We Wai Kai Elders remove chief from office
by Alistair Taylor, Campbell River Mirror, Nov 26, 2015
The We Wai Kai Nation Council of Elders has removed Ralph Dick from the office of Chief after they determined he breached the nation’s Conflict of Interest Policy.
“While we wish the decision did not fall to us, the Council of Elders members also swore an Oath of Office and are bound to uphold the Election Code and the Conflict of Interest Policy,” the Council of Elders say in a written decision, a copy of which was provided to the Mirror.
A petition to remove Dick from the office of chief was presented to the Council of Elders after an external investigation determined Dick was in breach of his fiduciary duty after accepting a $12,000 share option from a business venture controlled by the We Wai Kai Nation (WWK).
The investigation, by Ratcliff & Company LLP of North Vancouver, was requested by We Wai Kai Council after a review of computer files of former band accountant Maurice Magowan.
In removing Dick, the Council of Elders, which consisted of Chester Lewis, Mark Lewis and Sharon Maksymetz, was acting under the WWK Nation’s Election Code, Conflict of Interest Policy and Oath of Office. Two of the Council of Elders are brothers of the former Chief and were excluded from any of the discussions or proceedings.
On Sept. 17, Ronald Chickite presented a petition requesting Chief Dick be “declared to have become disqualified from holding office as a Member of Council of the We Wai Kai First Nation based on the grounds of Chief Ralph Dick having breached his oath of office.” The petition was signed by more than 60 WWK members, the minimum required under the Election Code, and included a $2,000 security deposit.
Chief Dick was informed of the petition on Oct. 2. He provided a sworn statement on Oct. 23 and a hearing was held Oct. 30.
Chief Dick attended the Oct. 30 hearing on his own behalf and Ron Chickite and Glenn Assu attend for the petitioners. Each side presented their points of view and each was able to reply to comments made by the other. The Council of Elders asked questions throughout the hearing.
In a written investigation report for Ratcliff and Co. that determined Dick had breached his fiduciary duty, John R. Rich wrote that one of the transactions discovered in the computer records involved an option for a numbered company – whose directors were the Chief’s wife and son – to purchase partnership agreements in the band-controlled Middle Point Harbour Limited Partnership (MPHLP).
Another transaction was a payment of $12,000 to the same numbered company.
“These transactions appeared inconsistent with the usual business practices of MPHLP, and were not previously known to the We Wai Kai administration or council,” the report stated.
The $12,000 payment to the numbered company was then transferred to Chief Dick, who believed he was entitled to the $12,000 for services rendered to MPHLP.
The We Wai Kai hold 51 per cent of the partnerships in the Middle Point Harbour Limited Partnership, with Pacific Rim Harbour Developments (Tommy and Derek Pallan) owning the other 49 per cent. Chief Dick had been the We Wai Kai representative in the management of MPHLP when, in 2013, Magowan proposed there was an opportunity to acquire partnership units in MPHLP from Pacific Rim that would lead to a profit.
The Chief declined on the grounds it would be a conflict of interest, but suggested that his son, Robbie Dick, might be interested in the opportunity.
The Council of Elders hearing was convened to decide whether to uphold Chickite’s petition and declare Chief Dick to be disqualified from holding office and declare the office to be vacant.
After considering the evidence, the Council of Elders found that Chief Dick did direct the option agreement to his son, after declining it personally. The number company held by Chief Dick’s son and wife entered into the option agreement.
“This is a clear breach of the Conflict of Interest Policy,” the Elders wrote. “Further, by failing to bring the potentially very lucrative option agreement to the attention of WWK rather than to his immediate family, Chief Dick failed to act in the best interests of WWK and breached his fiduciary duty to WWK.”
The Council of Elders also found that Chief Dick did participate in the decision, and signed the resolution, to pay $12,000 to himself, purportedly in recognition of unpaid services to MPHLP. The $12,000 has been recovered.
“We find that Chief Dick did not consult with or bring this matter to the attention of the Council, even though section 14 of the Conflict of Interest Policy allows for the Council to, in certain circumstances, approve a transaction that may give rise to a conflict of interest,” the Elders state. “Further, Chief Dick appears to have been aware of the conflict of interest, as the payment was made through the numbered company owned by his son and wife.
“Accordingly, we find that Chief Dick breached the Conflict of Interest Policy.”
Although not the subject of the petition, the Council of Elders found the actions of WWK’s former accountant, Maurice Magowan, to be of concern as well. Magowan could not be reached for comment by press time.
Chickite, who presented the petition to remove Dick from office, said it was a necessary action to take. When an official is not doing their job, someone has to step up.
“Somebody had to do it,” he told the Mirror. “It wasn’t a ‘me-against-you’ thing, it was just the right thing to do.”
Chickite said the reaction to the situation in the community was mixed. Some people didn’t think it was a big deal while others did.
Those who signed Chickite’s petition were upset enough to go that far. He got more than the required 60 band members and, in fact, stopped collecting them when he felt he had enough to show he had more than just the bare minimum.
Chickite was pleased with how the case was handled by the Council of elders. This was a unique situation. As far as he knows, the council has never had to do anything like this before.
“I am glad the Elders Council did their due diligence,” Chickite said.
An election to replace Dick as chief will be held Jan. 5. In addition to electing a new chief, a byelection to replace a councillor will be held as well.
Official comment from the Council of the We Wai Kai Nation was sought but could not be obtained in time for the Mirror’s deadline. An attempt to reach former Chief Ralph Dick for comment has also been made.
– with files by J.R. Rardon/Campbell River Mirror
Posted on November 27, 2015, in Indian Act Indians, Uncategorized and tagged band council corruption, chief Ralph Dick, elders, indian act band councils, Indian Act Indians, We Wai Kai Nation, We Wai Kai Nation Council of Elders. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.