Penticton Indian Band Chief Chad Eneas (centre) serves up some salmon at the Okanagan Nation Alliance Salmon Feast in sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ Provincial Park in Okanagan Falls. (Dustin Godfrey/Western News)

Penticton Indian Band sues former chief, councillors

Lawsuit alleges Jonathan Kruger and five others are refusing to pass on their shares in the PIBDC

The Penticton Indian Band is allegedly at risk of breaching its agreement to lease lands to an upcoming Nissan car dealership, as turmoil within PIB ranks turns to litigation.

A lawsuit filed by the PIB alleges six former councillors, including former chief Jonathan Kruger, are blocking the band’s ability to appoint new directors of its corporations and its ability to run day-to-day operations.

Historically, the eight band council members and the chief would each hold two shares in the Penticton Indian Band Development Corporation and its six subsidiary companies, and upon the election of a new council, a resolution is passed to direct the nine former councillors to pass their shares onto the incoming council.

Related: Chief responds to council resignations

But on June 23 this year, councillors voted in favour of a resolution that directed the shareholders — made up of the former council — to Chief Chad Eneas, according to a lawsuit filed by the band on Thursday.

“The idea was that this would provide the current council with proper time to consult with the band membership to determine whether a new shareholder structure could be established that would better protect the true shareholders of the PIB,” the lawsuit reads.

Of the former councillors, Timmothy Lezard, Inez Pierre and Clinton John George reportedly transferred their shares to Eneas. However, Kruger, Kevin Gabriel, Clint Gabriel, Travis James Kruger, Dolly Catharine Kruger and Joseph Pierre have not transferred their shares, according to the lawsuit.

Related: PIB chief and council down to four

Of the six that did not transfer their shares, just Jonathan Kruger and Joseph Pierre were re-elected.

Since the June resolution passed, Jonathan Kruger and Timmothy Lezard resigned from council, while Joseph Pierre, Denise Lecoy and Naomi Gabriel resigned prior to the resolution passing.

“Because the defendants had each neglected or refused to execute and deliver their instrument of transfer, on Aug. 25, 2017, a formal demand was sent by PIB’s general counsel to the defendants,” the lawsuit said.

“The demand required that each of the defendants forthwith execute their instrument of transfer to resign as bare trustee shareholder of the PIBDC.”

Related: Non-confidence issue freezes PIB meeting

Among the issues that arise from the failure of former councillors to transfer their shares, the PIB cited the inability to appoint a new director of the PIBDC and its subsidiaries.

“Chief Chad Eneas cannot appoint a new director and as a result, the ability of the PIBDC and PIB companies to operate has been placed at a standstill,” the lawsuit said, adding a lack of a director means no new signing authorities can be appointed.

“Without signing authorities, it is impossible to operate the daily business of the PIBDC and the PIB companies.”

In particular, the band points to a joint project with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to do roadwork at Highway 97 and Skaha Hills Road, set to start on Oct. 5.

“(The work) cannot move ahead because PIBDC does not have the ability to appoint an administrator to execute and deliver tender documents.”

Related: PIB vote recount doesn’t affect results

The PIB also says lacking appointees in PIB Holdings Ltd. complicates the company’s dealings with the Government of Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway over the transfer of traditional lands.

The band also claims that could mean the PIB would soon been in breach of its agreement to lease lands for an upcoming Nissan dealership.

“One of the PIB companies (Westhills Aggregates GP Inc.) is required to provide a water connection to the leased company,” the lawsuit says. “As a result of having no director or proper signing authority, Westhills Aggregates GP Inc.’s operations are at a standstill and it may not complete the work that the lessee requires.”

The PIB also claims being unable to operate the affairs of the corporation and its companies “will only serve to erode public confidence in the PIB, and has the potential to set the PIB back on its path to autonomy.”

No response has yet been filed on behalf of the defendants.

Related: Penticton Indian Band chief runs on community platform


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

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