OHSWEKEN – The Haudenosaunee Development Institute Director Hazel Hill says the HDI paid out over $120,000 in 2016-2017 fiscal year and over $75,000 in 2017 to two media consultants for their services to bring positive news coverage to the HDI.
Hill released her December 2017 HDI report on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s website late last week.
The 48-page document answers many questions people have been asking for a long time — notably the confirmation of a contract with Turtle Island News publisher Lynda Powless.
Disclosure of how much money was paid to Lynda Powless or the Turtle Island News since 2013 is not dollar specific.
When asked about how much Powless was paid for her work Hill told the TRT in an email, “Unfortunately salaries and contracts, including consultants salaries remain confidential just like in any other government office or place of employment. That information is not public anymore than your salary is or the salary of staff and consultants that work for the band council.”
However in her report, Hill writes that there were two media consultants for the HDI — Lynda Powless and The Daisy Group — and that the local media consultant, Lynda Powless, received a greater percentage of the overall communications budget for both years.
Hill writes in the report, “I can advise that the monthly costs for each of the consultants is the same, with the ‘extras’ being for costs such as printing etc.,; and over-all the costs of Communications for the 2016/2017 fiscal year were $121,064.42, with the Daisy Group receiving a lower percent of that budget, and for the 2017/2018 year to date, we have currently spent $75,505.33, again with the Daisy Group having received a lower percent of that amount.”
Hill confirmed Powless’ duties to the HDI while she was under oath, taking the stand during a recent trial in a Brantford courtroom earlier this year.
According to court transcripts from the trial acquired by TRT, Hill told Defence Attorney Andrew Furgiuele that the Turtle Island News publisher was “hired by the HDI” to put out “the truth from the Confederacy’s perspective”.
In the report, Hill says Powless resigned as communications consultant in June of 2017, via email through her financial accountant and that Hill was not personally notified.
Hill suggests in her report that an email chain involving Powless, HDI employees and chiefs and clan mothers accused Hill of going over her role as HDI director when she hired the Daisy Group as a second media consultant to conduct lobbying work in Ottawa.
Sometime in 2016, HDI hired Warren Kinsella of “The Daisy Group” — a public and media relations firm —which Hill suggests in her December report may have prompted Powless’ resignation.
Hill addressed the emails, saying “The allegations that the HDI stepped over the Chiefs in our work with the Daisy Group (a public relations firm), or that we had intended on continuing in spite of the direction of this council are simply not true.”
Hill says, “I stand by my decision to hire the Daisy Group because I still believe they are best suited to get the task at hand done.”
Hill continued on in her December report saying that email chain also suggested Powless was an employee of the HCCC and not the HDI.
In an email to the TRT Powless also stated this, writing, ”
That assertion however is adamantly rejected by HDI’s Director, who says while the focus of Powless’ work was about creating a communications strategy for the HCCC, “the contract itself was between the consultant and HDI.”
“There is no confusion on the part of HDI as to who the consultant worked for and who had authority to accept [her] resignation,” writes Hill “…the suggestion that the Communications Contract is between the HCCC and the consultant [Powless] has no merit.”
Hill says HDI’s initial hiring of Powless as a communications consultant occurred in November 2013 and was reported to the HCCC in HDI’s report to council on November 9, 2013. In November 2014 the contract was renewed through to her resignation in June 2017.
In 2016, community concerns about Powless being involved in a potential compromise were raised to our reporters at the May HCCC meeting. TRT Editor Nahnda Garlow then reached out to Powless for comment in response to the allegation she may be in a conflict of interest as a newspaper publisher being paid by the local governing body to spin news in a positive direction.
Powless told TRT in an emailed statement “If in fact you have come across any community members, since it was not raised at council, or even non-community members who have any questions about my company or my business by all means please feel free to send them over to me since, as I know you are aware, I do not work for the HDI but for the HCCC. We have had that discussion many times. I am more than happy to have that discussion in person, face to face, with anyone who has a question.”
Hill took a great deal of effort in the December report to defend her actions in publishing an official Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council newsletter — oftentimes without the full approval of the HCCC themselves.
Hill wrote in her own defence saying sometimes getting the full Council’s approval prior to its publication is “not a necessity”.
Hill continues, suggesting the people of Six Nations “don’t know or don’t understand the decisions of council” and says leaving the issues to be reported on by local media is a “detriment”.