The Hualapai Nation has little to say about the terminations of six of the seven members on the Board of Directors for the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation (GCRC), the entity that oversees operation of the Grand Canyon Sky Walk and other tribal tourism enterprises. At least four of them claim they were wrongfully dismissed after they called for the resignation of Mark Mortenson, the newly-hired CEO of the GCRC.
Mark McDermott, former Director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, said each of the six who were fired in a December 4 decision by the Hualapai Tribal Council, had asked for Mortenson’s resignation following the CEO’s admitted involvement in a minor “hit and run” accident while driving a company vehicle just before Thanksgiving. Mortenson conceded he he did not stop after the vehicle he was operating clipped a bicyclist in downtown Kingman on November 23.
“I felt the impact and knew it was the back of a bicycle that I hit. I instantly panicked,” Mortenson wrote in a November 24 statement documenting the incident with the GCRC’s Human Resource Director. “I kept thinking how disappointed I am in myself. Why didn’t I stop and check the person? How could I be so stupid?
The cyclist was not injured and the matter was not reported to police.
Mortenson’s statement and another provided by the cyclist, Elizabeth Lozoya, indicated that Lozoya caught up with Mortenson when he was held up in traffic just after the collision. They said that Mortenson apologized repeatedly and gave Lozoya a ride to a Kingman bicycle shop before she spoke to a friend who relayed incident information to GCRC Human Resources.
McDermott said all but one of the Board members formally voted to ask for Mortenson’s resignation. Each of them was then dismissed after the Tribal Council intervened on behalf of the CEO.
McDermott and fellow fired board members Derrick Penney, Luis Sanchez and Caroleanne Parr alleged wrongful termination in an appeal letter to the Tribal Council that also asked that they be fully compensated through the end of their Board terms.
Tribal Chairwoman Sherri Counts issued a statement through GCRC public information officer David Leibowitz when asked about the board member dismissals and the Mortenson accident.
“The Council’s unanimous decision concerning the GCRC Board was made to strengthen the economic development structure of the business, and provide a positive way to move forward,” the statement said. “As a Council, we are sworn to make decisions in the best interest of the Hualapai Tribe. Those decisions can be difficult, but we work hard to make the best decisions.”
Leibowitz declined comment when asked whether the vacant board slots would be filled and who was operating the corporation. He said neither he, nor Counts, nor the tribe would further comment beyond Counts’ statement.
Mortenson also declined comment on December 29.