office regarding possible misapplications of federal grant monies occurring at the Oneida Housing Authority.”

The Oneida Business Committee, in assuming the responsibility of supervision over Division Directors, went beyond the scope of its authority.

The GTC, since the beginning, has attempted to keep the Business Committee out of day-to-day activities by the passage of numerous Resolutions. The GTC has on many occasions had conversations on the GTC floor concerning this very topic. Now comes a case of clear violations done to Mr. Wheelock through the involvement of Business Committee members being led by the Chairman of the Oneida Tribe involving day-to-day activities.

The following actions the GTC have put in place to protect the rights, integrity, and ethical behavior of Oneida Business Committee members as well as Oneida Membership.

RESOLUTION NO. 2-25-82
WHEREAS: The elected officials need to maintain a separation of the legislative and administrative responsibilities of the Tribe.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the General Tribal Council hereby directs the Business Committee to hire a General Manager to be directly responsible for the programs and enterprises of the Tribe along with the Personnel Office and the Accounting Office.

Be it further resolved that the Business Committee be directed to become actively involved in the legislative areas such as:

a. Develop a land acquisition plan
b. Develop the Tribal Court System
c. Revision of Tribal Constitution & By-Laws
d. Develop Educational priorities-Tribal School
e. Fiscal Plan
f. Work on Land Claims
g. Update and develop Ordinances

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Oneida Business Committee present a written report at the General Tribal Council meeting in July and that the report be made available to the General Tribal Council thrity (30) days prior to the meeting.

On January 17, 1998, at another General Tribal Council Meeting the Chair recognized…”Motion by Debbie Powless to approve the HRD Personnel Policy Status Report and to make further clarification that the Oneida Business Committee’s involvement and/or activity is hereby restricted to Legislative Policy Development and not in Day to Day Personnel/HRD matters including restriction of their involvement on various committee related to HRD and Personnel matters of activity.” …Motion Carried.

This GTC Resolution has stood the test of time, it had directed the Oneida Business Committees to refrain from day-to-day activities, however the [OBC] administration of 2011 tried for three years and put in place many Resolutions to allow themselves to be involved in the day to day activities. …

The [OBC] administration of 2011 tried to have Resolution GTC# 2-25-82 rescinded however that resolution stands in place. The GTC should take a long look at what has attempted to be done and has failed. The administration of 2011 violated Resolution GTC# 2-25-82 when they got rid of the General Managers and became involved in the day to day activities. When the Oneida Business Committee placed themselves as the Supervisor over all Directors they violated a direct order from the General Tribal Council therefore acted outside their scope of authority.

The administration of 2011 tried to find ways to implement Plan B that was introduced in the July 2000 GTC meeting. The GTC Resolution 2-25-82 is still in effect and the [OBC] continues to find themselves in the day-to-day activities acting as the supervisor to all directors.

This court questions the supervision that Mr. Wheelock was faced with. Who was his supervisor?

As Mr. Wheelock’s supervisor, [then-OBC Treasurer and current OBC Chair Tina] Danforth issued disciplinary action[.] …

Mr. Jim Martin[, Jr., aka ‘Sonny’], Internal Security, was asked by Cristina Danforth [as] Treasurer to investigate the Oneida Housing allegations.

Mr. Martin began by reviewing the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Grant) and the Housing and Urban Development website.

Upon completion of the investigation Mr. Martin submitted his report to Owen Somers, Security Director.

The Internal Security Director, Owen Somers, submitted the report of the Oneida Housing Investigation to [former] Chairman [Ed] Delgado. The Investigation revealed a lack of internal controls when it came to accountability of employees and inventory taking. The main suspect associated with any thefts in the Housing area had resigned on April 23, 2012 shortly after the investigation began.

In the report to [former] Chairman Delgado from the Internal Security Director [Owen Somers] wsa the statement, “As far as the Housing Director [Dale Wheelock] goes, there was no evidence of theft on his part.”

The Oneida Personnel Commission took into consideration the investigation evidence presented by Mr. James Martin. Mr. Martin stated through documented evidence that his scope of investigating was limited to finding [if] things [were] missing; it was not his job to find them.

The Oneida Personnel Commission pointed out there is a vast difference between the political arm of the Oneida Tribe and the departmental functions of the Tribe. There are employee rights that have been outlined in various laws of the Tribe which were violated.

The Oneida Personnel Commission found Mr. Wheelock was wrongly placed on investigative leave as the leave was the result of a “complaint.”

In the decision of the Oneida Personnel Commission it is stated, “The Oneida Personnel Commission ORDERS the termination of Mr. Dale Wheelock OVERTURNED. Any back pay and benefits are to be reinstated to Mr. Wheelock beginning with the week of August 5, 2012, through his Reinstatement to his former position as Executive Director of the Oneida Housing Authority. Mr. Dale Wheelock’s employee record is to be expunged of this discipline.”

Mr. Wheelock is seeking damages for insurance bills totaling nearaly $2000 for emergency treatment during the period the insurance coverage was denied.

Decision

It is the decision of this Appellate Court to AFFIRM the Oneida Personnel Commission’s decision dated 2/28/2014 in case No. 14-AC-004.

This Appellate Court awards to Mr. Wheelock any and all back pay and benefits (including vacation and personal time accrued) beginning with the week of August 5, 2012, to the date of reinstatement to his former position as Executive Director of the Oneida Housing Authority on or before December 1, 2014.

This Court further awards Mr. Wheelock reimbursement for the insurance bills totaling nearly $2000 for emergency treatment.

Mr. Wheelock’s termination from employment shall be removed from his record.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

 ___________________________

 

QUESTION: What was the role of Chief Counsel Jo Anne House and the Oneida Law Office in condoning, encouraging or failing to object to these violations of GTC directives and the harassment & intimidation of a Tribal employee, including clear violations of his Civil Rights by the OBC Chair, the OBC Treasurer, the Human Resources Director, Oneida Behavioral Health Center staff, and the Director of Internal Security?

 

See also:

 


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