PEI

PC committee member resigns amid conflict concerns from 4 leadership campaigns

A member of the committee meant to resolve disputes among the five PC leadership candidates resigned from the committee hours after concerns were raised in a letter from four of the campaigns about a potential conflict of interest.

Party says no conflict of interest, despite resignation

The four other candidates for leadership of the P.E.I. Progressive Conservative party expressed concerns in a letter about a potential conflict of interest, with a member of the party's dispute resolution committee renting space to the Dennis King campaign. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

A member of the committee meant to resolve disputes among the five PC leadership candidates resigned from the committee hours after concerns were raised in a letter from four of the campaigns about a potential conflict of interest, according to PC Party officials.

In a letter dated Dec. 19, concerns were raised that Kerri Carpenter, one of three people on the PCs' dispute resolution committee, was renting office space to the campaign of Dennis King.

'Perceived conflict of interest'

The letter, endorsed by the campaigns for Kevin Arsenault, Allan Dale, Shaun Driscoll and Sarah Stewart-Clark, asserted that "financially benefiting from a campaign while sitting on the leadership committee is, at a minimum, a 'perceived' conflict of interest.

"This business transaction clearly indicates a level of communication and [familiarity] that we see as supporting one candidate."

In a statement sent by Michael Drake, with the PC leadership convention committee, the party said Carpenter rented a unit to the King campaign, charging "fair market value." The party said Carpenter "remained impartial throughout the leadership process" and did not meet with any representative from the King or any other campaign.

The statement also said Carpenter told the party about the rental arrangement before accepting a seat on the committee, but the party determined there was no conflict of interest.

Chief of staff left for King

Before Carpenter stepped down from the committee she was involved in resolving a complaint brought forward by the Driscoll campaign. That complaint was regarding the now former chief of staff for the PC caucus in the legislature, Adam Ross, and his support for the King campaign.

Ross announced in November he was leaving his position as chief of staff and would be supporting King.

On Dec. 14 concerns were expressed about Carpenter's position on the committee by the Driscoll campaign.

According to the party Carpenter agreed to recuse herself from any future matters relating to the King campaign.

The King campaign rented office space at this building from Kerri Carpenter, one of three people on the PCs' dispute resolution committee. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

'The last thing the party needs'

However, when the subsequent letter of concern was sent by the four other campaigns on Dec. 19, the party said in its statement that Carpenter decided to resign from her position the same day, "even though there is no conflict of interest. She resigned with the hope that the PC volunteer base would not be overwhelmed by having to deal with the same issue repeatedly."

In the joint letter, the four other campaigns say, "the last thing the PC party needs at this time is another instance where there is a real or perceived conflict of interest with a party official based on an apparent preferential relationship with the King campaign."

CBC reached out to Dennis King but were told the campaign had nothing more to add. 

CBC also contacted Carpenter, but she declined an interview referring instead to the statement from the party.

The PCs will choose a new leader at a convention Feb. 9. Current leader James Aylward announced he would resign less than a year after he was chosen at the last convention on Oct. 20, 2017, saying he had "not been able to make a strong enough connection with Islanders."

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