There are conflicting reports on the legitimacy of an upcoming Montreal Lake Cree Nation by-election for chief.
The by-election was called in September after an appeals tribunal ruled that Frank J. Roberts should get another shot after he was disqualified from the previous election in March. Roberts was among four councillors who were suspended without pay seven weeks prior to the election.
However, the tribunal decision came with two conditions attached. Roberts was asked to remove himself from another judicial appeal against the band. He was also asked to repay any money owing to the band as determined by the Chief Electoral Officer.
Roberts did remove himself from the judicial appeal, but Montreal Lake Band Manager Mark D’Amato claims the band has not received any payment in regard to money owed to the band.
“In the Election Act it states that if a candidate owes money to the band they can’t run,” said D’Amato.
The band manager also argues that a Band Council Resolution has not been passed yet to approve the by-election, something he says is needed for the by-election to be official.
“There is no BCR signed, nothing has been discussed with council, there is no authority to call an election,” said D’Amato.
In the decision from the Appeals Tribunal it is up to the Chief Electoral Officer to determine if there is in fact money owed.
“If the Chief Electoral Officer finds a debt is owing, he ought to advise Mr. Roberts in writing of his conclusion sufficiently in advance so as to provide Mr. Roberts an opportunity to pay the debt or otherwise respond if need be,” the decision stated.
Chief Electoral Officer Clifford Bird says he looked into the matter and determined that Roberts did not owe the band any money.
“I kept hearing through the grapevine that (Roberts) owes housing rental arrears and I verified through the housing manager that nothing was owing,” said Bird. “Based on that I called a by-election.”
D’Amato argues Bird did not contact the band office to verify this information and claims Robert’s debts go beyond housing arrears.
“(Bird) had two options to get the correct information, either through me or through our Chief Financial Officer and he did not do that,” said D’Amato.
D’Amato says as band manager he would not release band funds for a by-election he claims is not official. The by-election would cost $32,000.
“The band manager does not have the authority to approve or deny the by-election,” said Clifford Bird. “With authority vested in me I have called a by-election and if I have breached anything it will result in legal action. My goal is to operate a fair by-election with as much integrity to the membership as I can.”
The contested by-election is scheduled for November 27.