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COPE leader resigns

By Jane Deacon

Sarah Beuhler has resigned as executive director of COPE after $12,500 in campaign donations were undisclosed. 
(Jane Deacon, 24 hours)

Sarah Beuhler has resigned as executive director of COPE after $12,500 in campaign donations were undisclosed. (Jane Deacon, 24 hours)

A failure to disclose $12,500 in campaign donations has led the executive director of Vancouver’s Coalition of Progressive Electors to resign.

Sarah Beuhler said her decision was intended to take responsibility for a serious mistake, made during the “tumult of the campaign.”

The omission was an unintended error, she said, caused by her not cross-referencing the civic party’s donation list during a rush to release the information in early November. The party had pushed Vision Vancouver to disclose their information and COPE felt they should beat them to the punch, said Beuhler.

The cross-referencing should have happened with COPE’s financial agent, Margaret Panton, but communication had broken down by that point, said Beuhler.

“Unfortunately, the working relationship between myself and the financial agent had broken down in early October and that wasn’t an option,” she said.

Beuhler’s resignation comes following a scathing address by Panton at a COPE meeting held over the weekend, where she said her authority was continually challenged throughout the campaign and accused members of spending thousands of dollars without her needed consent.

The undisclosed donations – which comprised roughly 17% of the $72,000 COPE had raised at the time – came from Canreal Management Corp., a commercial real estate company, and its president Ray Bergen.

In 2008, COPE adopted a position that it would not accept money from real estate developers. Beuhler said debate remains over whether the donation was made to COPE or its candidates, and Canreal is considered a property manager rather than a real estate developer.

Beuhler said she has not spoken to Meena Wong, COPE’s mayoral candidate, but expects she is disappointed by what has happened. Wong did not respond to request for comment.

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