Penticton Indian Band councillors and Interfor chief forester Richard Slaco listen on as Chief Chad Eneas speaks in the band administration office recently.                                Western News file photo

Penticton Indian Band councillors and Interfor chief forester Richard Slaco listen on as Chief Chad Eneas speaks in the band administration office recently. Western News file photo

New administration for Penticton Indian Band, court responses filed

Key roles for Penticton Indian Band filled, meanwhile they have filed a counterclaim

Two key roles for the Penticton Indian Band administration have been filled.

After a year of staffing transitions, that resulted in a lawsuit filled against the Penticton Indian Band for breach of contract and now a counterclaim, the Penticton Indian Band said they are ready to begin a new chapter with the announcement of the successful candidates for chief administrative officer and chief financial officer.

Related: Former Penticton Indian Band administrator files civil lawsuit

The competition for CAO has been awarded to Penticton Indian Band member, Joe Johnson.

Johnson, who starts on Aug. 7, returns to his Reserve after serving as director of operations for the Bonaparte Indian Band near Cache Creek.

The CFO position is awarded to Brian Connor, who will begin on July 30. He played a key role in administrative development and served as director of finance for the Westbank First Nation since 2006.

“Having these positions filled by experienced professionals with the understanding of our history, both culturally and politically, will serve us well. Both of these people have a proven track record of transparency and community connection which we had been missing,” said Chief Chad Eneas in a news release.

Related: PIB needs to do some ‘healing’ says former chief

Former band administrator Brent Ryan-Lewis filed the civil lawsuit in June. He claims that he raised questions about the PIB chief and band council, in accordance with his duties, and a month later was terminated without the reasonable notice that he was entitled to under his contract.

At the time of his dismissal, Ryan-Lewis said he is entitled to a compensation package which included annual income of approximately $169,399.67, three weeks vacation, participation in the PIB registered pension plan, mobile phone allowance of $65 per month and a comprehensive benefits package.

Related: Non-confidence issue freezes up PIB meeting

In a response filed by the PIB, all of Ryan-Lewis’s allegations are denied. The counterclaim states the budget he presented to Band council included a new pay grid with a substantial increase for himself, but at the time he presented it he did not identify the increase to his own salary. They state that he also advised council that the budget approval or support had been approved by the CFO. At the time the band then supported the budget with the assurance of the approvals. In the counterclaim they state that in fact the budget presented had not been approved or supported by the CFO and there was not sufficient funds for salary increases as he suggested. His conduct was the reason for his termination.

In response to Ryan-Lewis’ claims that he was acting as a “whistleblower,” the PIB said the allegations are “fiction, and have been concocted by the plaintiff to deflect attention from the plaintiff’s fraudulent and dishonest behaviour.”

The PIB is also seeking damages because the CFO resigned from her position as a “direct result” of Ryan-Lewis’ actions, causing disruption to their administration.

A news release sent out by interim CAO Jonathan Baynes on Friday said that they believe they are moving in a stronger direction now and that the top-down system imposed by the Department of Indigenous Services Canada (DISC, formerly know as INAC) which have been sustained by the band for over three decades, is not conducive to contemporary local government.

“The amount of power and responsibility put in the hands of one individual, like the Band Administrator, is not sustainable and makes transparency and information sharing very challenging,” said Baynes.


Kristi Patton | Editor

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