John Wesley says his suspension as chief of Snuneymuxw First Nation is invalid and denies any wrongdoing. (News Bulletin file)

Suspended Snuneymuxw chief issues statement on suspension

John Wesley denies wrongdoing and said suspension is invalid under First Nation council rules.

John Wesley has denied any wrongdoing after being suspended as chief of Snuneymuxw First Nation.

In a four-page statement, Wesley refuted allegations made against him, after it was announced that he was being suspended by Snuneymuxw band council citing a breach of fiduciary duty and council governance policy.

In his statement, Wesley said his suspension, effective until Feb. 1, is invalid under the First Nation council code of ethics.

“I have received no notice from Council that they were considering a suspension, and have been given no opportunity to respond to Chief and Council. I seem to have been suspended because it is alleged that I did not answer questions – which I did in fact answer,” Wesley said in the statement.

• RELATED: Wesley still in Snuneymuxw leadership race

Wesley also said the meeting held to suspend him was also not duly convened under band council procedure regulations. He said only a chief or superintendent can summon a meeting and neither did. Furthermore, there was no quorum, as there was no chief present, making the suspension invalid.

Wesley said he had not breached any fiduciary duty, that he has acted honestly, in good faith and without conflict of interest.

The allegations date back to June 2015, when the band hired a person under contract to act as executive director to implement the directions of chief and council. The director hired a second person to organize the band’s financial department, which Wesley said was in “complete disarray.” Nearly $1 million in cheques written from forest companies had not been deposited into the correct accounts, he said.

“It was discovered that a $700,000 cheque had been forgotten in an employee’s desk drawer, with pencils. Other cheques totalling many hundreds of thousands of dollars had been left in a safe! Further, the Financial Department had deposited almost 1 million dollars in the SFN Operating account instead of the Economic Development Corporation account. To this date the Band still owes a great deal of that money back to the Economic Development Corporation.”

According to Wesley, under the agreement, when the executive director and the person hired to organize the finance department were dismissed July 14, 2015, they were owed $15,000 and $5,000 respectively, for which two cheques were issued.

“The cheques were presented to me by the then Executive Director. This was standard protocol. I signed the cheques because the Nation was legally obligated to pay those amounts. The standard protocol is that two councillors are to sign the cheques as a safety precaution. Another Councillor signed the cheques,” Wesley said in his statement.

“I acted in the best interests of the SFN. I signed the cheques because SFN legally had to pay by reason of the contract. The Nation had dismissed four Executive Directors and was in disarray and I prevented any future lawsuits and the untold legal costs which would likely have exceeded $20,000 if the cheques were not signed.”

The Snuneymuxw election takes place in December. Wesley goes on to allege “the suspension was designed to cast doubt on [his] integrity” and questions why the investigation into his conduct did not address the SFN financial department’s state of affairs.

“I paid the contracts out because SFN was legally obligated to and it would spare SFN from yet another wrongful dismissal (breach of contract) lawsuit and untold legal costs for defending a rash decision by the Council to terminate another administrator,” Wesley said. “I did not breach any duties to my Nation.”

Wesley said he still intends to run in the election.

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