The Peters band council in British Columbia sought legal advice on what to call bonuses and “reasonable” amounts without getting into trouble with the federal government months after receiving over $2.5 million from Kinder Morgan.
“I’m just wondering if you’ve come up with any wording for us RE: ‘bonus’ and amounts etc,” wrote former Peters First Nation councillor Leanne Peters in an email to the band’s lawyer May 5, 2016.
Leanne Peters, who is now a staff member for the band, was following up on what appears to have been a phone call with their former lawyer Maya Stano of Gowling WLG in Vancouver based on another email.
The emails were obtained by APTN News in an ongoing investigation into Peters, which is under an RCMP investigation and KPMG is also conducting a financial review based on allegations of misappropriation of funds. The KPMG review recently received an extension as a draft report was due July 31.
Both the RCMP and KPMG have copies of the emails.
APTN is quoting the emails as they were written.
“Hi I spoke to Maya she said she is glad I asked her there was a band in the lower mainland who got into trouble with giving themselves so much money and them calling it a bonus etc.,” wrote Leanne Peters May 3, 2016 to Chief Norma Webb, Coun. Victoria Peters and staff members.
“She asked if she could get back to us on Thursday, I said that was fine as as is very busy the next two days. She will let us know what we should call it and give us amounts that are reasonable …”
Stano wrote Peters council May 6, 2016 saying “it’s a bit of a tricky area with conflict of interest concerns arising, as well as how the fiduciary duties that council owes to the band come into play” and said she would need to get to back to council to give her “best advice.”
“Recent case law makes this something we need to make sure we get absolutely right,” wrote Stano from her iPhone according to the email.
APTN was not able to obtain any further emails on the matter and wrote Stano asking if she counselled Peters on how to give themselves money without getting into trouble.
Stano did not respond, but the CEO of the Gowling WLG did a couple days later.
“Gowling WLG has not advised the Chief and Council to authorize bonus payments to themselves, nor to disguise any such payments, whether in the form of meeting per diem/Honoria or otherwise,” wrote Peter Lukasiewicz.
Lukasiewicz said Gowling also did not provide any advice to administration or staff.
Stano was one of the lawyers Peters had during its negotiation with Kinder Morgan over the expansion of Trans Mountain pipeline.
Peters signed what’s known as a Mutual Benefits Agreement with Kinder Morgan in January 2016 to allow the company to put a second pipeline through its territory.
The deal is worth millions of dollars over the next 20 years.
As of April 2016, Peters had $985,000 in a separate bank account, known as its Kinder Morgan account, according to bank statements obtained by APTN.
Records show $200,000 was transferred from the Kinder Morgan account to its main bank account June 28, 2016.
Peters council has refused to answer questions from APTN.
Peters First Nation is a reserve of 12 homes about two hours east of Vancouver along the TransCanada Highway.