The Petersburg Indian Association has re-hired Bruce Jones as tribal administrator.
The PIA tribal council fired Jones in October a little more than two months after they had first hired him. At the time, Jones said he tried to fire an employee and the council did not support that decision. The membership of the tribal council has changed since then, following elections in January and one appointment to fill a vacant seat.
Jones starts up work again on Monday, February 4th. “It’s a good thing” Jones said. “You know my reasons for taking the job originally hasn’t changed. I see a lot of potential for partnering with the community and getting tribal members to work just doing good things and that hasn’t changed. Excited to work with this new board. Met with them last night for a couple hours and they seemed to be wanting to head down the right path and I’m willing to step in and be the leader and get that done.”
The tribal council has also decided to end the employment of a PIA grant writer Connie Bisson. In a radio commentary in January, Bisson identified herself as the employee Jones had tried to fire and alleged that action was against policy and procedures. Jones maintains that, as tribal administrator, he has responsibility for hiring and firing PIA employees. He said there may be other changes on the horizon for the PIA staff.
“I’m gonna probably rearrange some positions,” he said. “I wanna get a full-time finance person in place. We have an accountant there but I need somebody to take charge of that department along with HR and kind of spearhead those two activities. Currently we have a financial officer that works from out of Anchorage. I want somebody here full time to keep track of things.”
Jones has agreed to a four-year commitment with the PIA. He has a long career in local government. He formerly served as public works director, then city manager for Petersburg, then later as general manager of the Inter-Island Ferry Authority on Prince of Wales Island.
The PIA is the federally recognized tribal government that represents about 400 members in Petersburg. The organization offers numerous services for tribal members and the greater community. It’s been a rocky year and a half for the PIA, with numerous resignations among the tribal council and employees. Some of the disagreement has centered around the use of federal funding, the purchase and renovation of a local restaurant and personnel issues.
Tina Sakamoto was elected chair of the tribal council in January. Jeannette Ness, Skip Hallingstad and Melanie Frentz were also elected to the council. Mary Ann Rainey and Chris Lopez are continuing on the council and Mike Sheldon was appointed to fill a seat vacated by Derek Lopez.