UCP nullifies results of meeting that replaced MLA Leela Aheer's board
Original board voted out at January meeting that the party has now declared void
United Conservative Party MLA Leela Aheer's original constituency association board will be reinstated after a decision from the party's dispute resolution panel ruled the meeting that saw them voted out is invalid.
The Chestermere-Strathmore board wanted to overturn the Jan. 8 annual general meeting (AGM) because of errors and discrepancies it alleged with the voter lists — something the party executive denies occurred. The vote at that meeting ousted the president, chief financial officer, secretary and 17 of 22 other board members.
They filed a dispute notice to the party in early February, refusing to cede control of the association after the party did an internal review of the meeting and found it valid.
On Monday, the resolution panel ruled the AGM did violate the rules, but not because of membership irregularities.
Instead, the panel said there was insufficient notice of the meeting — as the board did not give the required 21 days notice to members — and the results have been set aside.
"The party is a young entity, which necessarily will go through growing pains, which will include adjustments to rules and bylaws annually as inconsistencies and logistical issues or problems arise," reads the decision obtained by CBC News.
"No aspersions need be cast in any direction."
The ruling does not examine the allegations of membership irregularities. It approached the 21-day violation as the initial issue, "leaving aside the allegations about lists."
It has nullified the AGM and set aside the results of the vote. The original board has been ordered to be reinstated and have their access to party systems and finances restored.
The panel also ordered that a new AGM be held on or before July 30.
Notice was sent out on Dec. 18 for the meeting on Jan. 8, but the party excludes the dates on which the event happens from the 21-day count. The notice of the meeting was deficient by one day.
"AGMs are an opportunity for party members to have their say on who represents them at the local level. We appreciate those who step forward to help build our party, and in the end, the choice of the members will prevail. The committee has also clarified how many days' notice should be given for an annual meeting, and we accept that," UCP spokesperson Dave Prisco wrote in an email.
CBC News has reached out to Aheer and now-reinstated board president John Kittler for comment.
The losing board is raising issues with the results of the report to the party executive.
"My only reasoning is that you are either biased or absolutely inadequate at your job and that this kangaroo court is a sham," Nick Boots, the constituency association president whose election is now nullified, wrote to the head of the review committee.
"I hope you are happy with setting a stupefying precedent that endangers the status of each and every AGM that has transpired in this province over the last year."
The report stated Boots and his board were "innocent victim[s] in this chain of events."
"It is most probable that the claimant board did not read the [constituency association] rules carefully.… Obviously, whatever unfolded on January 8 cannot be held against the respondent board."
The Chestermere-Strathmore riding is represented by Aheer, whom Kittler and the original board have continued to support during her repeated public criticisms of Premier Jason Kenney.
Aheer was demoted from cabinet and has been intensely critical of Kenney in the past year, including calling for him to step down.
Aheer's nomination for the 2023 provincial election is being challenged by Chantelle de Jong.