The Southern Chiefs Organization has suspended its leader over allegations of misusing funds at a casino and amusement park in Minnesota.
Grand Chief Murray Clearsky and his chief of staff Michael Bear were suspended with pay pending the outcome of an outside audit.
The decision was made following a late meeting of the SCO that started Monday evening and ended early Tuesday morning.
Morris Swan Shannacappo, chief of Rolling River First Nation, said the investigation will be swift.
"We're certainly doing something about it. It's not gonna take as long as Mike Duffy's investigation — we are doing it immediately," he said, referring to the embattled senator who resigned from the Conservative caucus earlier this year amid controversy over his living and travel expense claims.
That investigation into Duffy's expenses is still ongoing.
"We're gonna put in an interim financial committee to come in and look at all our books along with the auditors to see if everything is on the up and up and then from there we will call a summit and give our final response," Shannacappo said.
Staff of the SCO — which represents 33 chiefs in southern Manitoba — came forward last week accusing Clearsky of withdrawing thousands of dollars in cash advances at automatic teller machines in Minnesota.
On Aug. 19, four withdrawals totalling $839.08 were made at Valleyfair, an amusement park in Minnesota. And over two days, Sept. 17 and 18, a number of withdrawals totalling $9,655.25 were made at ATMs in and around Shakopee, Minn.
Not all the chiefs at the meeting were happy with the suspension. Long Plain chief Dennis Meeches wanted Clearsky to resign.
And Swan Lake Chief Francine Meeches called the delay in a decision on Clearsky's future a joke, telling reporters, "we have to answer to our people."
AMC offers help
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said on Tuesday it will help in any way it can to weather a spending scandal and restore financial accountability to the SCO.
AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak spoke to Clearsky before he was suspended and monitored the decision of the meeting from Toronto, where he is for meetings.
Nepinak said he wasn't surprised at the decision to suspended Clearsky, saying accountability is a challenging issue for many in the public eye.
"You know, it's happening at all levels of government, whether it be in Manitoba or whether it be at the federal government," he said.
"You look at what's happening in the Senate, you look at what's happening right in the Prime Minister's office. To me it's a nationwide issue and it's a concern that we should all be paying attention to."
Nepinak sympathizes with Clearsky on a personal level but said the SCO leader has to face whatever consequences come out of the scandal.