What happened at the Bexar County Republican Executive Committee meeting this past Monday night was, according to one precinct chair, “like a bad dream”. While many members of the committee expected a lively debate and greater than normal attendance, which there was, what was not envisioned was what appeared to be a carefully orchestrated effort to stifle and obstruct any possibility that committee members would hear a resolution to censure Speaker Joe Straus and be able to vote. The widespread dissatisfaction of the attendees towards Chairman Robert Stovall’s questionable rulings culminated in a raucous, confrontational atmosphere throughout most of the three hour meeting endured by 130 members in the packed standing room situation with inadequate air-conditioning.
Before the meeting started, Becky Edler, the GOP Bexar County office manager (Director of Operations) positioned herself in the lobby and it appeared to those of us meeting earlier to exchange documents that her purpose was pure harassment while she flitted around us barking about keeping the lobby clear, admonishing us that political signs were not allowed when one precinct chair handed out small sticker badges to place on our jackets. We were six people not an army engulfing the building like “Occupy Austin”.
[Full Disclosure: This writer is a member of the Ad Hoc Committee which organized the Rule 44 Censure Straus Resolution]
Later in the meeting, Jeff Judson, a member of the Rule 44 Ad Hoc committee, former House District 121 candidate who ran against Joe Straus in the primary last year, and newly sworn in precinct chair, was approached by Vivian Brown, a volunteer member of Chairman Robert Stovall’s staff. While he was being interviewed, she interrupted and after telling him to sit down, insulted him by saying he was “ridiculous” then castigated him for supporting one of the mayoral candidates in the recent municipal elections who was not a Republican. (All three top candidates were Democrats) View the video (Forward and start at -29 min.)
Brown, who is a long time member of Stovall’s office team with major office responsibilities including Party communications, later approached Precinct Chair Mark Metzger in the parking lot, followed him to his truck, and according to him, “attempted to dress me down for my Facebook posts, then she complained three different times about the ‘crazy Christians’ and the ‘bathroom bill’ stating that I needed to resign tomorrow morning because I was a member of the San Antonio TEA Party and I was at the wrong place and wrong meeting tonight and I need to go elsewhere and didn’t belong there”.
Earlier Mr. Metzger attempted to engage Chairman Stovall during a break to discuss the chairman’s repeated rulings which deprived committee members of their right to make motions, to speak in debate, and to vote. He asked Stovall not to talk over his questions but Stovall turned around, saw someone videotaping the conversation, put his hand up to stop it and walked away. This was the atmosphere in the Bexar County Republican Party Executive Committee last Monday.
What was the cause of the indignant responses from committee members in attendance? From beginning to end, a number of members rose to make motions again and again to amend the agenda to allow the members to read the Rule 44 Straus resolution and be given the opportunity to vote. Stovall and his parliamentarian, Ron Stinson, chose to deny the members, in every instance the motions were made, and well within their rights by meeting rules to do so, the opportunity to read, debate, and vote, their rights repeatedly violated according to articles specified in Robert’s Rules of Order. (11th Ed., p. 3, II, 1-9)
Precinct Chair Bill Carlisle made a motion that the assembly vote to approve the new Resolutions Committee appointed to control the adoption of resolutions. The motion was seconded. Chairman Stovall allowed the vote and the assembly overwhelmingly voted NO. Stovall’s response: “Committee still stands.” Carlisle stood to remind Chair Stovall that the body had already moved and acted to oppose the new resolutions committee and its rules. Stovall responded that the vote was a violation of the committee’s bylaws. This was followed by a loud clamor of disapproval from the audience. Carlisle then called for a division of the House. (A rising or standing vote) Stovall refused. He insisted that resolutions should be submitted to the Resolutions Committee. Carlisle again repeated that the body had voted down the creation of the special resolutions committee which was ignored by the Chairman. See video clip (Forward to -27 min.)
