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Chief Ron Giesbrecht

A proposed class-action lawsuit against the chief of a small band who was paid almost $1-million last year has been dropped without any explanation offered, adding to the air of mystery surrounding the Kwikwetlem First Nation.

Ron Jackman and Kristina Joe filed a statement of claim in Federal Court two weeks ago seeking to recover an $800,000 bonus paid to Ron Giesbrecht, Chief of the Kwikwetlem First Nation.

The claim also accused the province of British Columbia of "unjust enrichment" for paying the band $8-million for land allegedly worth $40-million. And it sought a declaration that the federal, provincial and Kwikwetlem governments had breached their fiduciary duties by allowing the land deal to go ahead "in secret."

Mr. Jackman alerted media to the court case last week and gave interviews at that time saying he was making the claim on behalf of the band's members.

But the claim was quietly withdrawn one week after it was filed.

"The plaintiffs wholly discontinue this action," said a brief statement filed with Federal Court, Oct. 7.

Troy Hunter, the lawyer who filed both the original 35-page statement of claim and the six-word discontinuance, refused to discuss the matter when reached Tuesday.

"I have no comment. Lawyers shouldn't be discussing cases and that's it," he said before hanging up.

Mr. Jackman did not return phone calls or e-mails and Ms. Joe could not be located for comment.

Mr. Giesbrecht has declined to give any media interviews since stories broke in August about his rich compensation package.

Information released under the recently enacted First Nations Financial Transparency Act showed he was one of the most highly paid chiefs in Canada, with remuneration of $914,219 (which included the $800,000 bonus) and expenses of $16,574.

At the time, Mr. Giesbrecht said he got the "economic development bonus" for generating $8-million worth of economic activity for the band, which has 82 members, only 22 of whom live on reserve.

"Chief Ron Giesbrecht has breached the fiduciary obligation owed to the collective members of the Kwikwetlem First Nation (the proper rights holders) by receiving a 10 per cent bonus in the amount of $800,000 from the Kwikwetlem First Nation and is therefore liable for breach of trust and/or breach of fiduciary duty, giving rise to damages owed to the members," alleged the statement of claim.

It said the deal between the Kwikwetlem and the province concerned 264 hectares of Crown land on Burke Mountain, to which Mr. Giesbrecht had "secretly and without consent from the collective membership," agreed to extinguish aboriginal title.

The statement alleged the land was subsequently sold by the province for an amount that is "currently unknown but is estimated to be in the mid-40-million dollar range."

Although Mr. Giesbrecht and members of the Kwikwetlem band council have not responded to requests for interviews, the First Nation has posted YouTube testimonials supporting the chief.

"I believe he deserve what he gets," said David Hall, a band member who claimed he was moving back to the reserve because of new housing units Mr. Giesbrecht's administration had made available.

Randy Giesbrecht said his brother "took our First Nation from nothing to everything that we have today," including building a new band office, community centre and elders complex.

Mark Point, former administrator of the band, said the media unfairly focused on Mr. Giesbrecht's high remuneration, while ignoring the fact his administration operated consistently without deficit.

"It should be a do-good story and somehow or another it's been turned around to somebody's taking more than their share," he said.