'An attempted coup': MLCN band manager says councillors tried to oust him

By Bryan Eneas
February 7, 2017 - 5:24pm

There’s a political shake-up underway in the Montreal Lake Cree Nation.

According to Band Manager Mark D'Amato, four councillors from the Montreal Lake Cree Nation (MLCN) have been suspended without pay for trying to remove him from his position.

“There was some issues with four councillors which surmounted to an attempted coup,” D’Amato said. “In this case it’s a good thing Montreal Lake did have the proper legislation and acts in place and the chief acted accordingly.”

A Band Council Resolution was issued on Feb. 6 which suspended Dirk McDonald, Frank J Roberts, Roger I Bird and Sidney Nelson without pay until a disciplinary hearing takes place.

In the fall of 2016, MLCN membership ratified a new executive act which allows chief and council to bring disputes like this to an Elders Executive Advisory Council to oversee the disciplinary hearings.

D’Amato said this is “absolutely” a targeted campaign against him.

“They had a meeting of their own people… and they publicly attempted to have me removed as the band manager,” D’Amato said.

D’Amato said there are Band Council Resolutions in place which prevent him from being removed from his position without an equally qualified replacement. As band manager with the Cree Nation, part of D’Amato’s duties include handling the First Nation's financials.

D’Amato said there was no basis for the action beyond mudslinging prior to the band's upcoming election. Band members will vote for a new chief and council in March.

When asked if he feels this attempt at a removal was a political move, D’Amato replied “absolutely.”

He said the group of suspended councillors allege funds are missing from band accounts, a point which D’Amato disputes.

“This goes back some time,” D’Amato said. “There’s no basis or founding [in their claims].”

He said the band publishes its financial documents publicly and has consistently worked towards ending a $6 million deficit which D'Amato said Henderson inherited from previous administrations.

Henderson said the suspensions of the councillors will not affect day to day operations of the band. Of the original eight-person council, four members remain.

“We’re having our assemblies and we’re explaining everything to our membership next week,” Henderson said. “As far as the other stuff, it’ll go to a hearing.”

Henderson said at the disciplinary hearing, band elders will decide whether or not Montreal Lake Cree Nation will pursue legal action against the four suspended councillors.

paNOW reached out to two of the suspended councillors, who said they weren’t ready to comment on the situation yet.

The RCMP would not confirm or deny if any investigations into the band's financials are underway. The allegations have yet to be tested before the band's elders or the courts.

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