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Penticton  

Suit: USIB duped for $330K

The Upper Similkameen Indian Band was allegedly defrauded of more than $330,000 by its former finance manager in 2017, allegations revealed in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed this week by the First Nation’s former office manager.

Arlene Arlow, former Keremeos town councillor and 2018 mayoral candidate, filed a civil claim in Penticton Supreme Court this week seeking a little over $100,000 after her employment with USIB was terminated, in her opinion unjustly, in January 2018.

The 14-page lawsuit chronicles her working relationship with the First Nation commencing May 2017, when she was hired as office manager of the USIB logging office in Princeton.

The civil claim alleges that after a few weeks on the job, Arlow, who has her own bookkeeping firm, discovered that band finance manager Scott Maracle “had received considerable funds from USIB Chief and council that were questionable.”

The lawsuit claims Maracle “fraudulently counselled chief and counsel to form a limited partnership with him,” registered in Ontario as First Nation Management Solutions LP.

After alarms were raised, the band office locks and computer passwords were changed to prevent Maracle from unauthorized access.

After Arlow compiled the “questionable” expenses and formally presented then to chief and council on Oct. 10, 2017, newly hired USIB lawyer Carolann Brewer drafted a demand letter to be sent to Maracle in the amount of $331,640.

The lawsuit claims chief and council approved the letter through a resolution and it was mailed out a little over one week later.

Arlow claims she also assisted in connecting the band with litigation lawyer Alan Czepil to handle the matter.

When contacted by Castanet, Czepil declined to comment and would not confirm his relationship with the First Nation.

It’s not clear if the USIB ever got its money back. The band has not filed a lawsuit related to the matter and USIB Chief Bonnie Jacobson is on holiday and did not reply to email requesting comment.

Maracle could not be reached — a phone number on a website for First Nation Management Solutions was invalid, and there was no reply by email.

Arlow’s lawsuit alleged she was taken off the file shortly afterwards by the interim band manager. She was eventually dismissed in January 2018 after a disagreement over how she handled the response to a separate wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by former logging manager Doug Willis.

Arlow alleges she was bullied and intimidated out of her position and was fired without notice or just cause.

None of the above allegations have been proven in court.

The Upper Similkameen Indian Band is headquartered in Hedley and has just over 200 members.



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