Salt River passes budget by three votes

Salt River passes budget by three votes
Salt River First Nation chief Frieda Martselos.Photo: File photo.

Three votes in favour were enough to pass a budget introduced by Salt River First Nation Chief Frieda Martselos, despite tensions between band members boiling over at the budget meeting last week.

The meeting held last Thursday detailed more than $3 million in spending, but was interrupted by the RCMP after a councillor reacted to seeing an outspoken band member show up, according to other band members.

The RCMP opted to stay on the porch outside of the meeting after several of the band members stood up to defend the member in question, Judith Gayle, who was banned by the chief from their last meeting, former Salt River councillor Mike Beaver told The Journal.

“We said, ‘This is our band meeting, any member of Salt River is allowed to be at this meeting,’” Beaver said. “Years ago we used to have meetings outside, so how are you able to kick somebody out when you are outside? That’s crazy the way she operates.”

Another band member prevented a CBC reporter from entering the meeting.

Chief not recognized by some

Salt River’s members are divided over their support for Martselos, with a large group choosing not to recognize her as chief after a vote of non-confidence last month.

At a meeting in January, band members in attendance voted to remove Martselos as leader, but the move was later declared “invalid” by Martselos’ supporters who say it did not go through protocols in the band’s election code.

Band councillor George Cumming, who initiated the non-confidence vote in January, said those who voted to oust her do not recognize her authority.

“She’s not a chief; we are not calling her chief and we don’t recognize her as chief. For all that money they are spending after January, we’re going to fight for them to pay that money back because, as far as we are concerned, she is not a chief. She was voted out and that was it,” he told The Journal last Friday.

Martselos did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

Expense records questioned

When aspects of the budget were detailed at the meeting, Beaver said Martselos appeared to be dodging questions and was reluctant to give details.

“(Martselos) just can’t seem to realize what’s going on with all the money,” he said. “We don’t know where it’s going.”

Beaver said the budget included $500,000 slated for a forensic audit. Originally stating the audit was for “ongoing court cases,” when pressed by the members, Martselos said the audit was to be done on Salt River’s development corp.

“If she’s after the development corp., does that mean that she wants to do something about when somebody else was in power? It’s an ongoing fight with her,” he said.

When the vote on the budget came up, those in favour came out three votes ahead.

Cumming said he would have liked to see a secret ballot for the budget, alleging that several of those who supported it were doing so out of fear.

“Showing hands is just not good enough,” he said. “If we would have had a secret ballot, then everything would be settled right there. She wouldn’t get away with what she is getting away with for sure.”

Salt River First Nation will be holding band elections this September.

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