The former chief of the Sipekne’katik Band said in court Thursday that he never authorized the transfer of thousands of dollars of band funds into bank accounts controlled by the band’s former finance director.
Sipekne’katik Band Councillor Jerry F. Sack, 54, testified Thursday in the jury trial of Jeffrey Cecil Hayes. Sack served as the chief of Sipekne’katik from 2007 until he stepped down in 2012 to run for a seat on council instead.
Hayes, 61, is charged with fraud, theft, breach of trust and possession of stolen property. The offences are alleged to have occurred while he was the finance director with Sipekne’katik from 2009 until he was dismissed in 2012.
Near the beginning of his testimony, crown attorney Rick Hartlen asked Sack to explain to the jury his limited ability to read documents.
“I could read a bit but I can’t understand what I was reading,” Sack explained. “If you show me something, I’ll trust you,” he said.
Sack testified that he signed a letter dated October 29, 2009, to the RBC bank manager in Truro, N.S asking for a dormant band-owned bank account to be reactivated and renamed to “Sports.” The letter was also signed by Hayes.
However, Sack said he had no involvement in drafting the letter nor did he read it before he signed it.
“How did that come about? Do you remember?” Hartlen asked.
“Jeff (Hayes) handed me the letter and told me to sign it,” Sack replied.
“Is this something that you had asked for and wanted?” Hartlen asked.
“No,” Sack said.
During his testimony, Sack explained that he took part in setting up MRJJ Management Inc., a company that was intended to be used for developing band-owned land called Wallace Hill in Hammonds Plains.
Sack said the band lawyer, Gary Richard, came to him with a contract for him to sign to form the committee. When asked by Hartlen if he read the document, Sack said he didn’t.
“How come?” Hartlen asked.
“I put my trust in these people,” Sack said.
“Did you know (MRJJ) had a bank account? Hartlen asked.
“Bank account? I’m not sure,” Sack answered.
Sack denies knowing or approving cheques written from Sports account
According to an agreed statement of facts that was read to the jury on May 17, Hayes reactivated a dormant band-owned bank account, renamed it “Sports” and had the address changed to his home address. He also opened up a bank account for MRJJ Management Inc. and listed his home address on that account.
According to the same statement of facts, all cheques written from the Sports account were signed by both Hayes and Sack.
Sack testified that he either had no knowledge of or approved a series of cheques written from the Sports account. They included:
- $934,000 of band funds that were transferred to the Sports bank account that Hayes controlled between 2009 and 2011.
- Three cheques that totalled approximately $289,000 coming out of the Sports account and deposited into the MRJJ bank account.
- Five cheques coming from the Sports account to Amcrest Management Inc., a consulting company owned by Hayes.
- Two cheques written from the Sports worth $5,000 each made out to Hayes.
Sack testified he wasn’t aware that $451,000 worth of rebate cheques from Loblaws made out to the Sipekne’katik Band were being deposited into the Sports account from 2009-2011.
In regards to the tobacco rebate plan set up between the Sipekne’katik Band and Loblaws, Sack testified he knew the plan was being set up but he didn’t take it to band council for approval.
“Can you tell the members of the jury why it wasn’t?” Hartlen asked.
“I don’t know what to tell you guys,” Sack answered. “I think that Jeff took advantage of me,” he said.
“It should have gone to chief and council,” Sack said.
Sack is scheduled to return to court June 6 for cross-examination by Luke Craggs, Hayes’ defence lawyer.