The Eeyou Economic Development board fired its lawyer Jocelyn Geoffroy during a board meeting December 7. The firing is the latest chapter in a long story of bad luck for a Waswanipi businessman that has people scratching their heads.
A year ago, Waswanipi trucker Gary Cooper was having trouble paying off his debt to Eeyou Economic Development for his 2000 Ford Expedition company truck.
Cooper made attempts to settle the debt and although he wasn’t working any more, he made an offer of $400 a month – as opposed to the monthly $2,000 he had been paying.
But then-Eeyou Director Chris Cooper (no relation) wouldn’t budge, said Cooper. “I offered to rework my loan and pay towards my debt, but he wouldn’t accept it. They’d rather seize my vehicle than take the offer.”
After his truck was seized, he met with Chris Cooper, who, Gary says, told him, “Hey Gary, we got your car!”“They were so proud, they thought they hit the jackpot,” said Gary Cooper.
Alain Langevin, the director of Barrette-Chapais, the sawmill Cooper was hauling for, also offered a five-year contract extension to help Cooper’s company out.
“I was pretty darn solid; [Eeyou] would have gotten paid directly from Barrette. They were willing to go that far to do this for me. It all came crashing down when Eeyou refused. They said they preferred not to do it this way and that I still had to pay them. I said, ‘That’s the only way to pay you.’”
All to no avail. His truck ended up being sold at a public auction for $4,500. After all that, Eeyou only made $273 off the sale, with the rest going to the auction house. The vehicle was worth roughly $21,000 at the time. He would not say how much he had left to pay, but had been driving it for four years.
Cooper’s life and that of his company, Linda and Gary’s Trucking, changed on December 17, 2003, his wife’s birthday. He got a call at 5 am informing him that one of his drivers had crashed his hauling truck. The truck was totaled, but the trailer remained intact and according to Cooper was worth $90,000. Still, he couldn’t recover the full amount and began to default on his payments.
The truck had traveled 1.5 million kilometres in three years. When it was evaluated, the adjuster said it was in the shape of a seven-year-old truck. Cooper had been hauling wood chips for Barrette-Chapais day and night from Chapais to la Tuque.
Even before the accident, Cooper had been going through a rough period, including a separation from his wife. His oldest son had taken it hard and the problems he was having with him at home were affecting business. Cooper figures he lost almost $300,000 during this period.
Then, when his truck was seized almost a year ago, Cooper became demoralized and didn’t know where to turn.
The icing on the proverbial cake came on October 30. Cooper saw his vehicle rambling around near his house. He ran to grab his camera. It turned out that the man behind the wheel was Jocelyn Geoffroy, the lawyer for Eeyou Economic Development.
“I couldn’t believe it!” said Cooper. “Of all people to have my car, it was Eeyou’s lawyer!He should be disbarred. I can’t believe he did that.”
Cooper is looking into launching a complaint with the Canadian Bar Association.