Splatsin Kukpi7 (Chief) Doug Thomas and Councilor Beverly Thomas have been removed from office, a victory for the faction of the First Nations Council that had called for their removal.
Petitions to remove both officers were received by the Splatsin Complaints and Appeals Board on 26 May. The first petition alleged that Coun. Thomas received honorarium money and gas cards that he did not return to the band, and also that he signed two bank drafts while he was suspended or had a conflict of interest.
The lawsuit against Kukpi7 Thomas alleged that he withdrew Splatsin funds by four bank drafts payable to a forensic audit firm, a related law firm, and a separate law firm that he had retained to represent him. It was alleged that according to a board decision on Tuesday, September 12, Kukpi7 Thomas “failed to follow proper financial governance policies, including four checks at a duly called meeting and/or through a Band Council resolution ” ,
The petitions were started by councilors Lane Edwards, Sabrina Vergata and Theresa Williams. He was cleared of wrongdoing by the board on September 7 after being accused of supporting protests at the Splatsin Development Corporation board meeting on April 17.
In its decision, the board ruled that the petitions against the chief and councilor meet the burden of proof to remove the officers from office.
The petitioners alleged that Kukpi7 Thomas unilaterally signed two bank drafts on April 18, a day after a handful of Splatsin members organized a protest to remove him. Bank drafts totaling $2,700 were made to MLT Aikins and $25,000 to MNP LLP. The petitioners alleged that these forensic audit drafts were not withdrawn in accordance with the band’s financial procedures.
Kukpi7 Thomas was then alleged to have signed two bank drafts with the Count on 26 April. Thomas (his aunt) as a co-signer. Two bank drafts were given to Stevens & Company in the amounts of $25,000 and $36,501.75. These drafts were also alleged to have been improperly withdrawn.
Meanwhile, Coun. Thomas was accused of receiving honorariums and gas cards totaling $650 between April 21 and August 4.
“The petitioners state that the honorarium and gas cards and such things received by the Office Member should be returned to the Band Administration and a proper due process should be followed by the Office Members for claiming the travel expenses, which are within the country. . Thomas did not comply,” the decision reads.
County. Thomas was suspended on April 12 for serving a federal court notice against Splatsyn, as is routine under the Splatsyn Election Code. The petitioners argued Coun. Thomas was not allowed to co-sign the Stevens draft with CookP7 Thomas because he was suspended and also because she had family ties to CookP7 Thomas, putting her in a position of conflict.
County. Williams testified at a hearing that the band pays its own honorarium to council members, so they cannot collect honorariums from other sources because it is considered “double dipping”.
Testimony was also received from Splatsin’s finance director Ellen Dowling, whom the board says is “very familiar with Splatsin’s financial protocols and guidelines.”
Dowling testified that on April 19, CookP7 Thomas entered her office for a closed-door meeting. They told him they were concerned that a former consultant had received kickbacks from a modular home deal in Edmonton, and that a forensic audit was needed. He indicated that he and Coun. Thomas had gone to the bank and taken out bank drafts to pay the audit companies.
Dowling told CookP7 Thomas that he needed the proper paperwork for the draft, and that he should meet with the chairman of the audit and finance committee. In his testimony, the chief confirmed that he had not met that chair.
Dowling received copies of forensic audit drafts from CookP7 Thomas on April 21, but did not find any invoices or contracts related to those drafts. On April 26, he received a voicemail from Kukpi7 Thomas asking for Splatsin’s general bank account information. He explained his concerns about giving such sensitive information to the board and said it was “highly unusual” to provide that information to anyone.
“Ms. Dowling did not provide the principal with bank account information and had no knowledge of how she obtained the information,” the decision states.
In his response to the board, CookP7 Thomas denied that he committed fraud or misused funds, saying in the decision that he was “fulfilling the strong desires of the community to conduct a timely audit.” The Board held that the petitioners were not seeking a finding that they had committed fraud or misappropriation under the Criminal Code.
The chief’s position was that he had the authority to sign checks on Splatsin’s behalf.
“He believes that because he had no personal monetary benefit or interest in the payments made to third-party contractors, his claim for breach of fiduciary duty fails. He says so particularly because the action he took was on behalf of the people,” the judgment reads.
Meanwhile, Coun. Thomas said he stood by his acceptance of the honorarium and gas cards provided at the Landmark meetings, and said he did not consider himself suspended at the time the Stevens draft was withdrawn.
“It is their position that the petitioners as three councilors had failed to follow proper procedure when disciplining and suspending a member of office,” the judgment said.
Ultimately, the Board sided with the petitioners, saying that CookP7 Thomas’s conduct was “inappropriate and a violation of Splatsin financial law and policy”, although the Board acknowledged that the Chief “thought this was a situation where strong leadership was required and His actions made no sense to him.”
The board also governed that county. With regard to the bank draft Thomas “clearly understood what she was doing and even adopted a broad principle that Chief Thomas was entitled to act without approval from the Council or the Administration”, and the Election Code. There was a violation of.
With the Board’s decision, Kukpi7 Thomas and Count. Thomas is removed from the post with immediate effect. Apart from his removal, he has also been barred from running for office for eight years, as per the election code.
Read more: Splatsin members blockade band buildings, demand new elections
Read more: Petition to remove Splatsin councilor fails
Indigenous North Okanagan Regional District