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Former Folk on the Rocks employee’s appeal dismissed

Folk on the Rocks' main stage pictured at the 2017 festival
Folk on the Rocks' main stage pictured at the 2017 festival. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

The Supreme Court of the NWT has dismissed an appeal by former Folk on the Rocks executive director David Whitelock.

Whitelock was attempting to overturn earlier rulings in which the Yellowknife-based festival’s decision not to award him a bonus was held to be fair.

Folk on the Rocks’ board terminated Whitelock’s $85,000-per-year contract in late December 2015, when he was just over a year and a half into a three-year contract overseeing the festival’s operations.

With the festival running a deficit and in some financial peril, the board refused to pay out a bonus which Whitelock’s contract stated was due if the festival generated excess cash income.



In full: Read the Supreme Court of the NWT’s decision

Whitelock contested that decision and, in 2016, an employment standards officer sided with the festival – saying it had no excess income available with which to pay a bonus.

A year later, an adjudicator reviewed the case at Whitelock’s request and again supported the festival’s decision, noting Folk on the Rocks “had no money left over that could be used ‘at the discretion of Folk on the Rocks’ and so the bonus amounted to $0.00.”

Whitelock triggered a Supreme Court appeal on receiving that decision. However, the Supreme Court of the NWT can only hear appeals of adjudicators’ verdicts based on points of law.



In this instance, Justice Shannon Smallwood – the territory’s first Dene Supreme Court justice, in the position since 2012 – ruled Whitelock’s appeal was not based on “an extricable question of law” and was therefore dismissed.

Whitelock’s avenues of appeal against the festival are now exhausted.

He initially filed three separate grounds of appeal with the adjudicator, but at the resulting hearing only advanced an appeal regarding his lack of a bonus.

Compare Folk on the Rocks’ financial statements: 2015 and 2017

The festival’s financial statements show a deficit of almost $115,000 posted in August 2014, followed by another deficit of more than $50,000 a year later.

In both 2016 and 2017, the festival finished with a significant surplus. At $648,000, revenues in 2017 were almost $200,000 higher than they had been three years earlier.