AFN chiefs executive ‘concerned’ Bellegarde hired ‘girlfriend’ as senior adviser: Erasmus
by Jorge Barrera, APTN National News, June 24, 2015
The Assembly of First Nations chiefs executive is “concerned” about the national chief’s decision to hire his ‘girlfriend’ as a senior adviser.
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde hired his partner Valerie Galley to act as his senior adviser. Galley acted as an adviser to Bellegarde while he was chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians and regional AFN chief for the province.
Dene Nation Chief Bill Erasmus, who is regional chief of the Northwest Territories, said the issue came up during a recent executive meeting and that matter is still under discussion.
“It is an unwritten policy you don’t hire your family, or especially your partner or spouse. That is a given across the country,” said Erasmus. “I think, at first, many of us were shocked.”
The AFN chiefs executive acts as a board of directors for the organization.
Concerns over Bellegarde’s decision to hire Galley became public Wednesday after the Turtle Island News, the newspaper for Six Nations, reported on correspondence between Six Nations Chief Ava Hill and Bellegarde over the issue.
In her letter to Bellegarde, Hill said she was concerned the national chief hired his “girlfriend” and requested he “immediately take steps to rectify this conflict of interest.”
Bellegarde responded to Hill via letter admitting he was in a conflict with the hire and that he sought to mitigate the matter by having Galley report to AFN CEO Peter Dinsdale.
Erasmus said shifting who Galley reports to did not solve the issue.
“It is not adequate. Our understanding is that she advises the national chief. She doesn’t advise Peter Dinsdale. That is a direct relationship. That is a conflict,” said Erasmus.
Ontario regional Chief Isadore Day, who represents Hill at the AFN executive table, said he initially chose not to weigh-in publicly out of prudence. Day said the matter is a concern.
“There are questions on the human resource issues and the fundamental flaw in process of directed supervision from the political office to the secretariat,” said Day, in Twitter message to APTN.
Erasmus also confirmed Bellegarde initially suggested to him that Hill’s concern stemmed from her daughter’s decision to quit the AFN after she was transferred to a new job in the organization. Eramsus said that matter was not connected to Hill’s letter.
“I think it is a defensive position he took and maybe he doesn’t realize the seriousness of the situation,” said Erasmus. “But in the letter he drafted to her, he admitted there was a conflict. If there is a conflict, it needs to be dealt with and this discussion is not finished.”
The AFN did not respond to requests for comment.
Erasmus said he couldn’t recall another AFN national chief hiring a spouse to act as a senior adviser to his office.
The Turtle Island News reported former national chief Phil Fontaine appointed lawyer Kathleen Mahoney as AFN negotiator and adviser during Indian residential school settlement talks while the two were sharing a home.