Parochial FSIN speeding down ruinous path
- From: Russ Diabo [mailto:russdiabo@...]
Sent: Tuesday, October 04, 2011 06:55 PM
To: Russ Diabo <russdiabo@...>
Subject: Parochial FSIN speeding down ruinous path
Parochial FSIN speeding down ruinous path
By Doug Cuthand, Special to The StarPhoenixSeptember 30, 2011
Kirk Goodtrack never thought that returning home and working for his people would result in such a backlash. But on Thursday, he was removed as chair of SIGA's board.
His original plan had been to return to Saskatchewan and set up a law practice. Now that his parents were more than 70 years old, he felt he should be closer to them.
Goodtrack is from the Wood Mountain reserve south of Regina. After high school he attended the University of Saskatchewan, where he received a bachelor's degree. He then moved to Ontario and attended Queen's University, where he received a law degree.
He also took courses at York and Harvard universities.
Following graduation he was a clerk for the Ontario High Court, served as associate counsel for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and was a lawyer for the Bank of Montreal.
He gained gaming experience as one of the group that directed the $210-million expansion of Casino Rama north of Toronto. He was the president of emerging markets for Penn National Gaming from 2001 to 2009, where he helped to increase revenues to more than $3 billion from $658 million.
Obviously he is no dummy, and when he was named chair of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority in February of this year, he seemed like the obvious choice to steer the gaming organization of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.
However, it soon became apparent that Goodtrack wanted to see SIGA operated like a business, not a political program. Board-related overheads were far too large for an organization that was designed to work on behalf of the First Nations, so he moved to implement reforms that included making cuts. These included paring board expenses, per diems and frequency of meetings.
Also, he felt the board was far too large and had too many chiefs appointed to it. Decisions were being made for political reasons and not business ones. This didn't go over well with the existing powers that be, and Goodtrack found himself facing stiff resistance.
In July, the board felt that some of Goodtrack's legal cases placed him in a conflict-of-interest and voted to replace him as chair.
There were a few problems with this decision. First, Goodtrack maintained that he was well aware of his caseload and didn't see any conflict of interest.
Second, he was appointed by the Chiefs Assembly in February and, as such, could only be terminated by the assembly.
If an assembly appointment can be overturned by a board of directors, what is the point of requiring the assembly to ratify appointments?
Goodtrack took the matter to the court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon, where Justice Gerald Albright heard the case. Albright ruled in favour of Goodtrack, saying he was not in a conflict of interest and that SIGA's board did not have the lawful authority to appoint or remove a chair of its board. Judge Albright then ordered the Goodtrack reinstated as SIGA chair.
At this point you would think the ruling would settle things. But things apparently operate differently at the FSIN. No legal appeal was launched, but the matter was dealt with internally.
On Thursday, FSIN's Economic and Community Development Commission met and upheld Goodtrack's suspension. He was not present at the meeting to state his case and defend himself.
In an announcement to the media, acting FSIN Chief Morley Watson stated: "The Economic and Community Development Commission found that there are real and apparent conflicts of interest and questions regarding his conduct as the chair of SIGA."
Somehow this august group knows more about the law than Justice Albright, who has sat on the bench for years and is considered a senior member of the judiciary. The commission determined there was a conflict of interest even though the court had ruled otherwise.
Watson's use of the word "conduct" is interesting. Is it code for having the temerity to stand up for yourself and take a matter to court?
Watson also stated that Goodtrack was no longer suspended; now he was removed. According to Watson, the decision is final and neither the Indian Government Commission nor the Chiefs Assembly can overturn this decision. Whether this stands remains to be seen, but most likely Goodtrack has had his fill of this group of amateurs.
This is just another step down the narrow parochial path that FSIN leaders are headed. The message is clear: If you are bright, well-educated, experienced and have a vision, stay away from the FSIN.
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