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White Mountain Apache Tribal Code

Received: 2009

Chapter Six - Tribal Utility Authority

Article 1 - Establishment of Authority

[historical note: article 1 is derived from ordinance 93, enacted November 1, 1972]

SECTION 6.1 ESTABLISHMENT OF TRIBAL UTILITY AUTHORITY; BY-LAWS; PLAN OF OPERATION

A. There is hereby established the White Mountain Apache Utility Authority.

B. The Utility Authority shall be governed by the By-Laws and the Plan of Operation approved by the Tribal Council on November 1, 1972, as amended.

C. A copy of the By-Laws and Plan of Operation of the Utility Authority, as amended, shall be available for public inspection during business hours at the office of the Utility Authority.

Article 2 - Notice and Hearing Requirements

[historical note: this article is derived from ordinance 144, enacted on April 18, 1984. ordinance 144 rescinded ordinance 136.]

SECTION 6.2 DECLARATION OF PURPOSE

The purpose of this Article is (1) to require the Utility Authority to provide notice to customers that their utility account is delinquent and their services are subject to disconnection unless the account is paid by a specified date; (2) to provide an opportunity for the customer to be heard before a Utility Grievance Committee so that the customer may show just cause as to why his or her utility services should not be disconnected; (3) to provide for emergency situations where a customer is unable to appear before the disconnection date; and (4) to provide penalties against the Utility Authority for failure to provide proper notice and a grievance procedure to a customer.

SECTION 6.3 LIBERAL CONSTRUCTION

This Article shall be liberally construed to effect its objects and to promote justice.

SECTION 6.4 DEFINITIONS

For the purposes of this Article the following words and phrases have the meanings ascribed to them in this section:

A. "conspicuous print": Lettering which is in clear black form, positioned so that a customer may find it, and large enough to be easily seen.

B. "disconnection notice": A warning mailed at the end of the 15 day payment period to pay the monthly bill which notifies a customer that he/she has 10 days from the postmarked mailing date to either pay the bill or file a timely appeal. It is mailed separately from the monthly bill.

C. "emergency": Any unexpected situation which suddenly arises and necessitates the immediate departure of the customer to a place other than the Fort Apache Indian Reservation so as to prevent the customer from making arrangements for timely payment of his/her month bill.

D. "just cause": Any reason designated by the Grievance Committee as one justifying a reasonable person not to pay his/her utility bill on time. Guidelines for determining "just cause" will be prepared by the Grievance Committee.

E. "utility billing card": The monthly statement reflecting the amount due for services rendered by the Authority; the type and amount of services rendered; the due date; the debtor's name and address; creditor's name, address, and telephone number; the Utility collection policy, and notification to the customer of his/her right to an appeal.

F. "Utility Grievance Committee": The committee of three individuals appointed by the Tribal Council who will hear appeals and issue directives regarding a matter which has been appealed.

G. "working days": Any regular day of business Monday through Friday, not including weekends and holidays.

SECTION 6.5 SAVING CLAUSE

This Article does not affect rights and duties that matured, penalties that were incurred and proceedings that were commenced before its effective date.

SECTION 6.6 JURISDICTION

The White Mountain Apache Tribal Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all legal proceedings arising out of this Article after administrative procedures before the Utility Authority have been exhausted.

SECTION 6.7 NOTICE OF COLLECTION POLICY; NOTICE OF RIGHT TO APPEAL

A. A collection policy notice and a notice of right of appeal shall appear on the reverse side of each utility billing card. This notification shall be printed conspicuously in plain English.

B. Collection Policy Notice. The collection policy notice shall be printed conspicuously and shall read as follows:

COLLECTION POLICY

all bills are due and payable upon receipt. they are past due 15 days after the statement date. if payment is not received within 10 days after the past due date, the bill is delinquent and your water and sewer service may be disconnected. if you need to make payment arrangements on your account call 338-4825.

