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The KIC Health Advisory Committee
by Samuel Bergeron


March 10, 2004

The former Health Board of Ketchikan Indian Community was and still is a study in organizational dysfunction.

It was with no small amount of consideration and forethought did the KIC Tribal council change the KIC Health Advisory board to a standing committee of the tribal council. The problem with the Health advisory board began with our own ordinances.

KIC's ordinances, as well as our constitution need a massive overhaul. They are out dated and contradictory. One part of our code says that the health board has the ultimate authority over our health issues and in another part the health board is a committee to the tribal council. This caused some of the health board to perceive that they where the final and ultimate authority on issues relating to the health services provided at KIC, both with policy and with management. They felt the tribal council and some former staff had been disrespectful to them as the final and ultimate authority on health related issues. They further dug their heels in on issues that involved personnel and management. Both of these miscues put the tribe and themselves at risk for lawsuits and extended personnel issues as our insurance does not cover acts deemed to be outside the scope of their designated duty as a policy makers. In other words, if you act outside of your appointed duties, you are open individually to a lawsuit, as well as the tribe itself. As one of the fiduciaries to the 5000 members of KIC, I could not and would not let this intolerable situation continue no matter how much turmoil the health board makes or who turns unpopular policy decisions into issues of personal integrity or conflicts of interest.

When issues that are ultimately the perview of the tribal council are brought before us and the end result is contradictory to the wishes of the health board, instead of moving on to the next issue, they don't let go. It is never enough to visit an issue, debate it, vote on it, and then move on. It is eternally revisited as if it was still on the table. We can't operate like that. It is incongruous to the process of government. We can't be stuck in the past and expect to move forward with the business of the tribe when we are constantly trying to assuage the concerns of a board that doesn't fundamentally understand what its function is or how government works.

We must always ask ourselves this very basic question: are we part of the problem or part of the solution? The health advisory board is, in its present make-up, part of the problem. With no easy fix in sight, the tribal council acted wisely in upholding our own ordinances that says the Heath Board is a committee of the tribal council. Those on the council who sided with the Health Board and wanted to maintain status Quo are Norman Arriola and Elmer Makua. Maybe sometime they can explain their votes to all of you.

The professional staff at KIC will be far better off without the constant interference from a board that has involved itself in personnel and management issues. That's micro-management. Even though Elroy Edenshaw has said "Micro-management is a good thing when done properly". That implies that Elroy and others like Elroy are qualified to do the functions of General Manager and the Health Administrator. They are not. Nor do they understand a basic concept in government: Policy makers make policy and managers manage. When either one crosses those lines, the process suffers.

This letter of opinion was in response to the point of view from some members of the Health Advisory Board that appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News. I resubmit this for your reference.


Samuel Bergeron
Ketchikan, AK - USA



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