The election drama in Acho Dene Koe First Nation (ADKFN) will continue until at least June 5 as the appeals were adjourned two weeks.
Two appeals have been filed for the election that was held on April 26. One was launched by former Chief Floyd Bertrand and another by chief candidate James Duntra.
According to preliminary results, Chief Eugene Hope was re-elected with 148 votes, defeating Duntra who had 145 and Steven Steeves with 24.
In an unprecedented move, Appeals Officer Garth Wallbridge issued a press release to answer questions members may have on the appeal.
“Those interested in understanding the actions of the Appeals Committee have no source of information, no published decisions that they might look to gain some understanding of what is occurring,” he writes, explaining why he was issuing the release.
Wallbridge writes he understands the election was run by the Custom Election Code — which the federal court found was never ratified by the citizens — and the unwritten custom of the First Nation.
The appeal process follows Section 48 of ADKFN’s custom election code. This section says the committee — which only Wallbridge sits on — must investigate and find whether the complaint is based in fact and if there is enough evidence to nullify part of, or the entire election.
Bertrand told CKLB his appeal was in regards to the way the election was conducted.
“Right from start to finish, there seems to be a lot of inconsistencies,” he alleges.
Bertrand referenced the mail-in ballots, the online voting system and how the voting affected those in different time zones, alleging these affected the outcome.
“Speaking for myself, I believe there was enough evidence and enough grounds to file an appeal and hopefully the appeals committee will consider my argument,” he says.
CKLB reached out to ADKFN band manager Boyd Clark and Chief Hope for comment on the appeal. Clark said they would be unable to respond to the request as it is before the Appeals Officer.
CKLB reached out to Duntra by email to discuss his appeal, but didn’t receive a response by publication time.
However, Wallbridge wrote a brief summary of the appeals, including the fact Bertrand was unable to place his name on the ballot due to money he “may or may not” owe an ADKFN-owned corporation. Bertrand has previously told CKLB Radio he does not owe the corporation any money.
Wallbridge writes Duntra’s allegations are similar to Bertrand’s in terms of online voting, mail-in ballots and the actions of Hope during the election period.
Preliminary vs. official
Wallbridge issued the two-week adjournment at a hearing on May 22. The release says he felt Hope hadn’t had sufficient time to seek legal advice, and gave him time to do so.
As a result of the adjournment, Wallbridge provided advice to the ADKFN and the elections officer to swear in the council and appoint a sub-chief, who can govern the community in the meantime.
Clark told CKLB over email that wouldn’t be happening.
“No oath of office was given as no directive was given to do so,” he wrote. “The authority of declaring the results final for the election rests with the Elections Officer. At this time the Election Officer has not declared the election results final for the April election of ADKFN.”
Section 50 of the custom election code says the word preliminary must remain in front of the results until the appeals are dealt with, after which the Elections Officer can write the word official.
There is no mention of the appeal including the council election, however, CKLB has not confirmed that to be the case.
However, Bertrand told CKLB the situation has been confusing.
“Right now, there’s no chief or council that has been sworn in,” he says. “So essentially we’re unsure who’s running the First Nation here.”
An ADKFN press release says there has been an administrative recount for the chief’s race.
The election was postponed twice and scheduled nearly a year later than originally intended.