Should our tribal
leaders have to abide by a written code of conduct?
The short answer is, "no". Not until our Tribal Constitutions are updated and reflect moderns times, and not the times in which they were written, which was the late 1930's. And, a code of conduct has to contain tangible expectations, not follow the vague, philosophical code of conducts that are commonly used, and ignored, today.
For example, if we passed a code of conduct for our leaders today, who will enforce it? Or, more importantly, who gets to decide whether or not our leaders violated it? Other leaders? Tribal members? Most leaders are loath to pass judgment on another leader's moral character because it opens themselves to judgment by others and no one is perfect. And, some just don't have to courage to speak up when they should.
Another reason why tribal leaders do not want to pass judgment on another leader's behavior is because most elected official feel that the people elected them so only the people can judge them. And, they are partially right. Elected official do not have the same "job" protection, or due process, that tribal employees have. (In theory anyway. Many tribal employees will say that they really don't have due process because their tribal constitutions do not contain a separation of powers clause.)
Typically, "due process" for tribal employee mean getting a verbal and written, a reprimand, suspension, before termination. Elected official serve at the will of the people and the people really don't need a reason to get rid of them. The people just have to hold a recall hearing and if there are enough votes to get rid of the elected that out they go.
Back to a code of conduct. Our constitution is very vague; it does not spell out exactly what to do should some one commit an unethical act. It does say the tribal chairman supervises the rest of the council. But what exactly does that mean? Does it mean the chairperson is obligated to judge other council members' moral character as well as their workplace behavior? Can he suspend other council members for using their influences from borrowing money from the tribe? Can he suspend them for getting drunk the night before and not showing up for work? Based on what I know about our tribal constitution, I would say no. And if he did, I'm sure he would lose in a court of law.
Let me give you an example of how our constitution might be re-written to hold our leaders accountable. Say we want to give our chairman the authority to punish any district representative who chronically misses work and/or meetings. Then our constitution will read something like this:
As a representative of your district your attendance at all meeting and General Assemblies are mandatory. (This is the broad statement, which lays out the expectations of our council representatives. The next sentences will spell out exactly how the chair will enforce them.) Should a council representative missed three consecutive meetings, and/or two consecutive General Assemblies and report late for worked three days in a row, than the Tribal Chair will suspend the representative with out any pay for one week. Should the tribal chair fail to carry out his duties then he or she can be charged with nonfeasance and subject to the penalty of one week day with out pay.
Now say we want to include a code of conduct for our leaders. Here might be example of one section:
Any tribal council person who is untruthful, consumes alcohol, stays out late at night, is unfaithful to their significant other, is mean to their children and animals, will be automatically be suspended for a month by the chair person. In case it's the chairperson being accused of these crime than the rest of the tribal council shall suspend him or her.
I don't know about you, but I know I do not want to make this type of judgments about a person's personal behavior. I'll leave it to Wakan Tanka to judge them. Instead, this is the kind of code of conduct I would like our council representatives to follow:
The council representative will consider him or herself to be a role modal for their tribe. Therefore, it will be the responsibility of the chairperson to insure members of the council report to work promptly, dress appropriately, attend every meeting and General Assemblies, and not misuse his her influence for their personal gain. The chairperson will suspend the the representative one week without pay for each infraction. Therefore tribal representatives will:
1. Report to work no later than 15 minutes every day
2. Attend all meeting called by the Chair person
3. Attend all General Assemblies
4. Will not make tribal loans while in office
5. While not sign off loans made by family and relatives
6. Refrain from personally interfering in the hiring, or firing process of tribal individuals until it went thought the chain of command. (The list can go in indefinitely, but you get my point.)
It's a slippery slope once we start judging other people's morality. People we are judging will turn around and start judging us, our children, our parents and things will go downhill real fast from there.
I would much rather have the constitution re-written with provision in there that clearly spells out what immoral/unethical behavior on the job constitutes an impeachable offense. In regards to what people do off the job, I will leave that behavior to be judged by Wakan Tanka, or the people, at a legally held recall hearing.