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Censure of Speaker Straus Temporarily Blocked by Bexar GOP Chair

Stovall-Straus

At the evening meeting on Monday, October 9th of the Bexar County Republican Executive Committee, Chairman Robert Stovall and his parliamentarian, Ron Stinson,  successfully blocked a motion to Censure Speaker Joe Straus, but blatantly violated parliamentary rules in doing so.

In a standing-room-only meeting that overwhelmed the capacity of the air conditioning system, 130 precinct chairs, a record attendance level, endured the heat for over two hours as Stovall ignored motions and points of order by voting members.

Present were at least 86 precinct chairs who had committed to voting for the Straus Censure – the required 2/3 necessary to send the censure to the State Executive Committee for official approval.

The San Antonio Express News cited Stovall, in typical fashion, as blaming the “disruptions” to “a small group.”

Following all applicable rules of procedure, six precinct chairs and their experienced colleagues drafted a Rule 44 Censure motion against current Texas Speaker Joe Straus.  The group of precinct chairs even hired a professional parliamentarian to ensure that the motion was properly offered and debated.  The motion was submitted to the Bexar GOP management committee on August 15th well in advance of the next County Executive Committee meeting.

After the submission of the motion, the Chairman sent an email to precinct chairs stating that he had appointed a “special resolutions committee” as is the prerogative of the chairman.  From now on, all resolutions must be vetted by this committee under his rules.  The rules indicated that the 3-page motion must be condensed to a single page containing only three “whereas” clauses, two “resolve” clauses, and be no more than 400 words.  The rules also stated that “No resolution shall ..… state the endorsement of , support of a candidate for public office, nor opposition to a candidate who is a Republican; nor mandate or restrict the spending of money by the RPBC [Republican Party of Bexar County].

The primary binding effect of a Censure is to prohibit the expenditure of money by the party in support of the officeholder censured.  As a result, Stovall’s rules for his temporary Special Committee were apparently designed to permanently prohibit the consideration of any Censure motion. Such a restriction would violate party rules of procedure for a special and likely even a standing committee.

While party rules do allow the chairman to appoint special committees, he cannot grant that committee special powers that fundamentally alter the content and form of all resolutions in perpetuity, especially a Rule 44 Censure.  Granting such permanent powers to an otherwise temporary special committee would require amending the bylaws of the organization, which the whole body must approve in a vote at a duly called meeting.  The particular problem with placing these restrictions on a Rule 44 Censure motion is the unique nature of such a motion.  A Rule 44 (censure) motion is essentially a non-criminal indictment of a public official who has egregiously violated the principles of the Republican Party.  State Republican Party rules require that a censure indictment passed by an elected official’s home county executive committee must sufficiently describe at least three violations of Republican Platform Core Principles.

The censure motion that was submitted cited the violations of all 10 core principles of the Republican Party, and this information, all written within “whereas” clauses, was the documented basis for the indictment.

By arbitrarily limiting the length of all resolutions to a single page, it is limiting the documentation that can be provided to indict a public official under Rule 44, thereby weakening the justification for the censure and making its defeat more likely.

Given that the special committee would emasculate the motion as written, it was decided by the sponsoring precinct chairs to use parliamentary rules to amend the agenda to include consideration of the motion.  When Stovall called for approval of the agenda, a motion was made and seconded to amend the agenda.  Stovall indicated that such a motion was out of order and he would not recognize such a motion.  But it was not out of order.  It is self-apparent that, in asking the body to “approve” the agenda, it can also “disapprove” the agenda and amend the agenda.  Multiple voting members stood up to be recognized to amend the agenda and to make points of order, and all were dismissed, ignored, or ruled out of order.

Finally, Mark Dorazio, State Republican Executive Committee member from Senate District 25, after three successive voting members stood to make points of order and were ignored by the chair, stood to ask the entire body “were the points of order well taken?”  According to Robert’s Rules, when three points of order are ignored by the chair, the body can bypass the Chairman and someone can pose the question to the entire body if the point of order is “well taken.”  When this question was posed to the voting members, an ear-shattering roar of the 86+ approving members erupted.  Under Roberts Rules, this then empowers that person to ask for a vote of the members on the original motion to amend the agenda to include consideration of the Censure motion, and it too was uproariously approved.

In response, Stovall ignored the vote, asked for approval of the agenda, ignored the voice vote of disapproval, and unilaterally declared the agenda approved.  Motions to ask for a recorded or division vote were also ignored.

Frustrations increased as Stovall ignored more and more motions, points of order, requests for information, and parliamentary inquiries.  At this point, he threatened the audience with removal by the Sergeant at Arms if anyone spoke out without listing their name and precinct number.  As people attempted to be recognized, they would list their name and precinct number in the first instance, but after being ignored by the Chairman repeatedly, would simply repeat the purpose of their seeking recognition, making them subject to removal.  Stovall actually instructed the Sergeant at Arms to physically remove Patty Gibbons from the floor.  As the Sergeant approached, the crowd bellowed its disapproval and would have prevented Gibbons removal had he followed instructions.

A last attempt – a motion put forth by Mike O’Donnell to amend the agenda to add the Rule 44 resolution for discussion and vote – was ruled out of order once again followed by the county chairman’s  brother rising to move to adjourn the meeting which Robert Stovall quickly did without the consent of the body.  Watch  video clip

Jeff Judson is a Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute.  The views expressed are his own and not that of the Heartland Institute. He is a member of the Republican Party of Bexar County Executive Committee.

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