C. Notice of Right to Appeal. Notice of the right to an appeal shall be printed below the collection policy notice on each billing card. This notice shall be printed conspicuously and shall read as follows:

RIGHT TO APPEAL

If you are dissatisfied with the results obtained by an investigation of your bill or service complaint by utility personnel you have a right to appeal to:

Utility grievance committee
Utility authority
P.O. Box 517
Whiteriver, Arizona 85941
(602) 338-4825

You have two working days from receipt of a disconnection notice to file an appeal.

SECTION 6.8 DISCONNECTION NOTICE

A. If a customer does not pay his or her bill within the twenty-five (25) days specified in the monthly bill, a second notice shall be issued to the customer by the Utility Authority. This notice is the disconnection notice and shall give the customer ten days from the postmarked date to contact the Utility Authority regarding payments or to pay the bill for utilities. The notice shall specify the amount due and time allowed for the customer to pay the entire bill or to make arrangements with the Authority. This notice shall be printed conspicuously and shall include the following:

DISCONNECTION NOTICE

your water and sewer service account is now delinquent and your service will be disconnected if you do not make payment arrangements with the utility authority within ten days of the date of the postmark on this notice.

B. Every disconnection notice shall also contain the Notice of Right to Appeal prescribed by Section 6.7C.

C. No water or sewer service provided by the Utility Authority shall be disconnected and/or discontinued if the notices required by Section 6.7 and Section 6.8 have not been issued to the customer.

SECTION 6.9 RIGHT TO HEARING, PROCEDURES, UTILITY GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE, DECISIONS

A. Any customer, who wants to show just cause as to why his or her services should not be disconnected, may request a hearing of the Utility Grievance Committee by contacting the Utility Authority within 2 working days after receipt of disconnection notice.

B. Disconnection of service shall not occur until there is a final resolution of the matter by the grievance committee.

C. Once a request for hearing has been filed with the Utility Authority, a date shall be set for a hearing. The hearing shall be held within 5 working days from the date of request.

D. A utility Grievance Committee shall hear the matter to determine if the customer has shown just cause as to why his water and sewer services should not be suspended. If just cause is shown, the committee shall issue a directive to the Utility Authority on how to resolve the bill. If a further dispute exists on behalf of the Utility Authority, the matter may be pursued by either party in the Tribal Court for resolution. Services shall not be suspended during this appellate period.

E. The Utility Grievance Committee shall consist of three members appointed by the Tribal Council and shall be appointed for a term of 2 years each. Committee members shall be granted administrative leave for the time they are in committee session.

SECTION 6.10 EMERGENCY PROVISION

Whenever a customer has been called away on a emergency outside the exterior boundaries of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, said emergency shall constitute just cause not to disconnect his or her water and sewer services. The customer shall inform the Authority of this emergency verbally prior to departure and in writing at the commencement of any Utility Grievance Committee proceedings. Reasonable arrangements for payment of the customer's bill shall be made upon his or her return from the emergency. Service shall not be disconnected pending the customer's return to the reservation.

SECTION 6.11 PENALTY FOR FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH ARTICLE

Where the Utility Authority disconnects service without issuing the notices required by Section 6.7 and 6.8 and/or without justifiable cause, the Utility Authority shall be liable for triple damages to the customer unless the lessor, or the lessor's agent, or the customer's landlord have made the request for disconnection. Triple damages shall be based upon three times the sum of the cost of resumption of services and the amount of the bill outstanding at the time of the disconnection.

SECTION 6.12 SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY NOT WAIVED

This Article shall not constitute consent by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, its sub-organizations, or any agent there of to be sued in any Court. This Article does not constitute a waiver of the sovereign immunity of the White Mountain Apache Tribe for any purpose.

SECTION 6.13 SEVERABILITY CLAUSE

If any provisions of this Article or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the Article which can be given effect without the invalid provisions or application, and to this end the provisions of this Article are severable.

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