Newton County GOP’s concerning shenanigans continue

“I’ve been a Republican my whole life, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Fred Wheeler from his wheelchair outside the Newton County Courthouse after he was told he couldn’t participate in the local Republican Party’s convention on Saturday.

Wheeler, 70, is just one of more than 120 local Republicans who were selected by their precincts to serve as delegates at the February 7 mass precinct meeting, in accordance with the Call and Georgia Republican Party Rule 1.1, but later were told that they didn’t meet local party membership requirements to participate in the county convention. The list of disqualified delegates not only includes local Republicans motivated to get involved due to a recent controversy related to the county government, but also former county party chairmen, elected officials, and Republican donors.

Many of the disqualified delegates showed up at the county convention on Saturday, designated as “guests” by the credentials committee and told to sit in a designated area behind a strip of yellow tape. A motion was made, per Robert’s Rules of Order, and seconded to amend the list, at which point the chair, Delia Fleming, went into recess without a motion or second. Upon coming back into the room, she called the meeting back to order, ignoring the motion to amend.

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Because the county convention was being run in a way that’s inconsistent with the Georgia Republican Party’s rules and Robert’s Rules of Order, delegates left after the credentials report was accepted. Though the Call for the convention clearly states that the public is welcome to observe, one “guest,” Stan Edwards, an elected Republican school board member in Newton County, left the room after a delegate motioned to him in a way that suggested that he needed to leave the room in which the county convention was being held.

Local party bylaws state that “[a] member in good standing shall be a dues paying member who has accrued 30 Merit Points of active participation in official Newton Republican Party activities as defined by the Merit System prescribed in Exhibit I.” Points are awarded for various activities, including attendance at monthly meetings, for which two points per meeting are given.

The Newton County Republican Party hosts approximately 11 monthly meetings per year, including the annual Christmas dinner. Assuming one were to attend every monthly meeting, they would earn 22 points, which, provided they’ve paid the $25 annual dues, is still short of the dual 30-point requirement to be considered “a member in good standing.”

Points may be awarded for other activities. Five points, for example, are awarded for being a registered volunteer at a local party event. There are, however, few opportunities during the course of a year to earn them, particularly in off years.

For Wheeler, who hosts a monthly meeting of local conservative activists, the “Lunch Bunch,” at an easily accessible coffee shop on the Covington square, the logistics of attendance at party meetings are difficult. A paraplegic, he’s been confined to a wheelchair, the result of a life-threatening medical issue, since 1991.

The Covington Women’s Club, where the Newton County Republican Party hosts its monthly meetings and many other events for which points may be awarded, was built in 1915. While it has a modern kitchen available to those who may rent it for meetings and events, the building, which rests on a raised foundation, doesn’t have a wheelchair ramp at either of its two entrances, making it an extraordinary task for Wheeler to get into the building.

Though he did attend the mass precinct meeting on February 7, Wheeler had to be lifted off the ground and brought up the concrete steps to get in the building. This was made possible by a few of the small group of young men, most of whom were also disqualified as delegates, who also attended the mass precinct meeting.

Attending the meeting regularly, however, is difficult to gauge. Wheeler doesn’t always know who’s going to be there to help him get up the stairs and into the building.

Another local resident and activist, Andy Allen, 46, also attended the mass precinct meeting with his wife, Elizabeth, who regularly comments in this space. He and his wife, both conservative Republicans, are the parents of a young child with a disability.

The Allens have, since the birth of their son, split their activism to take care of him, though occasionally, they hire a babysitter in circumstances in which they both need to attend. As one might imagine, this can be an expensive task if they want to meet the strict requirements that define a “member in good standing” according the Newton County Republican Party bylaws.

Though they hired a babysitter and both attended the mass precinct meeting, his wife, who is the more involved of the two, met those requirements and was accepted as a delegate while Allen was disqualified.

“Over the years, I’ve been involved in the Republican parties in Rockdale and Newton,” Allen said on Saturday. “I go to meetings when I can, but I don’t understand why they’re turning me away.”

There’s another problem that has turned up. The merit points data collected for each member of the party may not be accurate.

