Calgary

UCP board, party executive feud over controls of Leela Aheer's riding association

The board of a United Conservative Party constituency association is feuding with party brass over the events surrounding the election of new leadership of the Chestermere-Strathmore riding and who is legitimately in control of that board. 

Dispute laid out in letters between original board president and party executives

The riding board of United Conservative Party Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer is at odds with party brass when it comes to the election of new leadership held Jan. 8. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The board of a United Conservative Party constituency association is feuding with party brass over the events surrounding the election of new leadership of the Chestermere-Strathmore riding and who is legitimately in control of that board. 

At the annual general meeting of the association on Jan. 8, the existing board was overthrown and new leadership was elected. But the old board won't acknowledge the results and claims votes were cast by ineligible members. The party denies those allegations and says the board must support a transition of authority to those elected on Saturday.  

The dispute is laid out in letters between the original board president and party executives, both obtained by CBC News. The letters were first reported on by the Calgary Herald.

John Kittler, the original president, says more than 50 names on the list did not meet the requirements for voting, namely that the members be registered at least 21 days before the meeting.

He further alleges that the party provided ballots to those ineligible people, who then cast the ballots — and that he was denied access to the online membership database.

The letter says the board that existed prior to the AGM plans to continue to run the affairs of the riding and disregard what it considers the questionable outcome of last week's meeting. 

"The ineligible votes cast at the AGM were sufficient enough in number to invalidate the AGM in its entirety," his letter reads.

"We will not permit the manipulation of the results of the meeting by ineligible persons as was attempted."

The party says Kittler is no longer the riding association president. 

"To be clear, you are not the president and must cease purporting to represent yourself as the president," reads a letter from Dustin Van Vugt, executive director of the UCP. 

Van Vugt's letter says he personally investigated the matter and says the allegations are unfounded, saying that the holiday season accounted for delays in the membership list being updated with members who may have registered right up to the AGM deadline. 

"The results of that meeting are in full force and effect," he states. 

His letter also says that if any funds from the association are used, the party will take action to recover the money. 

The riding is currently represented by UCP MLA Leela Aheer, whom Kittler and the board have continued to support during her public criticism of Premier Jason Kenney. 

Aheer was demoted from cabinet and has been intensely critical of Kenney in the last year, including calling for him to step down. Aheer's nomination for the 2023 provincial election is being challenged by Chantelle de Jong. 

CBC News has reached out to Aheer for comment.

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