SARNIA – The Walpole Island First Nation band council is preparing to shred piles of confidential documents this week, just as residents press for a full financial accounting of its recent business ventures.
A shredding truck has been secured and will visit the island’s administrative office Thursday or Friday to dispose of any unwanted documents councillors may have, according to an Oct. 15 memo obtained by The Observer.
In an interview, Chief Joseph Gilbert confirmed his secretary sent the memo, but said the need to dispose of paperwork is in no way connected to a series of controversial business ventures the band has undertaken to improve its financial self-sufficiency.
“Simply, council accumulates tonnes and tonnes of paper,” Gilbert said. “They have it in their homes from past meetings. That’s all that is.” The chief said this is the first time band council has used a shredding service, although departments have in the past.
He said council has nothing to hide and invited QMI to visit when the papers are shredded.
“They are taking it the wrong way,” the chief said of his critics.
“All it is is old papers that council has accumulated, old agendas, duplicates of paper they’ve had stacked at their homes. Because when you look at the amount of paper we have to deal with, it accumulates.” The chief said earlier this month council has hired a lawyer to go after $500,000 it lost in an unsuccessful business venture last year.
In one case, the band purchased shares in U.S.-based Native American Bio-Fuels International Inc. (NABFI) and opened an office in the District of Columbia in hopes of securing U.S. government contracts for electric cars.
At least $670,000 was spent with no return on investment.
That and other ventures, including discussions underway for an island wind farm, a $4-million wireless Internet system, even $25,000 invested in a now mothballed “healing chair,” have some residents demanding a line-by-line audit of the books.
“I think the band office should be shut down until this forensic audit is complete,” said island businessperson Bill Sands.
“Who knows what they’re shredding? They have no business doing that.” Sands said a growing number of Walpole residents believe their legitimate concerns are being ignored.
“The whole community is in an alarmed state,” he said.
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