Band councillor who complained to RCMP in 2010 testifies in fraud trial

Sipekne'katik Band Councillor Alex McDonald testified May 30 in the Jeff Hayes fraud trial/Photo by Stephen Brake

The Sipekne’katik band councillor who complained to the RCMP about alleged fraudulent activity at the Sipekne’katik band office in 2010 said he did so because he  couldn’t get answers about questionable activity with a dormant band owned bank account.

“I said, ‘If I don’t get any answers, I’m taking this to the RCMP,” Alex McDonald, 54, testified during the jury trial of the Sipekne’katik’s former finance director Jeffery Hayes on Monday.

“I didn’t get any answers,” he said.

Hayes, 61, is on trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on charges of fraud, theft, breach of trust and four counts of possession of property obtained through crime. The crimes are alleged to have happened while he was the band’s finance director from 2009-2012.

During testimony, McDonald said he attended a meeting with band accountant Shawn Fitzgerald and his fellow band councillors in the office of the Human Resources manager at the Sipekne’katik Band administration office in Indian Brook First Nation, N.S.

McDonald testified that Fitzgerald explained to them about the Loblaws cheque for more than $277,000 deposited into the dormant bank account and that another cheque issued from the same account was made out to MRJJ Management Inc.

He also said he learned at that meeting about the tobacco rebate program that was set up through Loblaws Wholesale.

He said none of the councillors who attended that meeting knew anything about the situation.

Shortly after that meeting, McDonald told the court he learned Hayes fired Fitzgerald.

McDonald said when he asked more questions about the Loblaws cheques, MRJJ Management and Amcrest Management, he said Hayes told him that chief and council gave its approval.

“I went through the (band council meeting) minutes. There was no authorization to reopen that dormant account at the gas bar and to put any money into it or to pay the taxes on the tobacco,” McDonald testified.

Hayes, chief and two councillors part of MRJJ Management Inc.

McDonald said he learned later on the chief, two councillors and Hayes were the ones who set up MRJJ Management Inc.

“Mike Sack, Ronnie Augustine, Jerry Sack and Jeff Hayes (were) a part of this MRJJ,” he said.

Under cross examination, defence lawyer Luke Craggs asked McDonald about an insurance claim the Sipekne’katik Band has submitted to recover the money Hayes is alleged to have stolen from the band.

“Is it fair to say that you believe that the success of the insurance claim requires you to present Jeff Hayes in a bad light?” Craggs asked McDonald.

“Not necessarily, no,” McDonald answered.

“Is it true you’re trying to blame Jeff Hayes for the problems that your band has?” Craggs asked.

“I believe he’s a big part of the problem, including several of the councillors, yes,” McDonald testified.

Under redirection by Crown attorney Rick Hartlen, asked McDonald if insurance claims and lawsuits were on his mind when he complained to the RCMP in 2010 or when he voted to dismiss Hayes from his position in 2012.

“Not at all,” McDonald said.

“What was?” Hartlen asked McDonald.

“To have him charged and make him pay back whatever he has taken,” McDonald replied.

“In my mind, I’m hoping that he would squeal on the rest of them,” he said.

The trial resumes on Tuesday.


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About Maureen Googoo 174 Articles

Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne’katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news for 30 years for media outlets such as CBC Radio, the Chronicle-Herald and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

Maureen has an arts degree in political science from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, a post-graduate degree in journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.