Former Cree Model Forest President Sam W. Gull is suing Waswanipi Chief John Kitchen, alleging Kitchen unfairly fined Gull and appointed Band Councillor Derek Neeposh to oversee the organization even though Gull had six months left on his contract Gull is looking to recoup money he says is owed to him for work done while he was president of the Cree Model Forest as well as cash owed for the last six months of his one-year contract He estimates the amount to be around $35,(XX).
“They had every right to appoint anyone they want to, but I had a contract and now I’m going to challenge them in court,” said Gull of his firing from the CME Gull also alleges that Kitchen is in a conflict of interest because his company bids on construction contracts while he serves as Chief.
He says that Chief Kitchen should choose between running a business and governing the community, but not both. Gull told the Nation that Chief Kitchen has access to information that could give him an advantage over local entrepreneurs when bidding on projects.
Kitchen denies the allegation.
“All the contracts [hauling] that we secured, were secured during the summer with Mishtuk Corporation,” Kitchen said. “Since I’ve been chief, I resigned as a board member and I signed a blank management contract with my associates and they run my companies.”
At present, Waswanipi band council is in the process of drafting a code of ethics and policy guidelines.
Kitchen says that he is the victim of a persona) attack from an employee who was let go because of his own lack of accountability.
He was elected last August on platform that included a pledge to ensure “Waswanipi Council and its entities do not compete against local entrepreneurs.”
Kitchen claimed the former chief, Robert Kitchen, left him with a $9 million debt that he is trying to eliminate with gestures such as not accepting a band-supplied truck or satellite phone. He has also been going after delinquent loans given out to local entrepreneurs who have refused to pay or cannot pay the money back.
After coming to power, Kitchen says that the legislative portfolio, a budget that funds (among other items) the Cree Model Forest, should have had a balance of $80,000 when he was elected. But he says there was a balance of only $4,000. Half of the rest went to Gull, who hasn’t properly accounted for the payments, Kitchen said.
“Apparentiy those were his fees for being president of Cree Model Forest,” said Kitchen. “So I wrote a letter to request reports from him and Robert Ottereyes and Glen Cooper. The only one that gave in a report was Glen Cooper. Glen’s report was good, we owed him $ 1,000 and he was paid. As for Sam, I wrote him a letter in September asking for a report for the end of September and I never got it So he was fired.”
Kitchen and his council are counter-suing Gull for allegedly defaulting on a ban given out by the previous council. He borrowed “$12,000 or $13,000,” according to Kitchen, to launch a company that sells mp
3 watches purchased directly from China.
According to Kitchen, Gull even brought 30 watches to the council one day to help to pay his loan.
“I told him that we lent him money and that’s how we want to be repaid,” said Kitchen.
Both sides admitted that the Cree Model Forest services contract was signed between former chief Robert Kitchen and Sam W. Gull, but was never signed by the required third party, which in this case is Director General Sam C. Gull.
Deputy Chief Paul Gull, who is Sam W’s brother, is also critical of the band chief. “If you’re a contractor and a chief at the same time… people are going to always be asking questions,” Raul Gull said in an interview late last year. “The conflict-of-interest process has to be done and approved, to make sure it’s fair to everyone else and everyone feels comfortable with it Right now I don’t know if they do.”
The Cree-Naskapi Commission was contacted after it was made known that Sam W Gull had lodged an official complaint with them. The commission helps settle disputes between band councils or entities and individual Crees.
“We haven’t made a decision as of yet whether to conduct an investigation or not,” said Commission Chairman Richard Saunders. “Under the terms of the Act, we have to determine whether there are sufficient grounds. So we have to take a look at it during our next meeting in the first week in May.”
Conflict of interest happens often in all levels of government, it’s the way you deal with it that counts, said band lawyer Benoit Tremblay. “In this case the law is not very precise because we don’t have an ethics code for right now, but there is one that is going to be adopted by council, ” said Tremblay.
“John backed away from any administrative and executive positions within his company,” he continued. “In the Cree-Naskapi Act you can be in a conflict of interest as long as you mention it at council and disengage from arty discussion and decision. Therefore you can legally let your com-party participate in any transactions. Strictly, by the book according to the Cree-Naskapi Act, what John is doing is not illegal.”
Sam W. Gull said he also launched a complaint with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada André Picard, INAC’s National Coordinator of Allegations and Complaints, said INAC can neither confirm nor deny a complaint is being investigated or even whether one has been received.
According to Sam W. Gull, previous Waswanipi band council’s operated under an unwritten policy that made it dear that no coundllors or chief could bid on contracts while in office. “John was a councillor at that time and because of that, he had to resign because he was a contractor,” he said. “But when he was elected as chief, that policy was thrown out the door.”
John Kitchen emphasized that he has removed himself from the board of his own company and has left it to his “associates” to run, and therefore he does not believe there is a conflict of interest“Those are my assets in there. I put money in there,” he said. “I’ll give you an example: if I owned a store, do I close my store because I was elected? The people knew that when they elected me.
“There are a lot of people like [Oujé-Bougoumou Chief] Sam Bosum and Billy Diamond who own companies. And there are other coundllors and chiefs who own companies.”
Kitchen said he does not sit in on coundl meetings when his company is up for a contract and doesn’t have a say in who gets which contract.
The community was supposed to meet for their annual general assembly on April 11 to discuss the various allegations, but elder Allan Saganash passed away, so the dispute will not be discussed publicly until July.