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Leaders on the defensive
Petition demands removal of Pehdzeh Ki First Nation chief and council, band dismisses allegations as 'character assassination'

Miranda Scotland
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012

A group of Pehdzeh Ki First Nation members have started a petition to remove the band's chief, Tim Lennie, and council from power.

The 34 signatories state they have no confidence in their leaders "due to no communication, no support and poor role model management within their roles, conflict of interests, and not being fair in decisions."

Band manager and senior administrative officer Brad Enge on the other hand said the allegations are unsubstantiated.

"It basically boils down to a character assassination," said Enge. "Where are the facts? There's no facts."

Gaylene Moses, who started the petition, said the reason most people decided to sign the document is because they are unsure what the chief and council are doing or where they're taking direction from.

Pulled away from the Dehcho Process

For example, she said many people were surprised about the council's decision to pull away from the Dehcho Process and negotiate a community comprehensive claims policy directly with Canada.

Moses said the chief announced the plan at a public meeting two months before the Dehcho First Nations (DFN) Assembly but only the 30 or so members present heard the news until the assembly.

"It was on the radio and everything and the members here are all freaked out because they don't know what's going on," she said. "Only certain people that went to that meeting knew and they are scared to pull away from DFN. They said we're not ready yet."

Although Moses agrees with the decision, she said the chief and council should have done more to inform the people.

Enge said there were plans to discuss the topic with the membership at the Pehdzeh Ki's Annual General Assembly on Aug. 27. However, the meeting was cancelled because no one showed up. The petition was on the agenda to be addressed as well, he added.

"The chief and council would like to hear from the membership about what the specific grounds or reasons for the allegations are and they are intending on putting (the petition) on the agenda when freeze-up comes around and they have another meeting," Enge said.

Moses and the signatories also expressed concern about the chief's decision to take three months leave at what they say is the "most crucial time for our community and band office."

Lennie took a leave of absence in mid-August to remove black mould from his house, which was making his wife sick according to Enge. He is expected back in October.

Band member Darcy E. Moses also questioned Lennie's decision.

Lack of communication

"As a former chief, I am wondering how are we going to govern ourselves when we give the chief ... months off," he said, adding he also has concerns about the lack of communication from the council. "How do you get direction from the people when you don't participate? They don't go out and talk to people."

Although Darcy signed the petition, he said he doesn't want the chief and council to be removed but he does want them to get more involved and better organized.

Darcy and Gaylene ran against Lennie in last year's election for chief.

Currently, there are only four councillors George Moses, Lisa Moses, Robert Nayally and Elsie Hardisty when there should be six, which is another problem, said Gaylene. She added one of the councillors was removed and the other left town. However, Enge was unable to confirm why council is short.

A byelection was held to replace the councillors but nobody put their names in, Enge said, adding four councillors are needed to meet quorum.

"Nobody put their name forward because they have no support the council that are in there and the chief," said Gaylene. "It's just really crazy. They are doing things on their own without the membership's input. They're negotiating on things that we don't even know about. There are just a lot things that are unfair."

Gaylene cricized the band's hiring process. She said that instead of posting job opportunities for everyone to see, council members are choosing who gets the work themselves.

Enge said that simply isn't true.

"Every available position where employment was made available under different funding programs and projects have been advertised at the band office and by word of mouth," he said. "We have posted many, many jobs."

Still, Gaylene said there needs to be change.

"When we do have our public meeting we want to have a newly elected chief. We will have a limit on how far he can go and also for the councillors. Like they need to know their roles and responsibilities," she said. "They are not the boss. They were elected in to serve the members of the community, not themselves."

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