The statement reminded Indian Country that “Mr. Desiderio” had been placed on “temporary administrative leave” two months ago, on the eve of NCAI’s first in-person meeting in more than two years. Indianz.Com was the first to report on the CEO’s absence at the key gathering, with a story on June 10 citing high turnover among employees as one of the major complaints against the chief executive. In the days since the suspension, NCAI hasn’t publicly explained why Desiderio was placed on leave in the first place. At the time, President Fawn Sharp said the organization wasn’t in “a position to share more information” about the status of the highest-ranking employee. The new statement falls into the same category. The organization, which has now gone through three chief executives in three years, remains silent about the reasons behind Desiderio’s permanent exit from NCAI. “Our organization values accountability and has an ambitious agenda and we’re excited to strengthen our organization, build on our successes and achieve our strategic goals,” NCAI said.
Dante Desiderio is taking an “administrative leave of absence” at the National Congress of American Indians for reasons not being disclosed.
And just last month, Yvette Roubideaux, a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, stepped down as director of NCAI’s Policy Research Center after more than five years with the organization. But unlike the situation with Desiderio and other key employees, this departure was far more friendly in nature, having been in the works well in advance. According to NCAI, Fagan’s exit from the organization was similarly based on timing. Despite her title as Director of Operations and her proximity to Desiderio, she had only been a contract employee. “Ms. Fagan provided contract services to NCAI pursuant to a contracting agreement with Audit Business Services, Inc.,” a spokesperson told Indianz.Com. “NCAI’s contract ended with the company on June 30, 2022.” NCAI would not comment directly on the status of any other departed employees, echoing a call for “privacy” that had been voiced after Desiderio was placed on leave. “NCAI generally does not comment publicly on personnel matters out of respect for employees’ privacy,” the spokesperson said. Another complaint connected to Desiderio centered on the high turnover among employees. During his tenure, 19 people left NCAI — meaning at least one person left every month since his hiring as CEO. Altogether, about half of the organization’s work force has seen turnover in the last year. NCAI typically has about 38 employees. For now, Larry Wright, Jr., a former chairman of the Ponca Tribe, holds the title of “interim” CEO of NCAI. He was brought on board as Director of Leadership Engagement in late 2021, having previously served as the Vice President of the Great Plains Region, an elected position on the organization’s executive committee. Friday night’s statement about Desiderio’s departure was attributed to the executive committee, which consists of NCAI’s President, 1st Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, along with the Vice Presidents representing 12 regions of Indian Country.
During today’s team meeting, the NCAI family came together to say goodbye and thank Dr. Yvette Roubideaux for five years of tireless service to NCAI as the Director of @NCAIPRC.— National Congress of American Indians (@NCAI1944) July 29, 2022
Thank you, Dr. Roubideaux for your unwavering commitment to serving #IndianCountry! ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/C7RyHudsKp
The National Congress of American Indians has ousted the first Native person who served as its general counsel, less than two weeks after a new chief executive officer came on board.
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