Clash­ing cam­paigns

Lead­er­ship cam­paigns raise is­sue over Den­nis King’s of­fice rental from mem­ber of the in­ter­nal party dis­pute body

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY STU NEATBY

The cam­paign co-chairs of four Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship can­di­dates have raised con­cerns that a rental agree­ment be­tween the Den­nis King cam­paign and a mem­ber of the party’s lead­er­ship com­mit­tee could be a con­flict of in­ter­est.

Kerri Car­pen­ter, a Char­lot­te­town-based im­mi­gra­tion con­sul­tant, is cur­rently rent­ing of­fice space to the Den­nis King cam­paign. Car­pen­ter cur­rently sits on a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee within the PC Party, a com­mit­tee tasked with pro­vid­ing in­de­pen­dent de­ci­sions about con­cerns raised be­tween can­di­dates. She is also a mem­ber of the party’s lead­er­ship con­ven­tion com­mit­tee.

King told The Guardian he does not see this as a con­flict of in­ter­est.

“She had a va­cant space. We needed space. We’re the only cam­paign that had a func­tion­ing of­fice be­cause I think we’re do­ing things dif­fer­ently than oth­ers. I take it oth­ers are tak­ing ex­cep­tion to it,” King said.

Cam­paign man­agers of lead­er­ship can­di­dates Al­lan Dale, Sarah Ste­wart-Clark, Kevin Arse­nault and Shawn Driscoll raised con­cerns about Car­pen­ter’s role in a let­ter sent to An­drew Walker, chair­man of the P.E.I. PC lead­er­ship cam­paign, on Dec. 19, 2018.

“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 fa­mil­iarly that we see as sup­port­ing one can­di­date,” the let­ter read.

Car­pen­ter, in an e-mail sent to The Guardian con­firmed she has rented a unit in a build­ing she owns to the King cam­paign, but said it was rented at “fair mar­ket value.”

She said she was asked af­ter­wards to sit on the dis­pute res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee as a vol­un­teer, but said she re­cused her­self from “mat­ters deal­ing with the King cam­paign” as part of the com­mit­tee. She said she has since re­signed from the com­mit­tee

“I have re­mained im­par­tial through­out the lead­er­ship process and have not par­tic­i­pated in any meet­ings or other ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to the King cam­paign or any other cam­paign,” Car­pen­ter wrote.

But Michael Drake, the of­fi­cial spokesper­son for the PC lead­er­ship con­ven­tion com­mit­tee, de­nied Car­pen­ter had re­signed from the dis­pute res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee or that she had re­cused her­self from any de­ci­sions of the com­mit­tee.

“She re­mains on our dis­pute res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee,” Drake said.

King ac­knowl­edged that other can­di­dates have raised ques­tions about his cam­paign but char­ac­ter­ized the con­cerns as “gotchastyle pol­i­tics.”

“I don’t get dis­tracted by it. But it’s kind of ex­actly why I’m run­ning,” King said.

“I don’t sup­port this par­tic­u­lar style and I don’t be­lieve it does any­thing to strengthen our over­all brand as a party.”

In re­cent speeches, King has spo­ken out against grow­ing dis­il­lu­sion­ment about pol­i­tics, about an overly par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal cul­ture and about a lack of so­lu­tion-ori­ented po­lit­i­cal de­bate in P.E.I.

But the Dec. 19 let­ter sug­gested there was a per­cep­tion that King’s cam­paign had ben­e­fit­ted from a PC “back­room” in sup­port of him.

“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,” the let­ter read.

On Nov. 21, Driscoll sent a let­ter to PC party pres­i­dent Charles Blue high­light­ing sev­eral is­sues that he claimed un­der­mined the “fair­ness and im­par­tial­ity of the lead­er­ship process.”

The let­ter took is­sue with the fact that Adam Ross, a for­mer chief of staff with the PC cau­cus of­fice, had taken a leave of ab­sence to work with the King cam­paign. Driscoll sug­gested Ross had priv­i­leged ac­cess to mem­ber­ship lists and claimed he had also met with a com­pany tasked with set­ting up the elec­tronic vot­ing process for the con­test.

Dale’s cam­paign echoed those con­cerns in a let­ter sent to Blue on Nov. 22.

The dis­pute res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee, whose mem­ber­ship con­sisted of Car­pen­ter, Drake and party vice-pres­i­dent Suzi DeBlois, came to a de­ci­sion about these con­cerns some­time in De­cem­ber. Their de­ci­sions have not been re­leased pub­licly but were com­mu­ni­cated to can­di­dates.

Ross has since fully re­signed from his po­si­tion with the PC cau­cus.

Drake told The Guardian there were no cur­rent com­plaints be­fore the party’s dis­pute res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee re­lated to ei­ther Ross or Car­pen­ter. Driscoll would not com­ment on the de­tails of the de­ci­sion reached by the dis­pute res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee, but sug­gested his con­cerns were not com­pletely al­layed.

“I was not sat­is­fied with the out­come,” Driscoll said.

In an in­ter­view, Dale said he was largely happy with the de­ci­sions reached by the dis­pute res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee.

“The cam­paigns worked to­gether with the dis­pute res­o­lu­tion group to come up with a rea­son­able so­lu­tion that met ev­ery­body’s ex­pec­ta­tion,” Dale said.

How­ever, when told Car­pen­ter still main­tained a po­si­tion on the dis­pute res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee, Dale ex­pressed sur­prise. He said he had been told Car­pen­ter had stepped away from the com­mit­tee due to con­cerns that were raised.

“I didn’t re­al­ize she was still part of the res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee. That was cer­tainly my un­der­stand­ing,” Dale said.

Ste­wart-Clark ini­tially also ini­tially told The Guardian she had con­fi­dence in the de­ci­sions of the dis­pute res­o­lu­tion com­mit­tee. But she also ex­pressed sur­prise that Car­pen­ter had main­tained her po­si­tion on the com­mit­tee.

Michael Drake

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