Giant bills put 4 councillors out of Salt River election
'To me that was just a ploy on her part to stop me from running in this election,' says Connie Benwell
Four former councillors running in the upcoming band election for the Salt River First Nation say the chief has deliberately disqualified them by giving each an invoice for more than $60,000.
The candidates for chief and council received the invoices with the election less than a month away.
The band's election rules state if someone owes money to the band, that person can't run in the election.
Connie Benwell was a councillor when Dave Poitras was chief of the Salt River First Nation. She was planning to run in this election for chief and councillor, but she says she came home in late July to find an envelope nailed to her door.
"In it was an invoice from Frieda Martselos for overpayment as a councillor. And it was for $63,000."
Benwell says she has no idea where that figure came from, and when she asked the chief and council for a breakdown, they refused to provide one.
Three other former councillors running in this election received similar invoices.
"To me that was just a ploy on her part to stop me from running in this election," Benwell says. "I am disputing it. I don't owe the band any money."
Martselos says the invoices are the result of an audit she requested. She says an auditor from Edmonton found these councillors were paid too many honoraria in the past.
Martselos says she believes the former chief and council mismanaged band funds.
Benwell says all budgeting decisions made under former chief Dave Poitras were public and legitimate.
Martselos says the matter is now in the hands of the RCMP to investigate.
The Salt River First Nation members go to the polls Sept. 29.