AMS president recommends conflict of interest review for exec and ThePlug President Kalith Nanayakkara

AMS President Cole Evans has recommended that AMS Council explore disciplinary measures for VP External Kalith Nanayakkara after Evans alleged that Nanayakkara violated the society’s conflict of interest rules.

In a November 18 letter to Council, Evans alleges that Nanayakkara violated the AMS’s conflict of interest policy by using his AMS email to send an invoice to the AMS Events manager, on behalf of ThePlug Vancouver. Nanayakkara is the founder and president of ThePlug.

The Ubyssey requested all of Nanayakkara’s emails that mention ThePlug under the AMS records policy late last week.

Evans will be putting forward a motion asking that the Ethics and Accountability Committee consider disciplinary measures for Nanayakkara at the next AMS Council meeting on November 25.

According to Evans, the AMS conducted an internal review after “recent circumstances.” He’s likely referring to the AMS Events Halloween pub crawl, promoted by ThePlug and AMS Events, that drew criticism from Council and the broader student body last week for its lack of physical distancing amid a second wave of COVID-19 in BC.

The offending email, sent on August 25, 2020, contained an invoice for videography services from a current employee of ThePlug and a former employee of AMS Events, and an invoice for Apple products bought for a giveaway. Both the videography services and the giveaway were part of #FirstweekPlug, a video series geared toward incoming students that was a collaboration between AMS Events and ThePlug.

The giveaway required participants to follow AMS Events and ThePlug on Instagram. According to Nanayakkara, the cost of the products for the giveaway was split equally between AMS Events and ThePlug.

Evans claims he informally warned Nanayakkara about the potential conflict of interest after the release of #FirstweekPlug. However, Evans did not bring this up when Nanayakkara councillors questioned Nanayakkara last week about his potential conflict of interest amid criticism of the pub crawl.

In a letter dated November 17, 2020 attached to Evans’ letter, Nanayakkara wrote that he “sincerely apologize[d]” for not taking steps to avoid a conflict of interest.

“Using my role as an AMS Executive to benefit this startup for my personal gain is truly not my intention, never has, and never will be. It must also be made clear that neither myself, nor ThePlug has benefited as a result of my role within our Society,” he wrote.

AMS Events and ThePlug collaboration will cease for the rest of the term, Nanayakkara wrote.

“I hope that you see that I have nothing but profound regret for my lack of better judgement. This is a mistake that I should have avoided by putting more thought and consideration into my decisions.”

The Ubyssey reached out to Nanayakkara for further comment.

Evans wrote that Council should consider that Nanayakkara recognizes the conflict of interest violation and regrets his actions.

“I do strongly believe that Mr. Nanayakkara believed he was keeping his interests separate, and that these interactions are honest mistakes due to a lack of careful consideration and judgement,” he wrote.