This author, who is a dues paying member of the party and has been involved since late summer of 2013, requested a full accounting of his merit points for 2014. After going back through personal records to compare the data sent by the Newton County Republican Party, there were some discrepancies found, enough to dwindle the points allocated for last year to 28, two points under the 30-point requirement.

Allen explained that the root of the problem is the merit point system. “I think merit points are counterproductive. I get that they want people involved, and so do I, but everyone has families, jobs, and other things going on that may prevent them getting enough points to participate,” he said. “The current system just isn’t setup to consider that.”

Wheeler agreed, but added that another problem is the political atmosphere in Washington. “People feel like they can’t change things there, and they give up,” he explained. “It took something on the local level – something the people who showed up last month and today feel like they can change – to get involved.”

“We were turned away. That’s wrong,” Allen said. “That’s not how we grow our party.”

An appeal to challenge the disqualification of delegates was filed late last month and, after a delay, denied by the county party committee on March 9. It will be sent to the Fourth District Committee in the coming days, with additional complaints.

13 comments

  1. Lawton Sack says:

    This is an absolute disgrace. The Republican Party is killing itself over silliness. A lot of counties are struggling to get people involved in the process and some, like this, are making it worse.

    I have found the best way to hold a Convention, having presided at both the County and District levels, is to be fair with the process. The Conventions are an open process.

    In my opinion, the integrity (and future) of the GAGOP is at stake in how this is handled.

    • kzh says:

      This guy knows what he is talking about. As chairman of the 12th district, Lawton ran a fair convention during his tenure. His honesty and integrity are shining examples for all to reflect. Thank you Lawton for being who you are.

  2. xdog says:

    I’m guessing the rest of Georgia’s county goper organizations don’t run their business like this.

    If the state honchos have any balls at all they’ll drop on this Newton County bunch like batman. They have to know their actions play up the grossest caricatures of gopers–blowing off established rules of order, setting up vaguely defined purity tests, tossing guests, providing special seating for designated inferiors. You’d think people were trying to get served at a lunch counter.

  3. Rick Day says:

    I’m confused.

    How is there any merit at all in being a member in good standing of the GA GOP?

    Isn’t holding a political public meeting a requirement for ADA access at the meeting place?

    Are people in wheel chairs now inferior, or are they just “SOL, buddy”?

  4. John Konop says:

    The last time I read about a merit system via politics was in college about Nazi Germany….If I recall right….it was how they handed out jobs….Newton county needs to chill out….I suggest they stop serving coffe at their meetings and instead have wine tastings, while listening to some easy jazz. 🙂

  5. PegM says:

    More than being just absurd, this just cannot stand if we care one iota about the GOP in general and in Newton County. The Newton County leadership, and I use that term loosely, should be committed to Milledgeville.

    Seriously, the State GOP needs to step in here ASAP. Throw out this convention as invalid, and hold a second according to Roberts’ Rules convention to have an accurate delegate count to the District and State.

    The merit system is ludicrous….paying attention and tracking that amount of “merit” points in a volunteer organization accurately, is less likely that the Obamacare records being correct.

    Sheesh!!!

  6. Adam Griffin says:

    What a shame. Unfortunately for the Newton County GOP, however, it’ll be dead in 5 years anyway, thanks to the huge demographic swings the county is experiencing.

  7. bkeahl says:

    Don’t waste your time with the whole point system crap. The call is quite clear. If you are elected as a delegate or alternate from your precinct to the county convention and you are “in sympathy with the aims and purposes of the Republican Party” then you are qualified to be seated. Period.

    Dues are not required either. Yes, the county can charge a reasonable feel to recoup the expense of putting on the convention, but beyond that there is no financial obligation.

    Boy, we sure do look like an open, friendly, and welcoming party with this kind of stuff going on.

  8. LindaLR24 says:

    Adam, demographics are not the deciding factor in a party’s life or death. What we are doing is vital to life, and there are many folks going to be willing to join us based on ideas that are right. People will Know they are welcome to the party with a new attitude of leadership.

