Tory candidate defends planting Green Team 'flowers that would have shriveled in the sun' in her yard

A Progressive Conservative candidate who was also the executive director of Old St. Vital Biz is defending herself against allegations she improperly used her office for her campaign.

St. Vital candidate Colleen Mayer says employer, Old St. Vital Biz, OK'd her plan to handle job, candidacy

An Old St. Vital Biz vehicle is seen outside the house of Colleen Mayer, who at the time was its executive director. Mayer denies she did anything inappropriate.

A Progressive Conservative candidate who was also the executive director of Old St. Vital Biz is defending herself against allegations she improperly used her office for her campaign.

Colleen Mayer was also the target of a complaint that alleged the provincially-funded Green Team program did yard work at her home. 

"I have been completely open and transparent with my employer from the very beginning as to how I would operate as a candidate to ensure no issue with my ongoing employment functions and duties. My employer was satisfied throughout with how I did this," Mayer said in an email.

She said the allegations may have come from a "disgruntled former employee."
Tory candidate for St. Vital, Colleen Mayer, admits she had Green Team flowers and soil that were on their way to the dump redirected to her yard, but she says it was all above board and she paid for the materials.

In response to allegations the Green Team worked at her home, she wrote: "The material in question was on its way to the dump.  We're talking about a half yard of soil and some flowers that would have shriveled in the sun.  I paid for it all, which came to about $130, and the receipts are all on record at the association. The association knew all about this. That's it." 

'Daily campaign meetings in her office'

CBC has obtained a letter from a woman who worked for Mayer. Elizabeth Dickson alleges Mayer openly used her office for campaign purposes. 

Mayer "would spend her whole day either cold calling to see who was going to go door knocking with her at night, or how she was doing in the polls," Dickson's complaint alleges.
Colleen Mayer, the Progressive Conservative candidate in St. Vital, says she paid for soil and flowers from the Green Team that would have otherwise gone to the dump, and that it was all above board. (votecolleen.ca/)

"Colleen had daily campaign meetings in her office and if there were more than two people they moved to the boardroom," her letter says. "I began to wonder if people were allowed to run their political campaigns from their place of work, during working hours, especially when they were an executive director representing an association of 160 businesses?"

Mayer described the complaint as an "internal human resource issue that must be reviewed by the board," and declined further comment. 

'The floodgates opened up'

St. Vital MLA Nancy Allan said she first heard about a potential conflict of interest involving the use of the Green Team when a constituent complained last June. 

"I was incredulous. And I said if this is truly happening, I need to take this forward, I need to have proof that this is happening," she said. Allan said when she started asking questions,  "The floodgates kind of opened up."

Allan said in total she receive three complaints from constituents.

"Originally ...  what I was concerned about was the fact that it was the Old St. Vital Biz, ... and their money being spent inappropriately. But then when I started to think about it and I looked at the information that had been provided to me I realized, uh-oh, Green Team."
St. Vital MLA Nancy Allan said she was taken aback when she first heard allegations the Green Team had been seen doing yard work at the home of the executive director of Old St. Vital Biz. (CBC)

The Green Team is a provincial summer employment program for young people, funded by grants. Allan said the Old St. Vital Biz has participated in the program for many years. 

She said Green Team members "have been put in a conflict of interest in this particular situation."

Allan said she wrote to the minister of children and youth opportunities responsible for the Green Team and by December heard back that the rules have now been tightened around work done on private property.

Story surfaces ahead of April election 

Allan said she didn't come forward publicly sooner because as an NDP MLA, her motives would be questioned.

"Should I have moved sooner? Maybe," she said. "It would have been viewed as politics from the very beginning."

Allan, who is not running for re-election, said she is involved in supporting her party's candidate for St. Vital, Jamie Moses, but has no formal role in his campaign. Manitobans vote April 19. 

Mayer is no longer at her job with the Biz. 

Tory leader Brian Pallister said he is not concerned with the allegations and is confident the human resources issue that has been brought to the board of the Biz will be resolved.

"It's an accusation and there's a process. I respect that the process has to be dealt with and I also respect the years of service Colleen Mayer's put into her community and she has a deserved reputation as … caring, compassionate; a person with tremendous integrity so we'll let the process be as it is," he said.

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