The Caldwell First Nation near Leamington Ont. paid $175,000 to a company owned by the chief's son to produce a video telling the history of its nation and to showcase its 2016 powwow. A year later, members may get their first glimpse during a meeting Saturday.
The payment to Moccasin Media, owned by Chief Louise Hillier's son David, is detailed in a forensic audit request by members at a June 3 meeting where the membership voted to suspend the chief and council following the $576,111 powow.
"I haven't seen it and I haven't heard of anyone who has," said Jeff Johnson, whose father and mother helped reestablish the nation decades ago and whose brother was chief before Hillier.
A second member of the Nation, who asked not to be identified for fear commenting could strain relations in the small, close-knit community, confirmed Johnson's statement that members have not seen the video.
Several calls to Chief Hillier were not returned and attempts to contact David Hillier were unsuccessful.
Allen Deleary, Director of Operations for the nation, said he was unable to release much information except that the video does exist.
"The only thing I can say is membership will make that decision if they choose to review it at their September 23rd meeting," he said.
Caldwell members will be gathering in Leamington Saturday to review the audit and evaluate whether Hillier and her council colleagues should be reinstated.
Audit shows 'unsupported' prize payouts
CBC News obtained a copy of the audit from a member of the nation who said they were "shocked" by its contents, including the video contract and $247,790 in "unsupported" prize money that was handed out to dancers and drummers during the two-day powwow.
A summary presented in the audit completed by London-based Matson Driscoll & Damico Ltd. states the contract included producing a video of the powwow and to tell the story of the nation through interviews with various members and elders in the community.
The contract was awarded without soliciting competing bids or council's approval, according to the audit.
The optics of awarding the contract without competition to a company owned by the chief's son has "shamed our band's name," said Johnson.
Summary of Moccasin Media contract:
|Production and post production||$120,000|
"Considering the value of the Moccasin Media contract, we would expect that the conventions of Council surrounding the approval of large contracts would be followed and at least three quotes would be obtained. We would further expect that Council would have the opportunity to approve the contract," reads the audit. "Based on our discussions with Council, no quotes were obtained for production services, beyond that of Moccasin Media. Further, the Moccasin Media contract was never brought to Council for approval."
Bids for 2017 powwow much lower
Bids from area production companies prepared ahead of a now-cancelled 2017 powwow and included in the audit as evidence, range from $2,900 for simply recording two days of celebration to a quote for $60,000 to film the celebration, interview elders and produce an edited video.
"It appears that the videography services could have been purchased by Caldwell for significantly less than the $190,000 charged by Moccasin Media," concluded the auditors.
The report states Moccasin Media has not been broadcasting the 2016 powwow for the one-year period, which was one of the conditions of its contact and valued at $55,000.
When asked why that has not been happening, Deleary said: "I can't respond to that."
The director added he was also unable to discuss an outstanding $20,000 payment Moccasin Media is seeking from the nation.
"It better be some video." - Member of the Caldwell First Nation
The audit suggests Caldwell may not have to pay the company the remaining money because Moccasin Media has not completed the terms of its contract by not broadcasting the video for the past year.
"We recommend Caldwell seek a legal opinion on whether Caldwell is obligated to pay the remaining $20,000 and further, whether they can seek repayment of the $35,000 already paid that could be attributed to the one year of broadcasting," said the audit.
The auditors also suggest a legal opinion be sought as to whether Councillor Lonnie Dodge, who told the auditors it was his opinion that council did not have to vote on the contract as it was within the approved $500,000 budget for the powwow, breached his fiduciary duty to the band.
Auditors also recommend a legal opinion be sought as to whether a conflict of interest exists between Chief Hillier and Moccasin Media.
In an interview with CBC News, a member of the nation said people just want to see what they got for their money.
Given the pricetag, the member added, "it better be some video."