(Clayton Kennedy, former co-manager for Attawapiskat, is accused of stealing $51,000 from community. APTN/File Photo)
By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Attawapiskat First Nation requested a police investigation into the activities of Clayton Kennedy, the life partner of current Chief Theresa Spence, during his first stint as co-manager for the community a decade ago, APTN National News has learned.
Kennedy is currently facing fraud and theft charges for allegedly stealing $51,000 from the community on Aug. 28, 2012, according to the information charge sheet filed with Ontario Court in Cochrane, Ont. He was officially charged on March 27, according to the charge sheet.
Attawapiskat, which sits in northern Ontario near the James Bay coast, is one of the poorest First Nations in the country despite occupying a territory littered with diamonds.
Kennedy was Attawapiskat’s co-manager between 2010 and August 2012. It was his second stint handling the band’s finances. Kennedy was the band’s director of finance, band manager and co-manager between 2001 and 2004. He was forced out of under a cloud of financial mismanagement allegations, according to documents obtained by APTN National News.
Under former chief Theresa Hall, Attawapiskat’s band council passed a resolution on Jan. 19, 2004, suspending Kennedy and calling on the OPP and RCMP to conduct a forensic audit. The resolution was included in a letter sent the next day to Nishnawbe-Aski’s then-police chief Wes Luloff discussing Kennedy’s alleged “financial mismanagement” as co-manager.
“The Council is requesting that you coordinate the involvement of the OPP and the RCMP for this said forensic audit,” said the Jan. 20, 2014, letter signed by Hall. “We believe the only way we will clear these allegations is to have all of our financial affairs audited as we are requesting.”
The forensic audit never occurred, but the band council’s resolution and the letter ended the occupation of Kennedy’s office by a group of community members. The band council was hobbled by a $12 million deficit at the time.
The 2004 resolution, which was sent to Aboriginal Affairs at the time, did not prevent the rehiring of Kennedy in 2010 and he worked as a co-manager while Spence was chief. Co-managers are jointly selected by the federal department and the band council paid Kennedy about $140,000 a year for his services.
Nishnawbe-Aski police now allege that Kennedy stole $51,000 shortly before he left his post in August 2012.
According to the charge sheet, Kennedy allegedly defrauded Attawapiskat of the money by writing a cheque. He then stole the money, Det.-Const. Trevor Martin alleges in the charge sheet.
The charges stem from a complaint filed by Attawapiskat’s band council with the Nishnawbe-Aski police last year. Wayne Turner, Attawapiskat’s executive director, said the complaint was filed in April 2013. Nishnawbe-Aski police spokesperson Jackie George said the complaint was filed in February 2013.
Turner said Spence has recused herself from any band council discussions on the issue. He said she is currently on vacation.
APTN National News could not reach Spence for comment. A source close to Spence, however, said she and Kennedy have been advised not to speak on the issue.
“Clayton (Kennedy) will have his chance to speak,” said the source.
Spence rose to national prominence during her six-week long liquids-only fast on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River between December 2012 and January 2013.
Her fast coincided with the crescendo of the Idle No More movement and her call for a meeting between chiefs, the prime minister and the governor general became a flashpoint of protests and divisions among the First Nation leadership.
Attawapiskat, one of the poorest communities in the country, burst onto the national consciousness the year before after images of mold-infested housing and slop-pail bathrooms flashed across television screens and on social media.
The community sits about 90 kilometres east of a De Beers diamond mine which has also been the source of periodic ice road blockades by community members upset the riches of the territory never seem to flow to the community.
The Kennedy charges is once again drawing attention to the community.
Attawapiskat’s band council released a statement Tuesday afternoon stating it would be cooperating with police on the case.
“This is a very serious matter as the First Nation entrusted Mr. Kennedy to handle funds on behalf of the members of the Attawapiskat First Nation for the delivery of specific services for the community members,” said the statement.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office released a statement saying it couldn’t on details of the case.
Kennedy is currently listed as the co-manager for Taykwa Tagamou Nation.
“We have no comment, bye,” said a woman who answered the phone at the band office.
Aboriginal Affairs released an audit of Attawapiskat’s finances in January 2013 that uncovered a missing paper trail for millions of dollars that flowed through the community between 2005 and 2011.