Disgruntled First Nation band members from Shuswap, B.C. are going public with band financing figures released under the Conservative government's First Nation's Financial Transparency Act in the hopes of overturning the leadership in elections next Friday
Under the Act, First Nations must post their audited financial statements for the last fiscal year online.
'I don't see where it's being spent. The houses are in disrepair. There are band members living with no water and sewer' - former Shuswap band councillor Diane Coté
The documents, show Chief Paul Sam and councillor Alice Sam, the chief's ex-wife, both earning more than $200,000 a year.
Many on the tiny Shuswap reserve of 87 people have asked questions for more than a decade about the band's spending, even going so far as to occupy the band office demanding answers that until now went unanswered.
Former councillor Diana Coté says she can't understand how the Sam family can pay itself more than the Premier of British Columbia to run a reserve with 87 residents.
"I don't see where it's being spent, she said. "The houses are in disrepair. There are band members living with no water and sewer. So if there is that kind of money flowing through the reserve there is absolutely nothing to show for it."
Even with the mandatory disclosure, much of the millions of dollars that passed through the reserve in federal transfers and business deals is unexplained.
Expenditures under the category of "other" totalled nearly $2.5 million over two years.
No band meeting in 8 years
The only non-member of the Sam family still on the band council is Diana's sister Barb Coté.
'I think it's outrageous. I think it's a crime and we can't stop there.' - Band member Cecilia Teneese
"[In terms of] chief and council meetings — I've never been formally invited to one," she said. "I happened to be at the office one day and they just decided to have one with me. A band meeting...there hasn't been one in eight years."
Band member Cecilia Teneese says she's been denied a house on the reserve for 20 years.
"I think it's outrageous,' she said. I think it's a crime and we can't stop there. We've got to send a message this is unacceptable no matter who is in leadership."
Chief Paul Sam and his family did not return CBC phone calls.
In 2009, the Shuswap First Nation signed an agreement with the developers of the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort even though other First Nations in the area don't support the project which would create a 104-hectare resort community in Jumbo Valley about 55 km west of Invermere, B.C.
Earlier this year, the Kwikwetlem First Nation on B.C.'s Lower Mainland disclosed that its chief Ron Giesbrecht had made nearly $1 million last year.
The First Nation explained it had paid Giesbrecht an $800,000 bonus for his work as its economic development officer.