  9. eschristian says:

    Excellent article by Jason Pye, thank you. I appreciate you getting the word out to our fellow Republicans across Georgia, and for being a really good friend.

    Below is long, apologies in advance but needs to be said.

    For those that are not aware of the situation here in Newton County, we have a local county Republican Party whose current executive “Leadership” made the decision several years back, to make all stereotypes of Republicans a reality, I’m sad to say. From breaking of the rules, as well as state laws earlier today, to forming a closed country club type party that has been exclusionary for years & even racist remarks via party email & at official monthly party meetings in 2012 and since.

    I’ll put it to you this way, there were only four resolutions submitted at the assembly held by Chairman Delia Sweat Fleming earlier today. Three were approved, one was not. The resolution that was not approved, was a resolution in support of Transparency, Inclusion & Modernization of the Republican Party.

    In Jason’s article he mentions Andy Allen & our precious young son. Our youngest son has a neuromuscular condition known as verbal apraxia, as well as sensory processing disorder. I know, a lot of big words but what it means is that our little one has the same knowledge in his mind/brain but due to problems with a neurological connection between his brain & the muscles in his face/mouth, he is unable to say what he’s thinking, until all the muscles can find the connections to his brain. The other condition (sensory processing disorder) means that his brain at times are unable to process the environmental stimulus/stimuli that his senses are receiving. For example, fingernails on a chalkboard will drive some people crazy & others it doesn’t affect at all. With this condition, it can take everyday sounds, lights, etc… & cause them to become very upset because it’s much like fingernails on a chalkboard but a lot worse. Through speech & occupational therapy he’s making great progress. But because of this, Andy & I do not have many options with babysitters. My husband & I typically take turns going to events where there are a lot of people, like political events. We’ve even had to adjust our work through our careers with a schedule where we can alternate being with our son. With this said under Chairman Flemings exclusionary points system, my husband & I should have had an equal number of points. We both attended meetings, campaigned on the same campaigns, equal amount of work – just had to take turns doing the work because our son will always come before politics. When Michael McNeely attended our local GOP meeting after I received my delegate letter to the county convention & my husband received his UNwelcome letter, I showed him a picture of my sweet son & told him what I’ve said above. Mr McNeely can’t take sides in the matter because of the appeals process but was very kind & treated the grassroots with respect & stayed & spoke with many of us after the meeting. A member of Chairman Flemings team looked at me just after I left speaking with Mr McNeely & said to me, “we all have scheduling conflicts, sometimes I have problems with my grandchild’s schedule”. This is what we are dealing with here in Newton. Out of touch, and many times just out right mean and rude.

    I have pretty thick skin but it hurt me to see many new members of the party being treated in a very unwelcoming manner. Many of these new members became involved due to poor fiscal stewardship of the taxpayers dollars by our county government. This should be a golden opportunity for our local GOP but sadly they viewed this as a threat to their power and formulated a plan to try to turn away all of these new energized voters that are in accord with the principles of the Republican Party. Perhaps this is why a county that leans red has lost the last three election cycles to our opponents on the left!

    This great county deserves better!

  10. Paul L. Nally says:

    Sorry, xdog, some do. bkeahl is on the right track, and PegM there is another place they could be put.

    Here’s how I handled the problem and got seated with no problem.

    From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]]
    Sent: Friday, March 13, 2015 10:09 AM
    To: [email protected]
    Subject: Failure to Meet Qualifications for BCRP Deelegate/Officer

    Paul,

    The 2015 Georgia GOP Convention Call states that the official call is for “all qualified registered resident voters in the State of Georgia, who believe in the principles of the Republican Party, and support its aims and purposes, to unite under this call in the selection of Delegates to the County, Congressional District and State Conventions. Furthermore, at the Precinct Mass Meetings, you signed an Oath of Affirmation, in which you expressed agreement with the statement “I DO SWEAR OR AFFIRM THAT I AM IN ACCORD WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, BELIEVE IN ITS DECLARATION OF POLICY AND AM IN AGREEMENT WITH ITS AIMS AND PURPOSES.”

