The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA), which oversees the six First Nations casinos in the province of the same name, is embroiled in controversy that borders on scandal. Having thrown out the chief of its board and so far disregarded a court order to reinstate him, SIGA has ignited the ire of member nations of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (FSIN), which oversees it. Several are now considering dropping out entirely.
Much of the fracas centers around questionable finances, including thousands of dollars in expense reimbursements for board members (half of whom are chiefs and already draw a salary), as well as reforms related to who serves on the board.
The board threw Goodtrack out in alleging that the attorney had conflicts of interest between his private caseload and SIGA. But his supporters tell the media that he was in fact pushed out for tightening board expenditures and trying to institute reforms.
“My board is comprised of—a large number of them are politicians—they are tribal chiefs, we have to separate politics from business,” Goodtrack told the radio station CKOM/Newstalk 650. “It’s something that is a common issue throughout Canada and that’s something we have to do."
He was ousted in July in a non-confidence vote similar to the one that was being planned for FSIN Chief Guy Lonechild when he resigned in early September. Like Lonechild, Goodtrack won his seat back in court.
Now even FSIN Acting Chief Morley Watson allows as how SIGA did not follow proper procedure in suspending Goodtrack, according to CBC News.
"Sometimes, if we haven't maybe followed the rules to a T that has come back to perhaps to bite us," Watson said, according to the network. "We have to put in place mechanisms where we can't bypass our own legislation. And if perhaps some leaders have done that, then I think it's up to the organization to safeguard, to ensure that doesn't happen in the future."
Meanwhile, allegations of possible overexpenditures continue to swirl around SIGA. In July, just after Goodtrack’s non-confidence vote, the Star Phoenix found that several board members had earned upwards of $70,000 in salaries, per diems, travel costs and other expenses, with board reimbursements totaling more than $600,000. That was many more times the amount paid out to the Saskatchewan Gaming Corp.’s board, which governs provincial casinos, the newspaper said.
The Star Phoenix published a three-part series on SIGA’s woes that ran September 14–16. Revelations from documents obtained by the paper include 18 percent of the funds slated for community development, or $3.2 million annually, are in fact spent on administration and board costs for six community development corporations.
It also reveals that FSIN Vice-Chief Edward (Dutch) Lerat, mid-lawsuit against SIGA for wrongful dismissal over his inability to explain the whereabouts of $300,000 back in 2000, is now apparently overseeing the federation’s SIGA file. After the newspaper’s report, he told Watson he would withdraw the lawsuit.