Summer 2011 Board Meeting of CRA

The California Republican Assembly (CRA) held a Board meeting on July 23rd. Much of the meeting was devoted to “Disciplinary Hearings” Related to 17 questionable units and eight members.

I attended the Fresno meeting and sat at one of the front tables. I had no vote in the proceedings and left the room only at the lunch break. Board members had to pay $35 to register for the event. This fee included some breakfast rolls and a box lunch. Any funds collected beyond the actual costs are normally split between the hosting unit and the state organization.

The meeting began shortly after 9 am. After the usual opening of such meetings (Pledge, invocation, etc.) some ground rules for debate were set and President Celeste Greig came to the podium. She began by describing the stream of emails that had been sent to her. Then she called Steve Frank to the front. Frank walked up to the podium carrying a large spool of string and some scissors. He was instructed to tie the string to Greig’s wrists and arms; since supporters of Karen England has apparently called her Frank’s puppet. After some laughter and applause Frank returned to his seat. Greig mentioned a raffle at the back of the room and then made appointments to several committees. Cliff Wagoner was made chair of the Charter Review Committee. Other members were appointed to this committee. Site Selection appointments were made and, Publication and Technology were combined into one committee and members were named. Some members previously asked to be part of these committees were replaced by others. Whether this was purposeful or due to a communications snafu is not known.

A report on the legal wrangling related to the TRO was made by Tom Hudson and Craig Alexander. The report was chronological from the first legal filing by Restore the CRA to the order to seek relief from the California Republican Party (CRP) via arbitration.

At this point the meeting was turned over to George Park for the disciplinary portion of the agenda. Park made some preliminary remarks to frame the issue that was before the Board. Most of these remarks centered on the actions of the former Membership Secretary, Peggy Mew.

I received the membership records from the former membership secretary some fifty odd days after the last convention. So that was about the beginning of June…What I received, I don’t even know how to explain in nice terms. It was a disaster. It is a disaster…But, as a result of reviewing the records, and the very lack of records that I received, it seems to me, based on what seems to be in the CRA treasury, and based on the dues that should have been reported from our units, and based on what I imaging, our best guess is on membership, we are short some ten thousand plus dollars in dues.

The simplest explanation for this is that Peggy Mew showed more members on the books than CRA appears to have received in dues. This is due to a combination of two issues.

The CRA Bylaws include the following passage: “Section 4.08. Remittance of Dues to Chartered Republican Assemblies. Each chartered Republican Assembly shall receive forty percent of the membership dues collected from members assigned to it.” Since the stock dues are $25, sixty percent or $15 goes to the state organization for the first member in each household. My chapter collects $15 for each additional member of the household. Sixty percent of $15 is $9. Given these rates per member and the $10K shortage, Mew appears to be carrying about 700 deadbeat members. Given the membership inflation that CRA is known for, this is not unexpected.

However, part of the discrepancy may be the result of how Mew would calculate the date dues of members were paid. Supposed you joined a chapter in June. Sometime in August, your unit treasurer sent a check for new members to the Membership Secretary. She might hold the check for a period of time before it was deposited. Next year a newly elected office in your unit might ask her when your dues expired. If she responded to your inquiry—which was a less than 50/50 proposition—you could easily be told your dues were up in October. You just got five free months of membership! I won’t say this always happened but I know that it did occur. Now amplify this one example over a few thousand members and the result is a chaotic mess.

I imaging the record dump that Park received from Mew was not much different than the old story of the CPA that got a shoebox full of receipts from some shopkeeper in the town square just days before the filing deadline. I have no reason to believe this problem is the result of fraud, I just think Mew did not pay attention to detail. In her defense, this is a voluntary position but a critical one.

Park then went on to deal with the rogue units—many of which were the dreaded “paper clubs.” Park reported that each unit was contacted via telephone, certified mail, snail mail and email—if the contact information was available. He stuck primarily to the officers listed on the information that he had. If the contact information was bad then the unit was in danger of being dechartered. If contact was made and the membership and other information was not provided or did not prove accurate the unit was also in danger.

