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P.E.I. PC leaders try to clear up timeline around resignation from party's dispute resolution committee

PC Leadership candidates Allan Dale, Sarah Stewart-Clarke, Shawn Driscoll, Kevin Arsenault and Dennis King faced off in the second of three debates at Credit Union Place in Summerside. About 180 people attended the event.
P.E.I. PC Leadership candidates, from left, Allan Dale, Sarah Stewart-Clarke, Shawn Driscoll, Kevin Arsenault and Dennis King are shown during a recent debate in Summerside. - File

Leaders of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. are trying to clear up the timeline surrounding a volunteer’s resignation from the party’s dispute resolution committee.

On Monday, Jan. 14, a letter went out to party members, stating that Kerri Carpenter resigned from the committee Dec. 19, one day after staff for four leadership candidates suggested she was in a perceived conflict of interest. Carpenter was renting an office space to a fifth candidate, Dennis King.

Andy Walker, PC leadership convention committee chairman, states in Monday’s letter to members that he had initially asked Kerri Carpenter to volunteer as a member of the party’s dispute resolution committee. But after a complaint was raised about a “private business transaction,” Carpenter first recused herself from decisions related to the King campaign and then resigned from this committee on Dec. 19, “in order to protect the process from any further accusations.”

On Dec. 19, the same day as Carpenter’s resignation, Walker had received a letter, penned by the co-chairs of the campaigns of Sarah Stewart-Clark, Kevin Arsenault, Shawn Driscoll and Allan Dale. The letter raised concerns that King’s campaign was renting an office in a building owned by Carpenter. The letter warned that this business transaction was “at a minimum, a ‘perceived’ conflict of interest,” and suggested a “backroom” of the PC party was supporting the King campaign.

The letter included a citation of a previous correspondence sent by Walker to all candidates that stated Carpenter would be allowed to remain on the leadership convention committee. 

Michael Drake
Michael Drake

When asked about this last week, Michael Drake, a PC leadership convention committee spokesman, told The Guardian that Carpenter was still a member of the dispute resolution committee. Drake also denied that Carpenter had recused herself from any of the committee’s decisions.

But in an email to The Guardian on Monday, Drake said he had misspoken about Carpenter’s role on the committee.

“I wrongly thought when we first spoke that she would simply be recusing herself from any disputes regarding the King campaign and would remain on the committee,” Drake said.

Drake further clarified that Carpenter had taken part in a Dec. 7 decision reached by the committee responding to a complaint raised by Driscoll. The complaint related to the hiring of former PC caucus chief of staff Adam Ross by the King campaign. On Dec. 14, another complaint was raised by a candidate about the rental of Carpenter’s office to the King campaign, which received a reply letter from Walker defending Carpenter on Dec. 15. After the Dec. 19 letter was received by Walker, the dispute committee “discussed the matter in the absence of Ms. Carpenter, and later with her.”

Carpenter then decided to recuse herself, according to Drake.

“Later that day, Dec. 19, after further discussion, Ms. Carpenter resigned from both the DRC and the Leadership Convention Committee with the hope that the PC volunteer base would not be overwhelmed by having to deal with the same issue repeatedly,” Drake wrote.

The dispute resolution committee has no outstanding matters pending, Drake said.

The PC leadership convention is scheduled for Feb. 9 at the Eastlink Centre. Party staff say the leadership race has expanded the party’s membership numbers by approximately 1,000.

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