Newly elected board members in Wildrose’s fractious Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre constituency have called in a lawyer.
Toronto-based Donald Bur, who has much experience in Alberta, had been hired to provide a legal opinion on whether a controversial board election last week was within party rules.
The riding’s annual general meeting in Rocky Mountain House became heated last Wednesday when the names of candidates nominated for constituency association president and two other key positions did not appear on the ballot.
Sitting MLA Joe Anglin submitted the names ahead of a 14-day deadline and his supporters argued they should have been included on the ballot.
Jason Nixon — who was elected to represent the riding in the next election in a contentious party vote earlier this year — and his supporters disagreed. After a lively debate over the issue, they left the meeting.
Remaining party members elected a slate of pro-Anglin candidates.
Both sides in the dispute have been asked by the party’s executive committee to present their case and party bosses plan to make a decision on the legitimacy of the election soon.
Bur said he is reviewing party nomination and election rules and expects to provide his legal opinion to new board members later this week.
Among the issues to be clarified is whether the nominating committee is the only one with authority to put forward candidates for the positions of president, vice-president membership and treasurer.
The issue breaks down to “who is entitled to put the names forward,” Bur said.
Supporters of Anglin see the refusal of the board to include their candidates on the ballot as a self-serving effort by Nixon’s camp to keep control of the board.
“It all comes down to democratic principles,” said Bur. “If you control who’s actually put on the board by controlling the nominations, the votes don’t actually matter any more.
“It becomes a rubber stamping.”
Edwin Erickson, who was elected the new president last week, has also questioned the fairness of Nixon serving as chair of the nominating committee.
In a news release issued on Monday, the board takes issue with “several misstatements and rumours that attempt to challenge” the party and the board.
Erickson said he’s heard the contested nominations were not accepted because the nomination committee couldn’t reach them before the vote, which he denies.
More troubling to Erickson are rumours floating around that there was violence at the meeting. That is untrue, he said.
Should they choose, the new board could appeal to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to get a declaration that the election of the current board members is valid.
Nixon did not return a call for comment on Monday.