Allegations unfounded
Investigation finds Ell blameless

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 30/99) - Following an extensive and independent financial investigation, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association announced last week that Qikiqtaaluk Corp. president Jerry Ell had not been dipping his fingers into the coffers.

"There was no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing or any misuse of funds. The allegations are unfounded. We are very pleased with the outcome and happy with the investigation," said Pauloosie Keeyootak, president of QIA.

He explained that upon receiving a letter from former QC chief executive officer, Pitseolak Pfeifer, which levelled accusations of fraud, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds against Ell, he immediately forwarded the information to the executive council. The council then hired the accounting firm Mackay Landau to conduct an audit of QC's books for the last three years. Ell has been at the helm of the birthright corporation since 1997.

"Anywhere in that timeframe, there was no indication of any misuse of funds," said Keeyootak.

He explained that because the charges were serious and stemmed from a beneficiary, QIA was mandated to follow through and conduct the investigation.

Pfeifer, who made the allegations on July 28, just 90 minutes after he was terminated from the corporation for undisclosed reasons, said he was dismayed to learn that Mackay Landau failed to turn up evidence against Ell.

"I'm obviously very disappointed," said Pfeifer by phone last Wednesday afternoon following the press conference announcing that Ell had been cleared.

"Today is a disappointing day and leaves me with questions that may never be answered."

As for why he waited until he had been terminated from the corporation before he came forward with the accusations, Pfeifer said he'd been afraid to rock the boat during his three years with the organization.

"Not being an employee anymore, but being a beneficiary and a shareholder of QIA and QC, I had to get it off my chest and deal with the stress. I had been living with this for three years."

Keeyootak said that even though the nature of the allegations were serious and unfounded, QIA wanted to avoid legal action against Pfeifer and would let the matter drop.

Ell, however, said that he fully intended to proceed with his own lawsuit against his former employee.

"I will file for defamation of character because it has affected me personally and my work. Now that the investigation is finalized, I will be taking the next step to bring this matter to court," said Ell.

He is expected to file his statement of claim and begin his lawsuit this week.