Mohawk Council of Kahnawake executive financial officer Paul Rice (left with council grand chief Joe Norton) has promised to update the community on the investigation into the housing department, as it continues. (file photo)
Leah Horn, former social housing administrator who was fired last week, didn’t want to sit idly by and watch her name dragged through the mud anymore.
Horn released a statement, exclusive to The Eastern Door through her lawyer, Richard-Alexandre Laniel, which gives a little more context into how she’s feeling and her next steps within a formal complaints process.
“Since her dismissal, she has been in a very vulnerable psychological situation and it would be medically not recommended to expose her to a stressful situation such as an interview,” the statement opens.
“Ms. Horn prefers to send you in exclusivity this statement. We sincerely believe in the necessity of journalism in order to discover the truth and we think that it is important to share with the community the following comments.”
As the investigation continues, the community, including those affected, as well as the ones reading about it, want answers.
“Ms. Horn contests vigorously her dismissal since it was totally unjust and unfounded,” it reads. “She also denies responsibility regarding the current allegations of irregularities in the management of the mortgage and multi-dwelling programs.
“She already filed complaints before the competent tribunals in order to get justice and to ensure that truth comes out. She demands to be reinstated in her position and to be compensated for the damages she endured.”
The legal recourse was possibly spurned on by a press release last Friday, June 22, which read:
“Client-Based Services of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (MCK) would like to inform the community that Ms. Leah Horn is no longer employed by the Housing Department.”
Although it is unclear when Horn knew there was an investigation at housing, and her lawyer would also not confirm if she was on leave before her dismissal.
In a conversation with her lawyer on Wednesday and Thursday, The Eastern Door spoke with Laniel about the process his client is currently engaged in.
“There’s going to be an investigation by an inspector from the Canada Industrial Relations Board, and after the investigation, there’s going to be another arbitration process. It could take a year or two,” said Laniel.
“For the moment, she’s trying to keep her head above water. She’s been greatly affected by the recent events and the dismissal. She was quite involved in her job. She was doing follow-ups with people concerning their houses, so it’s quite hard for her at the moment,” he said.
He also clarified that there are actually two complaints filed; the first concerning her dismissal and the second for indemnity (compensation) for her dismissal.
Meanwhile, a number of community members have been contacted by, or have contacted The Eastern Door, but are waiting on Council executive financial officer Paul Rice before speaking publicly.
“Ms. Horn has been hired in 2000 by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) as an administrative support for the Manager of Housing Department,” the statement continues.
“Between 2000 and 2014, she was solely an administrative assistant. In July 2014, she was nominated as a Social Housing Administrator in MCK’s Housing Department. In this position, her job consisted of participating in the management of several social housing programs and to act as a liaison between MCK and the clients, under the Manager of Housing Department’s responsibility.
“As a Social Housing administrator, Ms. Horn accepted payments from clients in arrears for their mortgage or their rent in multi-dwelling apartments. She used a thorough procedure in order to ensure that the transactions were documented and that the payments were transferred to MCK main building,” reads the statement.
As the housing department investigation moves along, and Rice looks into what happened, very few snippets of information are tickling out.
We don’t know, for example, what point the investigation is at, or even who the outside investigators are, because Rice is tight-lipped.
“I have no comment on the assessment until it is complete,” he wrote vie email to The Eastern Door. “We will be providing updates to the community periodically.”
Kim Diabo, who was featured in last week’s story, has been contacted by Rice.
“He said they are going to call me back to set up a meeting to go over my file and see where I am at,” she said.
“He said keep all documents I have, and receipts. They are working on it and everyone who contacted MCK will be contacted. No one’s going to be evicted,” she recounted what Rice told her.
“He also said to write down all I can remember for when we meet with someone at KSCS.”
Rice also told Tammy Whitebean, who was given a bill for over $5,000, no one would be evicted, and “someone would be in touch for a meeting,” she said.
“She has the impression that her reputation has been quite affected by the actual situation,” Laniel said of Horn. “She also thinks she’s been kind of a victim of unjust dismissal, so she filed complaints.
“For the moment the priority is the recourse concerning her job, but she’s also considering other recourses,” he said.
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Eastern Door Editor/Publisher Steve Bonspiel started his journalism career in January 2003 with The Nation magazine, a newspaper serving the Cree of northern Quebec.
Since that time, he has won numerous regional and national awards for his in-depth, impassioned writing on a wide variety of subjects, including investigative pieces, features, editorials, columns, sports, human interest and hard news.
He has freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Windspeaker, Nunatsiaq News, Calgary Herald, Native Peoples Magazine, and other publications.
Among Steve's many awards is the Paul Dumont-Frenette Award for journalist of the year with the Quebec Community Newspapers Association in 2015, and a back-to-back win in 2010/11 in the Canadian Association of Journalists' community category - one of which also garnered TED a short-list selection of the prestigious Michener award.
He was also Quebec Community Newspapers Association president from 2012 to 2019, and continues to strive to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities for a better understanding of each other.