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Lawsuit launched over BC Conservative party purge
The fight between factions of the BC Conservative party moved to BC Supreme Court Wednesday, when a group of ousted dissidents applied for an order overturning their dismissals.
The petition was filed by three ejected party members who were calling on party leader John Cummins to resign.
Allison Patton was president of the Surrey-White Rock BC Conservative constituency association; Ariane Eckardt was president of the Burnaby North constituency association; and John Crocock is a Burnaby businessman who campaigned for party vice-president but lost to the Cummins slate at the Sept. 22 Conservative general meeting.
In the written court documents supplied to Peace Arch News, the three say the decision to revoke their memberships was made without a proper disciplinary hearing.
As a result, they argue, their dismissals should be declared void and they should be reinstated.
Crocock's membership was revoked by the party board of directors on Sept. 22, the day of the general meeting, while Eckardt and Patton were ousted on Oct. 15.
A letter attached to the lawsuit shows a lawyer for Crocock wrote the party's lawyer on Oct. 4 to complain about the board decision.
Lawyer Antonio Simoes said the board ruled that Crocock broke a bylaw against using membership lists to campaign for office before the bylaw was passed.
"I would suggest that it is a fundamental principle of justice in Canada that punitive rules not be applied retroactively as to punish an unsuspecting member," Simoes wrote.
The Simoes letter goes on to condemn the board decision to eject Crocock as "defamatory to his character, particularly when conducted in what has been a partisan, politically driven manner."
A written affidavit filed by Eckardt describes her as "one of the longest serving members of the party" and goes on to say that her reputation in the party has been damaged by her dismissal.
Eckardt attached a copy of an Oct. 25 letter sent to party president Al Sebring to say she did not accept the Oct. 15 board decision to oust her and would continue as president of the Burnaby North constituency association.
"You have no democratic right to cancel my lifetime membership," Eckardt wrote.
In her petition, Patton complains that she was not invited to the party board of directors meeting that dismissed her to give her side, nor was she given notice of the meeting.
Patton, who became a party member on Feb. 28, 2011, said she was planning to seek the party nomination for the Surrey-White Rock constituency.
Patton attached an email to her court petition showing she was granted approval to run for the nomination on May 19, 2011.
The allegations in the petitions have not been proven in a court of law and no date for a court hearing has been set yet.
BC Conservative party president Al Siebring declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by PAN Thursday, saying he would not make a statement because the matter was before the courts.