Organizational meeting Sacramento County Republican Central Committee 2011-12

Every time I go to a meeting like last night, I’m reminded of a statement that someone once made to me about moving on from the central committee and getting involved in meaningful politics. Anyway, the bulk of the meeting was predetermined prior to last night. Having been on the planning end of such meetings, I know ‘em when I see ‘em.

After the opening ceremonies of the meeting, county elections officials administered the oath of office and then the business portion of the meeting began.

The center of contention was not the slate of candidates because those were a foregone conclusion, but the bylaws. As was predicted to me several weeks ago, the ruling majority from last time lead by Sue Blake and Terry Mast under the tutelage of Duane Dichiara implemented much of the bylaws from San Diego County.

Minutes prior to the meeting, one of my friends did manage to negotiate a few minor concessions from Terry Mast; however, two major points that we objected to survive motions to remain in the document that was adopted.

First, a provision was added to require mandatory dues of $100. This provision reads:

Section 6.  Annual Dues.  Annual dues for Members, Alternates, and Associates shall be $100 per year, payable no later than the regular March Central Committee meeting. These dues shall qualify Members, Alternates, and Associates for membership in the Century Club. Those individuals who can demonstrate financial hardship to the Chairman may be allowed to “pay dues” at a rate of $10 per hour “volunteering” at the Republican Headquarters or Central Committee events, as approved by the Chairman, for a maximum of six and one half (6.5) hours.  Members must pay a minimum of $35 cash.  Members who have not paid dues or arranged to work off their dues will have their voting rights suspended until such dues have been paid.

The second provision that survived last night’s voting requires any new business to go to the Executive Board or it cannot be brought up at the regular meeting of the Central Committee without a 2/3 vote of members. Reluctantly we did get them to agree to strike the portion that a majority vote was required by the Executive Committee to bring something to the committee.

Section 1.  All resolutions, bylaws amendments, or other business of the Central Committee shall be first brought to the previous meeting of the Executive Board. A majority vote will bring this business to the full Central Committee. In the alternative, business may be brought before the full Central Committee for placement on the agenda, and will require a two-thirds vote of the Central Committee to be considered.

Jeff Allen was nominated as First Vice-chair. Carl Brickey was nominated also. A motion was then made and passed to close nominations. After this was done Mr. Allen informed the chair that he had not taken the oath of office. The chair administered the oath on the spot and then proceeded with the vote. After several motions about whether the vote should be voice, roll call or standing, the vote was held and Allen was resoundingly elected.

Today a friend reminded me that Jeff Allen had won election to the Placer County Republican Central Committee in June 2010 for the term beginning this month. He said that Jeff was not at their organizational meeting this week but his alternate—Tom Hudson—was. He also told me that Jeff had turned in his voter registration card for Sacramento County yesterday just hours before the meeting. Both Sue Blake and Tom Hudson are members of the California State Bar.

No other offices were contested. The Composition of the Executive Board is five elected members and six members appointed by the chairman. We did get them to agree that these appointments should receive the consent of the full committee.

In the new business portion of the meeting the chair announced the crab feed that was scheduled in February. Most of the way thru her presentation she was asked if the Committee needed to authorize funds for the Event. Sue was bewildered. After being reminded that no budget yet existed for the committee and that per her bylaws any expense over $1,000 needed authorization, she finally agreed to request funds up to $5,000 be spent on the event.

Today a friend spoke at length with the Executive Director of the Committee. He was told that the actual cost of the crab feed was far in excess of the $5,000 that was authorized. He inquired why only this amount was requested. He learned that the money was spent in December. The reasoning was that since this was under the old committee, no one needed be informed of this information. He then pointed out that no funds were authorized by the previous committee. The ED just shrugged.

As the expense issue was winding down, the chair then remembered that it would be a good idea to actually appoint her Events chair and get the consent of the group. That went so well she also announced her Finance chair. Now that she was really warmed-up she decided to do the rest of her slate in one vote.

Thinking that the meeting was over she asked if there were any other issues, I raised my hand and when called upon (after all, my wife is a teacher) I asked what was going on with the Executive Director? We were told that he was part time during January. The follow-up question is how much is part time? We were told $1,700. The chair was then reminded that she needed this expense to be authorized also. The motion was made to authorize the Executive Board to spend up to $5,000 for the Executive Director. Others on the committee questioned the number and said shouldn’t we authorized something more like $2,500. The makers of the motion were firm that $5,000 was the correct figure. After a few grumbles, the question was called and passed.

After puzzling this over last night the epiphany occurred what was really going on. If half is $1,700 and full time is $3,400 this is suspiciously close to $5,000. They have him on half salary this month and plan to go up to full salary in February without coming back to the body. Sure enough he confirmed this when my friend talked to him today. This was the plan all along.

This group is amazingly tone-deaf to the electorate and many of their own members. It costs nothing to file to run for county central committee, we appear on the ballot and are either directly elected or represent candidates that are but now we must pay a $100 fee to vote on behalf of the people that elected us? This is both illegal and contrary to our republican form of government. We even must take the same oath of office as the Governor of our state!

Furthermore these same people now assert that this elected body is private and can exclude members of the public at will. Imagine that, you can vote for us on the ballot but have no right to know what we do or how we conduct our business on your behalf. This is the Soviet style of governing not the model of American Democracy. Refusing to publicize their meetings and invite the public just makes the group more insular and less accountable.

The irony is that the same people that just tripled the dues and made them mandatory are the same folks that said it was illegal to charge any dues just four short years ago. Now like their former benefactor Roger Neillo, they think the solution is to triple the dues in the midst of an economic slowdown.

The Republican Party is in decline in California. Less transparency and more barriers to participation are not the way to grow the party. It is doubling down on a suicide pact. With the changes coming in the next election cycle, behavior like this can only hasten the decline of the party.