Park made it known that he did change some of the recommendations that were on the written report that was circulated. Further modification was made as the process was rolled-out. Many units whose charters were revoked would be assigned to a CRA vice-president in their area along with Charter Review oversight to see about reconstituting the unit.

One member of the audience argued against dechartering units as follows,

“This is a self correcting problem. If these people really are paper units then they’re gonna disappear…As a general principle, I don’t think we need to be evicting units left and right. I think we should let is self correct, correct itself. If they really are a paper unit they’re gonna go away, expire. If they’re not, they’re gonna renew and then we’ll know…”

Shortly after this statement Tom Hudson replied,

I want to make sure we are all clear on what we are doing here. Don make a very important point that I think is true. In saying that if something is a paper club, that it will go way on its own. Well I agree with him but this is that process. There is no process in the Bylaws that says things just disappear into thin air…This is the process for how that happens.

It was announced that members on the rolls of dechartered units will be sent a letter notifying them that they are now members at large and encouraging them to either join another chapter or form a new unit in their area. Such members have all the rights of CRA membership except to be delegates to the state convention.

Of the seventeen units in the report, only two responded to the proposed actions of the board. Here is the disposition of the seventeen units.
Alpine Heights, Camp Pendleton, San Diego, Stanton were the first four units discussed. They were all dechartered.
• Next eight chapters in the Corona area were all dechartered. These units were: Citrus, Circle City, Corona Hills, Kinesco Valley, Norco, Rimpau, South Corona, and West Corona. It was hoped that the area vice-president and the Charter review Committee could encourage members to reconstitute one or more units in the area.
Mid-empire—a plaintiff in the ongoing litigation—was dechartered.
South Butte and Ladero Ranch units were put on probation. The term used at the meeting was “Jeopardy”. If corrective actions were taken, they could be restored to full status.
Yuba was dechartered.
• Lastly, Yolo County was dechartered. This should have happened in 1999 but the Board at that time refused to act.

Yuba and Yolo were dismissed in the course of the noon meal. Then the issue of removal of individual members was addressed. This portion of the meeting was begun with the intent to ban some members for life. However, comments by Norm Reece had a significant impact on this portion of the meeting.

I frankly think the CRA is made up of a lot of godly people. You know I just think that is a given. I think forgiveness and repentance is part of our Christian principles. I really feel as a Christian; for life? I just have a problem with that…That changes my vote.

As a result of Reece’s comments, no one was given a lifetime ban. The individuals listed below that were banned can re-apply to the Board for membership when their suspension is completed. Here are the results:
Paul Dillon 5 years
Karen England 10 years
Tim Lefever 10 years
David Reed 10 years
Tom Rogers 10 years
Mark Spanigal 5 years
Scott Voigts 1 year
Rick Marshal No action

Voigts, almost got off scot-free. He was part of the litigation but has done some positive things for CRA. The Board was reluctant to find agreement on his fate. This was due to comments made by Craig Alexander.

Conspicuously absent from the list was former Membership Secretary, Peggy Mew. Much of the chaos at the last convention was enabled by her obstruction and manipulation of club data in her possession.

My final comments on the meeting are related to what I believe is a flawed legal theory put forward by Tom Hudson and Craig Alexander several times over the course of the meeting. This involves the legal concept of “standing.”

The legally protectible stake or interest that an individual has in a dispute that entitles him to bring the controversy before the court to obtain judicial relief.

Standing, sometimes referred to as standing to sue, is the name of the federal law doctrine that focuses on whether a prospective plaintiff can show that some personal legal interest has been invaded by the defendant. It is not enough that a person is merely interested as a member of the general public in the resolution of the dispute. The person must have a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy.

Hudson and Alexander both expressed the belief that removing the Mid-Empire Republican Assembly and the individuals named in the complaint against the CRA as members of the organization would somehow result in them losing standing for both the current legal challenge as well as any future challenges that they might make. Since no one disputes that they were members at the time of the April convention, I think this is wishful thinking and has no practical effect on anything. Quite the opposite, I think it gives England more ammunition to use when she and the others in Restore the CRA take their case to arbitration at the California Republican Party.

Did CRA win the battle in such a way that they may ultimately lose the war? Not likely but you never know.