The Conservative party's top operative and campaign organizer Dimitri Soudas resigned Sunday amid a controversy over his fiancee's nomination bid in a suburban Toronto riding.
Riding association presidents received a sudden email from party president John Walsh late Sunday evening informing them of the departure.
"Earlier this evening I was notified of the resignation of Dimitri Soudas as executive director, effective immediately," Walsh wrote, in a email obtained by The Canadian Press.
The party's top governing body, called the national council, was scheduled to discuss the matter. Soudas did not respond to a request for comment.
Soudas is close to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and had left a senior post at the Canadian Olympic Committee in December to help with the party's 2015 election preparations.
But trouble began to brew within the party's grassroots over his fiancee MP Eve Adams' intention to run in the Ontario riding of Oakville-North Burlington.
Soudas had recused himself from any participation in the nomination there because of his relationship, but that did not seem to quell concerns that the playing field would not be level in the riding.
For the first time since they formed government, the Conservatives are holding open nominations and not protecting incumbents. Party brass are trying hard to dispel the notion that they will help give the parliamentarians an advantage anyway.
Some members said they perceived Soudas was interfering in the nomination race there, which pits Adams against local chiropractor Natalia Lishchyna.
Adams is choosing to run in that riding, rather than the non-adjacent riding she currently represents in Mississauga.
Matters became tense after an unpleasant exchange between Adams and some members of the Conservative riding association at a meeting on Mar. 19. Soudas had been waiting for Adams in a hallway nearby.
A longtime party organizer who wrote about his dismay with the meeting to party brass was dismissed soon after, prompting outrage among other rank-and-file Tories in the southern Ontario area. Two party sources told The Canadian Press this week that Wally Butts' departure was not related to the letter.
Soudas' interim replacement in Simon Thompson, the party's top technology man and former executive at Mitel.
Adams is also facing accusations that she misused public funds when she sent mail into the riding she wants to represent using House of Commons resources. She has said she did not break any rules.
Earlier in the week, the party's national council sent a rebuke to MP Rob Anders for what they called "inappropriate" and "misleading" phone calls made in the context of a heated nomination battle in a Calgary riding.