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Ex-Fort McPherson finance director charged with fraud
Ina Koe also charged with breach of trust by a public officer after an audit shows more than $400,000 missing from hamlet coffers

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Monday, June 29, 2015

Tetlit'Zheh/Fort McPherson
RCMP has filed charges in the wake of a two-year forensic investigation into Fort McPherson's finances.

The former director of finance for the hamlet is facing two charges of fraud over $5,000 and one charge of breach of trust by a public officer in connection with the alleged theft of more than $400,000 in community funds. According to a June 24 RCMP news release, Ina Koe, 44, was located in Whitehorse and is scheduled to appear in court in Fort McPherson on Sept. 23.

Const. Elenore Sturko, media liaison for the Mounties in the NWT, stated that the charges were laid following an investigation initiated in March 2013.

"The charges are a result of an extensive investigation into allegations that Koe misappropriated more than $400,000 in hamlet funds for personal use and gain," Sturko stated.

The charges are the latest episode in a saga that began in July of last year, when the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) relieved the hamlet's mayor and council of their duties after reaching the conclusion that the elected officials would be unlikely to approve and implement a debt reduction plan. That followed the implementation by MACA of cost saving measures designed to rid the community of its $2.1-million deficit. At that time, MACA officials appointed a municipal administrator to take over the day-to-day operations in the hamlet and brought in a number of cost-saving measures. These included increasing municipal service rates and reducing municipal employees' work hours.

MACA deputy minister Tom Williams is one of four administrators appointed by Minister Robert C. McLeod to run the hamlet's finances.

"We have reduced the deficit by $1.3 million. There was a lot of pain in the strict measures we introduced to reduce the deficit but at the same time we did not want to reduce the level of services to residents," Williams said. "This is only the fourth time in the history of the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) that we've had to go into public administration. It's a last resort ... it's a pretty drastic measure."

The initial plan was for a three-year recovery, so Williams said the GNWT is a little ahead of schedule.

"We hope to have the deficit under control by the end of this fiscal year. By the end of year three we would be looking at hiring a senior administrative officer. We're looking at an election where we would re-instate mayor and council probably in the fall of 2017."

Williams said he believes that this is the largest alleged municipal fraud ever in the NWT. Thankfully, he said, the financial loss is covered by insurance. He confirmed the missing $400,000 is part of the $2.1-million deficit,

"We feel we have the measures in place to ensure that Fort McPherson's deficit never grows that large again," he said.

A public meeting will be hosted by MACA Monday to bring hamlet residents up to date with the latest information on the community's administration. It begins June 29 at 5 p.m. at the

municipal office.

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