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Fort Smith SAO faces two charges in Ontario
Brenda Black says she didn't do anything wrong

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 9, 2011

The senior administrative officer (SAO) with the Town of Fort Smith is facing two criminal charges related to a previous job in Ontario.

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Brenda Black: Fort Smith senior administrative officer facing charges related to her former position with a municipality in Ontario. - photo courtesy of the Town of Fort Smith

Brenda Black has been charged with fraud under $5,000 and breach of trust from her time as chief administrative officer and treasurer with the Township of Georgian Bay.

Black intends to fight the charges.

"I didn't do anything wrong and I have no knowledge of what's going on," she said.

According to a Sept. 1 news release from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), an investigation began after "financial irregularities" during the former administration were discovered at the Township of Georgian Bay and the OPP was contacted by township staff.

The news release stated the charges were laid after a "lengthy and thorough investigation" by OPP detectives.

Black, who has been SAO in Fort Smith since February of this year, said she hasn't received any official information about the charges.

In fact, she said she became aware of the charges as a result of the OPP news release.

"It's pretty upsetting to get a press release that says something like that," she said.

Black said she was not even aware an investigation had begun.

"Nobody has ever talked to me about any of it," she said.

Black noted she experienced "some challenges" with certain members of council while working for the Township of Georgian Bay.

"I certainly wasn't on good terms with Georgian Bay, and I did make (Fort Smith) council aware of that," she said.

Black said she also told Fort Smith town council that she was planning legal action against the Township of Georgian Bay. That legal action has not yet proceeded, and she declined to discuss it on the advice of her lawyer.

"I would love to tell everybody every single detail, because I did not do anything," she said. "I did nothing but work 14-hour days there. I worked my heart out for that place. It was a political mess at the end. We had a council that was always four against two."

A former member of the township's council also faces the two charges.

Black said she really hopes the charges won't affect her position with the Town of Fort Smith.

"I love my job," she said. "I didn't do anything wrong and I've been very upfront. I sent the press release to all the members of council and told them I would keep them up to date on every detail."

Fort Smith Mayor Janie Hobart said Black will continue her work as SAO for the town.

"One of the foundations of the Canadian justice system is that a person is considered innocent until proven guilty," Hobart said. "As such, mayor and town council will not make a comment on a matter before the courts and Ms. Black will continue in her role as SAO while legal proceedings are ongoing."

The mayor added council continues to monitor the situation.

Hobart noted council was aware Black had difficulty with her previous employer, including the fact she was terminated from her job with the Township of Georgian Bay.

Black, 54, and the former councillor, 53-year-old Gregory Sutcliffe, are scheduled to appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Midland on Oct. 13.

The Township of Georgian Bay acknowledged the charges have been laid in a statement on its website.

"The matter is now in the hands of the justice system and we await the outcome of that process," the statement reads.

The statement also notes the matter has been "difficult and counterproductive" for the township.

Georgian Bay Mayor Larry Braid said Black was terminated from her position with the township in August of 2010 and a council resolution was passed in December to call in the police.

"It's certainly an interesting case and we'll just have to wait until the court dates are actually held," Braid said, noting many people in his town want to hear what's going on.

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