Ousted chief says lawsuit by First Nation's construction firm is politically motivated

Suspended Fort Liard, N.W.T., chief running for council position in May 15 election

The recently-suspended chief in Fort Liard, N.W.T., says the First Nation is suing him in an attempt to ruin his reputation three months before an election.

Harry Deneron has been chief of Acho Dene Koe First Nation in Fort Liard off and on since 1975. Earlier this month, the band council suspended him as chief, citing a lack of confidence in his leadership amid an ongoing lawsuit involving Deneron and the band's development corporation.

Deneron says the lawsuit is all part of the band council's plan to manipulate the upcoming band election. A final date for the election has not been set.

On March 2, ADK Holdings — the business arm of the Acho Dene Koe First Nation — launched a civil case against Deneron over allegations he tried to steer government contracts away from the band-owned construction firm.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

In court documents, ADK alleges Deneron approached the Government of the Northwest Territories about a contract it had for airport and highway maintenance with the band's construction firm. The contract was set to be extended but ADK alleges Deneron asked the territorial government to put that contract out to tender instead.

It says Deneron told the government that there were other companies in town who could do the work, companies in which ADK claims Deneron has a financial stake.

As a result, ADK says it's had to spend money putting together a bid for the contract. It's suing Deneron for more than $250,000.

'Vexatious and politically motivated'

But in court documents, Deneron says none of that is true. He says the lawsuit is "vexatious and politically motivated" and that the case is "an attempt to harm [his] reputation three months before the ADKFN gathers to elect a new chief."

He denies interfering with the economic interests of the First Nation.

Deneron also alleges ADK's lawsuit is aimed at "reducing competition in the construction and highway maintenance industries for the benefit of the plaintiffs."

He says he never approached the territorial government and encouraged them to put the contract out to tender. Deneron also says he has no financial stake in the companies mentioned by ADK.

He's asking for the case to be dismissed. There is no word on when it will be back in court.