A Progressive Conservative candidate accused of using her office at the Old St. Vital BIZ to conduct her campaign may not be welcomed back to the business group if she is unsuccessful in the April 19 election.

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A Progressive Conservative candidate accused of using her office at the Old St. Vital BIZ to conduct her campaign may not be welcomed back to the business group if she is unsuccessful in the April 19 election.

Brent Konantz, the business improvement zone's board president, said former executive director Colleen Mayer should probably have been asked to take her leave sooner.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>St. Vital PC candidate Colleen Mayer answers questions from the press on allegations about using Green Team employees to plant flowers at her home residence outside a seniors complex in St. Vital.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

St. Vital PC candidate Colleen Mayer answers questions from the press on allegations about using Green Team employees to plant flowers at her home residence outside a seniors complex in St. Vital.

"Back when we were informed that she wanted to run we should have put her on leave and let her go about her business," Konantz said, following a BIZ board meeting on Thursday.

He said the board is in the process of changing its policies regarding leaves. "What we would like moving forward is that the executive director be the executive director."

Mayer won the PC nomination for the St. Vital constituency last May but did not leave the BIZ until sometime in January. Her contract came to an end in December, but she stayed on for a few weeks to handle some duties until an interim executive director was hired.

Mayer is accused by a former BIZ intern of holding campaign meetings and carrying out other political activities inside the non-partisan business group's office. Elizabeth Dickson blew the whistle on Mayer's alleged mixing of work and campaigning after she was terminated last month. She has since negotiated a settlement with the business group, but not before filing a complaint with the province's commissioner of elections and going public with her story.

Mayer has said Dickson's accusations are the allegations of "a disgruntled former employee." She said the BIZ was aware of her candidacy and was supportive. She could not immediately be reached for further comment late Thursday.

In a Free Press report on Saturday, it was also alleged that taxpayer-funded BIZ staff planted flowers on Mayer's property last year, causing the province to tighten its rules governing community beautification projects.

Mayer's current status with the BIZ seems to be in dispute. She has described herself as being on leave from the organization. Some board members appear to agree with that interpretation. Others don't.

"I think everybody believes it will be problematic bringing her back," Konantz said.

He said BIZ members have not complained to him about Mayer's alleged use of her former office for campaign work. But they have raised concerns about how Dickson was treated, he said.

Konantz largely dismisses the use of government resources to plant flowers in Mayer's yard as a misguided decision by a former employee. He said the decision to plant the flowers was made by the former BIZ employee.

Meanwhile, the BIZ board is to hold a special meeting on personnel matters before its next regular board meeting on April 14, Konantz said. 

"We've taken the totality of all of the allegations seriously," he said.

Yet he also hinted that the Old St. Vital BIZ would just like to see the whole issue go away.

"I think everybody is really hoping she (Mayer) wins (the St. Vital seat)," Konantz said with a laugh.

"It lets us off the hook."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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