A group of concerned band members is taking a former Alexander First Nation chief and the current tribal administrator to court in relation to over $1 million in unexplained payments.
Ernie Bruno, Barbara Bairnes and Leslie Arcand filed a lawsuit with the Court of Queen’s Bench in December. They are seeking $1.2 million in pecuniary damages be repaid to the band.
In September, a forensic audit report obtained by the Gazette showed almost $2.2 million in unexplained payments to eight employees of the Alexander First Nation. More than half of these payments were made to former chief Herbert Arcand and current tribal administrator Alphonse Arcand between 2013 and 2015.
The audit report, prepared by Meyers Norris Penny (MNP), identifies over $405,000 in unexplained payments to former chief Herbert Arcand.
Among the chief’s unexplained transactions is a gross salary amount of $9,200 in 2015 – when he was no longer chief – and $113,653 worth of cash advances on his band credit card. An all-inclusive vacation to Jamaica for family members was also charged to his band credit card.
Another $638,0000 of unexplained payments were made out to current tribal administrator Alphonse Arcand.
The report found that he was the only signing authority on $16,462 of payments for extra duties and another $11,500 in salary advances, which have not been repaid. The report also identifies $349,878.94 in payments made directly to Alphonse Arcand’s credit card.
Alphonse Arcand did not respond to a request for comment.
In September, he told the Gazette that his credit card was regularly used to purchase goods and services for the First Nation and that the report was “incomplete, reckless and out of context.”
The lawsuit claims that the “wrongfully converted” band funds have created a loss of income, economic stability and economic opportunity for the first nation community.
The group wants to see these amounts repaid in full to the band.
“What we’re asking for is transparency and accountability for our band funds,” said Bruno.
The statement of claim also names Coun. Allan Paul as a defendant in relation to a conflict of interest. Paul was a director and shareholder of PISIM Contracting Ldt. until May 3, 2016.
The lawsuit states members of the Alexander First Nation made a criminal complaint to the RCMP on Aug. 6, 2016 regarding the alleged misappropriation of funds.
The statement of claim contains unproven allegations that have not been tested in court.