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Chief cries foul over office coup

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Wrigley (Aug 19/02) - Ousted Wrigley chief Percy Hardisty said last week's non-confidence vote was held while he was out of town and therefore has no validity.

"It's illegal," said Hardisty, who was reached Thursday in Edmonton, where he has been on medical leave for over a week. He said he plans to contact a lawyer.

The band issued public statement last Wednesday declaring that Hardisty had been unanimously removed from office by band members at a public meeting. An Aug. 29 election has consequently been called.

Councillor and acting chief Elsie Hardisty said "about six" councillors called the Aug. 12 public meeting. She contended Percy Hardisty was aware of it.

Percy Hardisty said he was oblivious to the situation until he was contacted by Northern News Services.

"Oh my goodness," he repeated over and over again as the band's press release was read to him. "What have they done, a coup d'etat?"

Elsie Hardisty noted that most Pehdzeh Ki band members were present for the non-confidence vote.

"There was a majority of the people. You have to be fair to the people," she said.

Tim Lennie, a former chief in Wrigley, was appointed chair of the meeting. He affirmed that the bulk of Pehdzeh Ki band members were present and were in favour of the non-confidence vote.

The band's press release also mentioned that senior administrative officer Jacob Pete of Edmonton and economic development officer Jim Smith of Saskatoon have been fired.

Lennie alleged that hiring procedures were not followed in hiring those employees.

"A lot of members spoke out. They felt it should be advertised in the community, within the region, then go South. But I guess that didn't happen," he said. "And there was no involvement by the council on the decision making."

Elsie Hardisty added, "It's supposed to be the first priority ... our membership. You're there to represent the membership, not only yourself."

Percy Hardisty replied that Smith and Pete were hired because of their expertise, experience and healthy lifestyles.

He speculated that his efforts to curb drug and alcohol problems in the community of 140 may be partly responsible for this backlash.

"The people in the (band) office are living clean lives and that's a real hindrance to (some residents') bootlegging and selling drugs. I assume that's a main reason," he said.

Elsie Hardisty said she doesn't know anything about that issue.

Percy Hardisty noted that he had 44 votes to win last October's election, and he feels his supporters are still behind him.