Precinct Chair Roy Casanova stood for a point of order. Stovall ignored him. The assembly loudly called on the Chairman to listen to Mr. Casanova. Casanova: “Committee can report to the body. The chairman appoints the (special) committee. But whatever the committee reports to the body must be adopted or rejected by the body.” Stovall again disregarded the motion and would not call a vote. See video clip (Forward to -26.50)
Stovall in consultation with his parliamentarian, Ron Stinson, excused their actions by referring to the county party’s by-laws and newly created rules and restrictions of the recently appointed special committee. At no time were the By-laws read to justify his actions. Stovall’s memo was sent out to assembly members via email on August 15th after the resolution was hand delivered to the county office earlier in the day.The new restrictions would render the Rule 44 resolution delivered on August 15th invalid and automatically rejected even before being reviewed by the new committee.
According to Stovall’s August 15th memo, the management committee members who represent Stovall’s managing board, agreed to the creation of the new resolutions committee. However, a management committee member I interviewed after last Monday’s meeting told me there was no quorum at the August and September management meetings. In this member’s opinion, the scope of the committee’s work should only entail checking for clarity, duplication, or any contradictions with the bylaws and party rules. Another management committee member present was troubled by the sweeping authority given by Stovall to the new resolutions committee. Moreover, Stovall did not ask for their agreement or consensus. He simply announced he was appointing the special committee.
This member whom I interviewed also attended the management committee meeting on October 9th and when concerns were brought up against the scope and authority of the new Resolutions committee, Cynthia Smith, Legal Counsel for the county party, told the members present that Robert Stovall can do whatever he wanted to do as Chairman. I assumed the interviewee meant Smith was addressing the resolutions committee but it appeared from Monday’s meeting that Stovall believed he had the absolute authority to run roughshod over all the rights of committee members without any restraint or self-control.
When this writer invited Chairman Stovall via a text message yesterday to meet and discuss a way forward to enable the Rule 44 resolution to be heard and voted on, he declined to meet and told me that it was my fault because the original resolution was not resubmitted in the form mandated by committee chairwoman, Frieda Wright. I was the party who delivered the resolution to county HQ.
Robert Stovall is right that the Ad Hoc committee did not choose to cut up the original resolution and respond to the onerous, artificial restrictions mandated by the new special Resolutions committee with a watered down version. To have followed the new restrictions would have gutted the thoroughly researched coherent arguments enumerated in the whereas clauses or preamble section and an “abridged” version would have rendered innocuous the whole purpose of the Rule 44 Censure resolution against Straus. The Rule 44 Censure resolution addressing Speaker Straus’s violations would not only have to be debated while providing specific evidential information as a reference to fellow members of the Bexar County Executive Committee but the SREC membership in the RPT who would have to review and adopt it as well. Arguments against Chairman Stovall’s and Frieda Wright’s mandated and unreasonable restrictions will be addressed to them directly in the near future.
It appeared to this writer and witness of the Monday meeting that Stovall was never going to allow a resolution to censure Joe Straus. He dutifully protected his mentor and benefactor by stifling the democratic process at the CEC meeting. Stovall and his staff were prepared to use parliamentary tricks, hiding behind the newly constructed committee and their artificial restrictions on resolutions for the purpose of gagging and silencing elected members of the county executive committee. There were 100 precinct chairs, most probably more, ready to vote for the Censure Straus resolution. Yes, we heard from them before the meeting. If the vote was taken, a 2/3rds majority would have been easily realized.
Michael Hoffman, a supported of Straus and Stovall, was overheard at the county HQ a week before saying that the “rebels had to be stopped” at the CEC meeting. We members of the assembly constituting a large percentage of the executive committee are “rebels”?
Speaker Straus and Chairman Stovall may savor a perceived victory for their cause but what they accomplished on October 9th will galvanize and strengthen opposition to Straus and Stovall’s leadership roles in the Texas RPT.
The results of the meeting last Monday did not spell the end for the initiative to call out Speaker Straus’s abuses of power, but in the timeless words of Winston Churchill, it was only the end of the beginning.