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Media boot called a mistake


Lesley Crossingham







Page 4

The decision to bar the media from last year's IAA annual assembly was a "mistake" says president Gregg Smith.

"We've got nothing to hide so why not let them in. I think we should be more open about our business," says Smith in an interview after this year's annual assembly.

The IAA annual meetings had traditionally been open to the media, however, last year a request was made to remove the media in order to discuss a Calgary Herald request to the government for the financial records of ten Alberta bands.

A request was made by the IAA's board that the media be removed during the discussion of the financial statements; Elder John Samson recommended the removal of the media from all sections of the assembly.

However, in minutes released this week, taken verbatum during the meeting, a further request from former treasurer Frances Weaselfat that the media be barred had been lodged "to prevent outsiders or the press getting a hold of our report."

In a verbal report, no written report was included, Weaselfat complained that during the course of her two-year term she was "prevented on a lot of instances in fulfilling my duties as a treasurer."

"Of primary concern is the supposed authority of certain individual staff members to make decisions on providing other individual staff members to make decisions on providing other individual executive members with large advances from IAA funds without having prior received proper clearance either from the executive sitting in a meeting or from the board of directors," says Weaselfat.

Weaselfat complained that she had not been given straightforward direction, that decisions were "unclear" and that during the two years only three board meetings had taken place.

"I was yelled at and I was told I had no authority to look into records ... I was never allowed to act as treasurer."

During the discussion, another board member, Marie Smallface-Marule, also complained of the way decisions are made regarding disbursement and expenditures of IAA funds.

"For instance, I was not aware until February of this year that we had a staff board workshop, that the assocaition had been paying the rent on an apartment for a full year for the president. Nor was I aware until then that he had a car leased by the IAA for his exclusive personal and business use ... at no time were the board of directors informed of such decisions for such expenditures."

Smallface-Marule also complained about what she termed "excessive" salaries paid to executive positions.

"They are certainly far above many Chiefs of this province ... I think $68,000 travel expenses excessive and I don't think that when a person is really receiving $46,000 a year salary that we should also pay for their rent."

A motion made to adopt the treasurer's report was made but when taken to the vote was defeated with no votes for and five abstentions.

The elections, held on the final day, saw Weaselfat replaced by Roy Louis of the Samson Band. Former president Will McDougall was also unsuccessful in his bid for re-election and was replaced by Peigan band member and former Treaty 7 vice-president Gregg Smith.

Both Weaselfat and Smallface-Marule are board members of the Indian News Media Society which operated the Native newspaper, Kainai News, based in Cardston near the U.S. border.

In an interview after this year's annual assembly Smith says he could not comment on what had taken place under previous administrations of the IAA. However, he pointed out that he was working toward a stronger more open relationship with the media.

During this year's assembly the media were conspicuous in their absence. Apart from one Windspeaker reporter, only reporters from Kainai News were in attendance. In previous years reporters from both Alberta daily newspapers, the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald along with Canadian Press representatives had attended.