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Lutsel K'e finance officer fired

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Snowdrift (July 04/05) - The finance officer of Lutsel K'e Dene Band was fired last month after publicly objecting to allocations of impact benefit agreement funding.

On June 6, finance officer Luis Bernabe released a letter stating the fund supplied $260,738.54 for legal fees in a court battle with chief Archie Catholique and $250,000 for an arena project.

Bernabe called the withdrawals an "outright misappropriation."

According to Bernabe, the money is to be used for education, community support and heritage programs.

Bernabe was particularly critical of the band's acting senior administrative officer Ray Griffith, saying the legal fees were to be used for Griffith's lawyer.


On June 8, Griffith issued his own letter to band members, calling Bernabe's letter "full of misinformation."

"It's just a ridiculous letter," the acting SAO said in an interview.

Bernabe had been previously warned before his June 6 letter to membership.

"That was the last straw," Griffith said.

According to Griffith's letter, "the council passed a motion to move the IBA account out of the Royal Bank because Archie's lawyers were harassing our bank. The council was afraid that Archie may be successful in getting our funds frozen once again."

The acting SAO explained $250,000 was given to the GNWT for the arena project, $260,738.54 deposited in a trust fund for a forensic audit and legal defence; and $15,000 put in a trust fund for scholarships.

Bernabe, who is now living in Edmonton, said he is considering legal action to get his job back.

Bernabe noted the band has even decided to appeal a May 27 court order that Catholique's suspended salary be reinstated until the court case is settled.

A full hearing by the court has been set for Aug. 9 and 10.