The runner up in Monday’s election for chief of the Liard First Nation says he may go to Federal Court to overturn the results.
Former LFN chief Daniel Morris won the right to reclaim the title Monday night, with 125 votes. George Morgan finished second, with 103 votes, but he says that result shouldn’t stand because some absentee voters were denied the chance to cast a ballot.
Under the election rules, eligible voters living Outside were supposed to send in ballot applications to a fax machine at the First Nation’s main office, but that machine was broken throughout the entire election, Morgan said.
“I spent the first half of the election campaigning to get Outside votes in, but the ballots didn’t make it,” Morgan said.
Morgan said he heard directly from a number of voters as far away as Calgary who said their entire families were prevented from casting ballots.
“I would argue quite a few individuals were affected,” he said. A second fax machine was used in some cases, Morgan said, but it was controlled by a member of the elections committee, which he says was stacked against him from the start, a claim the elections committee itself has disputed.
“The election committee is suspect, the fax machine wasn’t working. These are big issues,” Morgan said.
The other candidates in the election race were Susan Magun with 73 votes, Georgina Lutz-McKay with 26 votes and Jim Wolftail with 24 votes.
All told, 351 people cast ballots out of a potential total of approximately 880 eligible voters.
“Morris was the beneficiary of significant vote splitting. There is a long history here of alienating out-of-Yukon members,” Morgan said.
Morgan said he will make a decision in the next few days, after getting legal advice.
“Our election regulations are very suspect,” Morgan said. “They don’t have any appeals mechanism so the only option is Federal Court.”
Morris, who has not responded to numerous interview requests by the News, was removed from power in disgrace in 2004 after pleading guilty to brutally assaulting his estranged wife and threatening her and another man with a loaded rifle. He was first sentenced to two years probation, but on appeal was later handed a 12-month prison term.
Court records show that after searching for his wife in Lower Post, B.C., one evening in 2003, he forced her to drive to a secluded gravel pit where he beat her for approximately two hours. She pleaded with him to stop, and agreed to have sex with him if he would stop hitting her. He did, but afterwards the beating continued.
Morris circulated a letter of apology in Watson Lake during this election saying, “I admit and do blame myself for hurting my family. I do blame myself for hurting people, and the anger I caused in our community.” He regrets his actions and has taken anger management courses and counseling, the letter said.
Morris’s name also remains under a cloud of suspicion after an internal review of the First Nations finances found that he took nearly $250,000 in loans and personal cheques to himself while in power.
Former chief Liard McMillan tried to get the RCMP and Aboriginal Affairs to investigate, but they declined because it couldn’t be proven that it was federal money Morris took.
In his letter, Morris wrote that he didn’t steal the money, and that he was made the scapegoat for people who took advantage of a loan system the First Nation set up for its members.
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