    The fact that you ran as a Democrat in the last election cycle indicates that, despite the affirmation, you are not supportive of the aims and purposes of the Republican Party (the most obvious of which is the election of Republicans for all possible elected offices, which you actively worked against in the last election cycle), and therefore it is the determination of the Executive Committee of the Bartow County Republican Party that you do not meet the qualifications to serve as a delegate, alternate, or committee member of the Bartow County Republican Party at this time.

    Respectfully,
    Louis DeBroux, Chairman
    Bartow County Republican Party

    From: Paul [mailto:[email protected]]
    Sent: Friday, March 13, 2015 11:47 AM
    To: [email protected]; Bob Mayze
    Cc: ‘XXX
    Subject: RE: Failure to Meet Qualifications for BCRP Deelegate/Officer

    Mr. DeBroux,

    Thank you, or perhaps I should say thanks to The Executive Committee, for such a well timed decision … the morning before the Convention.

    I am reminded of an observation from a Sociology textbook from back about 1963 in which the author made the observation that “Cartersville Georgia had the most unique caste system of any community in the Country.” Seem it is still is.

    This timing brings to mind some thoughts as to the legal standing of a political party in this state. A political party is a creature of the state, and consistent with the concept of charters of existence, there is the rule that all the laws of a state, bearing upon such a charter, are incorporated within the Charter as if fully written therein.

    That being the case, I must inform the Executive Committee, through you, that I shall be present to take my seat as a delegate from the Pine Log Precinct.

    The reasons that I shall be there are many, however, it is sufficient to inform you that if I am excluded by the Executive Committee it shall be an violation of both state and federal criminal statues, including the Voters Rights Act not to mention 18 USC 241 and 242. You see, I am currently the only voice to represent the folks of my Precinct and to exclude me would be the effective disenfranchisement of my neighbors. That criminal act may not be permitted or go unchallenged in spite of the fact that I am no stranger to officials in this County making up rules as they go when the truth becomes too inconvenient to the social elite.

    As we both know, if there had been a proper time to challenge my standing, it would have been at the Precinct meeting. That was not done, and the Executive Committee has no authority under the Official Party Call or rules of the local Party to expel any duly elected delegate. The proper and legal method for expulsion of a delegate must come from the floor of the County Convention, and then only upon legal reasons.

    Any time the rights of citizens are the subject of a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding, the defendant has an absolute right to notice and hearing at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner. That means that this decision of the Executive Committee, in addition to being ultra vires, is void ab initio. Just in case you don’t know Latin, that means, “without lawful authority” and “void from the beginning”, both without legal force or effect.

    Not that I really care that much about money, some of my neighbors probably do, and might not take kindly to having their voice in this Convention eliminated for no legal cause. On second thought, since I hate being called a liar, and hate even worse, being accused, tried, and convicted without due process, maybe I do care. With that thought in mind, I should inform you (though I am not responsible for this Party’s indifference to its ignorance) that the deprivation of just one civil right by one individual has a monetary value placed upon it by the United States Congress in the amount of $250, 000.00. If the violation is committed by an organization, that amount is set by Congress at $500,000.00. (See 18 USC 3571).

    I do hope that this local Party’s pettiness and over-valued sense of self-importance shall not get in the way of their long-term, enlightened, best self-interest and that a modicum of common sense might be displayed. I have long understood why Georgia would receive national acclaim as being the most corrupt state in this Nation .. but it need not continue.

    Thank you for the untimely heads-up, and I look forward to seeing one and all tomorrow morning.

    Paul L Nally
    Pine Log, Georgia

    Now, you can look to DeKalb’s Convention yesterday for a clue on how to handle this matter, or you can go read O.C.G.A. 16-8-2. Good luck and I can be reached at [email protected] if you need further information/ideas.

  11. benevolus says:

    FWIW, I’ve seen problems on the Dem side that caused discussion of a similar system. It was very frustrating to active members to show up at the party elections only to see busloads of church people or something who had never been there all year brought in to vote for someone.
    So I think it’s possible your only real problem is your points threshold is too high. Just make it 10 points, or even 5 points. That should be pretty easy to achieve and prevents the ringers from taking over.

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