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Assembly to decide fate of suspended grand chief

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A special chiefs assembly will be held by the Southern Chiefs Organization on Oct. 29 to decide the fate of suspended Grand Chief Murray Clearsky, who is accused of using SCO funds on casino and amusement park excursions.

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A special chiefs assembly will be held by the Southern Chiefs Organization on Oct. 29 to decide the fate of suspended Grand Chief Murray Clearsky, who is accused of using SCO funds on casino and amusement park excursions.

The Southern Chiefs Organization has broken its silence for the first time since suspending its grand chief over a spending scandal earlier this week.

A brief statement from the lobby group Friday said it will hold a special chiefs assembly Oct. 29 to rule on the future of its grand chief.

By that time, chiefs hope to have a report into allegations Grand Chief Murray Clearsky used SCO funds on gambling and amusement park excursions.

'We are anxious to put things right and ensure our members that our finances are properly managed'

-- former Southern Chiefs Organization grand chief Morris Swan Shannacappo

He is accused of using a debit card to withdraw nearly $10,000 in August and September on trips to an amusement park and casino in Minnesota. The allegations have not been proven.

The chiefs suspended Clearsky with pay on Monday. They also suspended his chief of staff Mike Bear, who faces a sexual-harassment complaint from a former female staffer. The case is now under investigation by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The statement said the executive committee of chiefs met this week and organized a committee made up of representatives from the five southern tribal councils, members of the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association and the Indigenous Bar Association to examine the spending scandal.

"The Special Chiefs Assembly will make a decision regarding the grand chief's conduct and take corrective measures as appropriate, based on the conclusions of this investigation," the statement said.

The head of the five member executive committee, former grand chief Morris Swan Shannacappo, said in the statement the allegations have cast a cloud of doubt over them all.

"SCO is accountable to its member nations and their citizens and therefore the executive is taking this situation very seriously. We are anxious to put things right and ensure our members that our finances are properly managed," said Shannacappo, who is now chief of Rolling River First Nation.

The SCO represents 33 southern First Nations and was set up in the late 1990s to balance the influence of northern chiefs who have their own organization, the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. It is largely financed with federal government grants.

After the scandal broke, chiefs put day-to-day operations in the hands of an independent consulting firm.

alex.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2013 A18

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