Did John Kitchen use a corporate credit card for personal expenses in the days when he was director-general of the Cree Business Development Centre?

Before Kitchen became chief of Waswanipi, he was the top administrator of the centre, which got funds from the federal government to support Cree businesses.

Three individuals who were on the centre’s board of directors when Kitchen was there have come forward to tell their version of what happened.

They said that during a regular audit, it was discovered that Kitchen had taken some money from the centre by using the corporate credit card for personal expenses. He still hadn’t paid the money back.

Jimmy A. Fireman, a member of the centre’s board of directors at the time, said Kitchen misused the corporate credit card.

“There was an understanding that the corporate credit card was to be used only for business,” said Fireman, who is now president of the Eeyou Economic Group, which took over the Cree Business Development Centre after Kitchen left.

“He violated the centre’s rules.”

In an interview, Kitchen denied there was any conflict or concern among board members about the corporate credit card or expense accounts at the time he left to become chief.

“There’s nothing there, no,” Kitchen said.

But one person who was on the board said there was a heated discussion about Kitchen’shandling of funds.

“He had a corporate credit card which he was using extensively,” said the exboard member.

He said board members had questions about $24,000 of the centre’s money spent by Kitchen. He was confronted about this at a meeting of board members in Val d’Or.

It was later agreed that Kitchen was owed some back pay, holiday pay and raises. This was deducted from what he spent and Kitchen agreed to repay the balance.

At least one ex-board member disagreed with this deal, saying Kitchen was let off easy.

Another ex-board member told this version of the story: “There was an advance on salary and it went a little overboard. Each year the board does an audit. And if they see anything outstanding they question it.

“Like any organization we want to know what happened to that money. And that’s what happened. So he was asked to pay it back.”

Fireman confirmed that Kitchen paid the centre back about “$5,000 or $6,000.”

When Kitchen was confronted at the board meeting in Val d’Or, one ex-board member said Kitchen left the room.

“When we said it to his face, he went out for coffee and he checked out (of the hotel). He left the (credit) card at the desk, never answered any calls and a month later he was chief,” he said.

Fireman confirmed this account, though he added Kitchen and the centre did meet afterwardsto make a deal on how much was owed.