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Investigation vindicates chief

An independent consultants' investigation report has cleared Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) Chief Stan Dixon of a number of allegations laid out in a petition signed by 44 band members.

An independent consultants' investigation report has cleared Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) Chief Stan Dixon of a number of allegations laid out in a petition signed by 44 band members.

The consultants - whom the SIB chief and council hired in response to the petition - gave detailed findings of a months-long investigation in an April 28 report obtained by Coast Reporter. The petition's "ultimate aim appears focused at obtaining the removal of Stan Dixon as chief," states the James P. Blatchford Consulting Ltd. report. "Generally, we found the majority of allegations specified against Chief Dixon, as set out in the petition of Aug. 27, 2005, were not supported by the facts as determined from our investigation." The petition alleged, firstly, that Dixon "had inappropriate business relationships with Pan Pacific Aggregates Ltd. and received a personal benefit from them," states the consultants' report.

The consultants did not find any evidence, nor could Band members offer any evidence, to support the allegation."Chief Dixon was unnecessarily vilified by this unfounded allegation and is entitled to full exoneration," the report states.

Secondly, the petition said Dixon had circumvented SIB hiring policies and procedures. Blatchford's report responded, "In our view, Chief Dixon's efforts were not intended to maliciously circumvent SIB's policies, procedures and process, but rather to proactively assist certain members to capitalize on potential employment opportunities with Pan Pacific, consistent with his leadership role as chief of SIB."

The petition further alleged Dixon had "circumvented the land claims process by overriding the decision by a positive vote in a referendum of the members of the Sechelt Indian Band to proceed to litigation," the report states. But the consultants found that the referendum question did not rule out further negotiations. "We saw no evidence that Chief Dixon and/or any other SIB councillor met with government representatives during 2005 in an effort to maliciously violate the spirit of the land claims referendum and the resultant vote that characterized the will of the members," states the report.

Fourthly, the petition alleged Dixon had circumvented the annual financial planning and budget process. The consultants found, "The process around the presentation to the members of the 2005/06 budget (for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006) was not conducted in an effective and meaningful way. The criticism of Chief Dixon, as set out in the petition, was unfounded as the 2005/06 budget was drawn and approved by the former chief and then council. The presentation of the budget to the members, and responding to their questions, was the responsibility of the SIB administrator and chief financial officer." Finally, the petitioners had concerns with the general operations of the SIB and alleged that Dixon had "conducted himself inappropriately towards members of the Sechelt Indian Band and made inappropriate comments regarding the Sechelt Indian Band to the public," the consultants' report states. The petition called for removal of Dixon from the office of chief, the report states.

"Although a number of persons interviewed expressed serious concerns about Chief Dixon's conduct and style of management, other interviewees recognized his significant leadership and business skills," the consultants found. "A few of the petitioners, when pressed, indicated that they did not necessarily want Chief Dixon to resign immediately or be otherwise removed. We also interviewed members who did not agree with any of the allegations contained in the petition."

"We also advise that very few agreed with each and every comment made in the petition, including even some of those who had signed the petition. However, each person signing the petition did confirm that they had concerns about at least one item set out therein."

The investigation consisted of interviews and a review of documents including correspondence, council minutes and the SIB Constitution and did not include an audit of SIB financial records. "An underlying concern which was consistently expressed in nearly all of the interviews is the fractiousness which exists between certain families making up the bulk of the membership in the SIB and the impact it has not only on the elections of chief and council but also on the future progress of SIB affairs," the consultants' document states.

The consultants recommended that "an independent person, a non-SIB member, should be appointed to oversee SIB elections. This should satisfy all SIB members regarding the independence and transparency of the electoral process."

In an interview with Coast Reporter, Dixon said he had known the investigation would show the results it did. "Everything that I was accused of was a fabrication, not based on facts," Dixon said.