Tribal Government & News

General Council, short of quorum, turns into informational session about TERO

04.04.2017 Dean Rhodes General Council

EUGENE – Maybe it was the general despondency throughout the state regarding the previous night’s loss by the University of Oregon Ducks in the Final Four.

Or perhaps it was a sunny day with highs around 60 degrees after what has been a long, cold and rainy winter.

Or, more likely, it was a combination of both.

Whatever the reason, the Sunday, April 2, General Council meeting held at the Valley River Inn in Eugene failed to reach quorum, which is 30 Tribal members per the Tribal Constitution.

Actually, General Council was just one Tribal member short of quorum, but after reaching the 11:15 a.m. deadline and still only having 29 Tribal members in attendance, Tribal Council Secretary Jon A. George was forced to cancel the regular meeting per Tribal ordinance. However, the planned program proceeded as an informational session for the members who did attend.

Tribal Employment Rights Office Interim Director John Mercier presented a 30-minute overview of the TERO program.

“TEROs were started by a group of people that were very concerned about employment on Indian Reservations,” Mercier said. “TEROs are nothing new. There are 300 TEROs nationwide. In comparison, the Grand Ronde TERO is relatively new.”

Mercier said the Grand Ronde Tribe previously practiced Tribal preference in hiring with relatively weak results. He said that after 30 years of development of the Tribal campus, as well as Spirit Mountain Casino, Tribal preference “created only minimal employment opportunities” for Tribal members.

“The Tribe wanted improved employment opportunities for Tribal members who wanted jobs,” Mercier said. “It was as simple as that: People wanted jobs. So Grand Ronde started building a TERO.”

Tribal Council approved the Grand Ronde TERO Ordinance in November 2013 to ensure that Tribal members have a chance to participate in economic activity on or near the Reservation.

The ordinance was enacted to address unemployment or underemployment near the Reservation, to eliminate barriers Tribal members face while seeking employment and to ensure the legal structure is in place so that Tribal members receive their rightful entitlements under the concept of Indian preference.

Mercier said the newly appointed TERO Commission, which oversees the TERO program, includes Chairman Russell Wilkinson, Vice Chair Diana George, Secretary Wink Soderberg and member Camille Mercier. There remains one vacancy on the commission.

There are currently 317 Tribal members in the Grand Ronde TERO Skills Bank who represent 34 different Native American Tribes. Mercier said that TERO’s goal is to see between 10 percent to 20 percent Tribal employment on covered projects within its jurisdiction.

The Tribe also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Oregon Department of Transportation that runs from January 2014 through January 2019 that permits the Tribe to enforce Indian preference in hiring on federally funded road construction projects within a 60-mile radius of the Reservation.

“Our employees in TERO are hired as employees of the contractors, not employees of the Tribe,” Mercier said. “They go into the contractors’ payroll. They must be paid the same as other employees and must receive benefits.”

However, Mercier said, employees must adhere to company policies. “It’s a two-way street,” he said. “We’re making a preference in hiring, but that doesn’t give TERO workers an entitlement that they have preference in treatment.”

TERO also offers training opportunities, such as the March 30 traffic control flagger certification held in the Employment Services Center in Grand Ronde that had 20 participants.

Mercier said that Grand Ronde is one of three Oregon Tribes with a TERO MOU with the state Department of Transportation. He suggested that any Eugene-area Tribal members with appropriate job skills sign up for the Skills Bank.

Anyone with questions regarding TERO can contact the Tribal office at

In other action, it was announced that the next General Council meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 7, at the Tribal Community Center in Grand Ronde.

Debi Anderson, Clifford Olson and Lisa Crawford won the $100 door prizes while Monty Parazoo, Wilkinson, Tracie Meyer, Esther Lagoy and Celia Randolph won the $50 door prizes. In addition, five turkey and/or ham certificates and two necklaces made by George were raffled off.

After lunch, approximately 15 Tribal members remained to participate in the final community input meeting regarding possible advisory votes that could be held in the future.