May 10, 2008 [LINK / comment]
Dr. Roller explains his appeal
In the wake of the 15-8 decision last weekend by the Sixth District Republican Committee to recognize Kurt Michael as Augusta County GOP chairman, against the recommendations of a fact-finding committee, Dr. Larry Roller filed an appeal to the Republican Party of Virginia. In a lengthy column that was published in Thursday's News Leader, he explained his reasons for doing so. First, he recounted in plain, matter-of-fact terms, repeated instances of Kurt Michael's refusal to cooperate in the mass meeting itself, and in subsequent mediation efforts. Then he noted the flagrant bias of the Sixth District Republican Committee, which let Dr. Michael speak, but not Dr. Roller. I learned that as Dr. Michael was taking over the mass meeting, he threatened to have State Senator Emmett Hanger thrown out of the room. (!?) I was not aware of that, but it certainly fits the pattern of bullying tactics I have observed him use in the past.
At the express request of elected officials from Augusta County, I have posted Dr. Roller's statement, including a letter declaring support for Dr. Roller as duly elected chairman from all ten of those officials residing in the County, on the Augusta Republicans Web site.
Even though there were procedural flaws in the mass meeting, as I have acknowledged, it would be a gigantic stretch to conclude that the miscues were serious enough to invalidate the election of chairman. It is a basic principle of jurisprudence that breaches of law or rules should be weighed against the probable consequences of the specific breaches. So, without getting into excruciating detail, resolving this dispute is a fairly simple matter for me:
- At the outset of the mass meeting, Kurt Michael tried to rush a vote to become elected as temporary chairman, but had to consent to an alternate nominee and a secret ballot.
- A solid majority of the attendees chose an alternate temporary chairman, Jim Bailey.
- Mr. Bailey duly appointed a person (Jean Shrewsbury) to chair the rules committee.
- The rules committee recommended that the election be held on a one-person-one vote basis, regardless of magisterial district.
- A majority of the attendees verified as registered voters approved this change. *
- A majority of the verified attendees (141-103) voted for Dr. Larry Roller.
- One of the tellers who counted the votes, Tom Nelson, registered his objection to the validity of the vote, without explaining his reasons.
- Temporary chairman Jim Bailey declared the meeting adjourned, and most people began to leave.
- Kurt Michael then announced that he was taking over the meeting without invoking any procedural guidelines to justify such an action**, and declared that the prior proceedings were invalid.
Those are the essential facts of the case, and no one can deny them.*** Did Mr. Bailey skip a few steps during the mass meeting? Yes. Did that change the outcome of the election for chairman? No. In short, it would be extremely difficult for a reasonable person to conclude that the election of Larry Roller was not valid, and even more difficult to conclude that Kurt Michael's subsequent "election" was valid.
* NOTE: The rules approved at the March Augusta County GOP Committee meeting were not binding, but were subject to approval by the mass meeting attendees. That's why there is a rules committee in the first place, for Pete's sake! The standard requirement under Robert's Rules of Order that a two-thirds vote is necessary to suspend the rules applies when an organized society holds one of its regular meetings, not at mass meetings, which are by their very nature open-ended.
** Dr. Michael's failure to invoke such a justification for his unilateral takeover of the mass meeting renders any business that was conducted by the "rump session" dubious at best. That kind of a stunt bears all the creepy hallmarks of a "putsch."
*** NOTE: I sent a batch of "raw and uncut" video and audio files which I had recorded to various party leaders immediately after the mass meeting. Unfortunately, they are not complete, as I was running low on battery power and tape. I had hoped to put up a brief version of this on YouTube, and hopefully will have time to do so in the next few days.
To put all this in context, let me remind the gentle reader that far worse procedural violations were committed at several meetings of the Staunton Republican Committee last year, in the midst of the Hanger-Sayre primary race, and all of the objections we raised and brought to the attention of higher party officials were completely ignored. Quite the contrary, we were castigated as "trouble-makers" and told that filing a formal grievance would cause bad publicity for the party, possibly affecting the outcome of the election last fall. (Ha!) So, our faction decided to zip our lips and hope that reason would eventually prevail. Well, folks, what's good for the goose is good for the gander: If the higher levels of the Republican Party decide to overturn Larry Roller's election as chairman on some minor technicality, after having turned a blind eye to the very grave abuses that were committed by the Michael-Mitchell faction over the two preceding years, then there is essentially no more hope for getting this party to function in a positive, collaborative way.
The general public knows that something is seriously wrong with the Republican Party, so why is it so hard for party leaders to grasp this? The choice facing the RPV Central Committee is simple: favoritism toward insider cronies (a.k.a. "grassroots"), or fair play in the best interests of the party as a whole.