Authorizing payment
GTC breaks own bylaws, Firth charges

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Apr 23/99) - Nihtat Gwich'in Council Chief James Firth says he thought he was only being helpful when he sent a letter to the Gwich'in Tribal Council executive alerting them about breaking their own bylaws.

But no one responded to Firth's Feb. 3 letter.

The bylaw Firth is referring to deals with the signing of cheques, among other things. Currently, chief financial officer Mark Davey, who is not a beneficiary, signs paycheques, as well as other cheques on behalf of the GTC.

But in the GTC's constitution and bylaws section on signing officers, it states that "contracts, documents or any instruments in writing requiring the signature of the corporation shall be signed by two members of the executive or by such members of the board of directors as may be designated by the board."

Only Gwich'in beneficiaries may sit on the GTC executive or the board of directors and no provision exists in the bylaws to allow a non-beneficiary to sign cheques.

"There are no non-beneficiaries signing cheques," says GTC president Richard Nerysoo. "How can non-beneficiaries be signing cheques? The only thing that we've changed is that the chief financial officer would have authorization to sign cheques. Isn't that a normal business procedure?"

New to the GTC, Davey says the procedures were in place before he arrived and have been reviewed by both auditors and attorneys before being presented and approved by the board of directors.

"We assure that the proper controls are in place before anything even gets to the stage of cutting a cheque," he says.

"I'm just an employee of the Tribal Council so I just carry out the functions that I'm hired to do."

Though Firth says the situation shows a lack of communication with the GTC, Nerysoo chalks it up to political games.

"It doesn't make any difference what we try to do or the work we accomplish. The fact is they were part of a group that was part of the opposition to me in the election. It continues no matter what we try to do," he says of members of the NGC.

To show the GTC is preparing to have a beneficiary act as chief financial officer one day, Nerysoo said the GTC is financing someone to take financial courses at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.