Sipekne’katik chief testifies he sat on committee that hired Hayes as finance director

Sipekne'katik Chief Rufus Copage testified June 8, 2016 in fraud trial of Jeffrey Cecil Hayes/Photo by Stephen Brake

The current chief of the Sipekne’katik Band confirmed he was part of the interview committee that hired Jeffrey Hayes for the finance director’s position in early 2009.

“I can’t remember how many we interviewed but I know we interviewed Jeff Hayes and he was the successful candidate at the time,” Chief Rufus Copage testified in court on Wednesday during the jury trial of Jeffrey Cecil Hayes.

Hayes, 61, of Halifax is charged with fraud, theft, breach of trust and possession of property obtained through crime.

The crown alleges Hayes used band funds to purchase land for a house at Kittiwake Ridge in Halibut Bay, N.S., a 2009 Jeep Patriot, a 2009 Jeep Liberty and a 32-inch flat screen television.

Copage testified he was a band councillor at the time when he sat on the hiring committee with then Chief Jerry F. Sack that selected Hayes as the successful candidate.

“We were trying to get a CGA, the highest accountant,” Copage testified. “When we went through all the paperwork, Jeff didn’t actually have that but he had probably one of the best resumes that we had of all the people at that time,” he said.

On June 2, Councillor Sack testified in court that he did not sit on the committee that interviewed Hayes for the position.

During his testimony, Copage said he only found out about the companies, MRJJ and Amcrest, when accountant Shawn Fitzgerald informed several band councillors about them in July 2009.

Copage testified band council did not hold a vote during a meeting to open a bank account for MRJJ or approve to do business with Amcrest, a consulting company that Hayes owned.

According to a statement of admissions that was submitted at the beginning of the trial on May 17, Hayes had control of two band accounts named “Sports” and “MRJJ.” More than $900,000 of band funds was transferred to the Sports account between 2009-2011 and more than $200,000 of band funds was transferred from the Sports account to the MRJJ account.

While being questioned by crown attorney Rick Hartlen, Copage testified that during the time he sat on council, chief and council had authority to hire and fire employees as well as approving raises.

“Significant overhaul” of band politics and administration – Nathan Sack

Nathan Sack, Director of Operations for Sipekne'katik Band, testified June 8 in fraud trial of Jeffrey Cecil Hayes/Photo by Stephen Brake
Nathan Sack, Director of Operations for Sipekne’katik Band, testified June 8 in fraud trial of Jeffrey Cecil Hayes/Photo by Stephen Brake

Nathan Sack, Director of Operations for Sipekne’katik, testified the band has made significant changes to its administration and how chief and council makes decisions since he started his position in August 2012.

“The band has gone through a significant overhaul over the last few years and what we have done essentially is separate the politics of the band and the administration,” Sack testified.

“Under the old system, chief and council would be doing the hiring and firing. So what we do now is a hiring process and get into progressive discipline,” Sack testified.

“ I am very careful with my authority. Anything I do is reflected in band council minutes,” he said.

The crown’s final witness was Greg Leeworthy, a senior forensic accountant with the Forensic Accounting Management Group at Public Works and Government Services Canada.

Leeworthy testified that he was asked by the RCMP to investigate bank record to determine if Hayes used Sipekne’katik band funds to purchase the land, two vehicles and a television. He said he prepared a 61-page forensic accounting report in 2013 for the RCMP.

According to the report, Leeworthy determined that “band funds were the ultimate source” of Hayes’ purchases.

Luke Craggs, who is representing Hayes, will inform the court if he intends to call any witnesses when the trial resumes Thursday afternoon.

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About Maureen Googoo 270 Articles
Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne'katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news more than 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 journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.