December's Meeting: The Setup

On Thursday, December 20, 2012, at the regularly scheduled Penobscot County Republican Committee meeting, the Committee attempted to vote for the replacement of retiring probate judge Woodcock. 

According to Maine State law, judges who are elected in county elections, as Judge Woodcock was, are to be replaced by the Governor. The exact wording of that statute is "…the Governor shall choose from any recommendations submitted to the Governor by the county committee of the political party from which the appointment is to be made.

The secretary of the County Committee, Wanda Lincoln, notified those who she retained on her County Committee mailing list that Governor Paul LePage had requested that we hold an election to nominate a replacement, submit it to the Governor's office, and that he would nominate the elected person.

As it turned out, due to the fact that there was a statute involved, there was much angst and it was decided that the Committee needed to "inform all Penobscot County Republicans" that we were going to be holding an election for the judge's replacement.

The discussion ended up focusing on the fact that there are VERY strict criteria for who is and is not a voting member of the County Committee. 

The first requirement, according to the County Committee's own bylaws, was that all members must be elected at their municipal caucuses, be elected officials, or be members of the Maine State Republican Committee, or be ex-officio members as set forth in the County Committee bylaws, Article III: Members, which states:

Section 2. Ex-officio Members: “The Chairman of each Municipal Republican Committee in Penobscot County is a voting member ex-officio of the Penobscot County Republican Committee. Officers of the Penobscot County Republican Committee are voting members ex-officio of the Committee. State Republican House and Senate members who represent citizens of Penobscot County are voting members ex-officio of the Penobscot Republican Committee.”

The second requirement and third requirements, according to the County Committee's own bylaws, are in Section 4 and Section 5:

Section 4: Dues: “Dues are payable at the first County Committee Meeting after the State Convention or may be submitted by mail for sixty (60) days thereafter.”

Section 5: Terms: “In order to assure an active membership, positions on the Committee will be deemed to have been vacated if a member fails to attend three (3) consecutive meetings or to pay dues within sixty (60) days of the due date. In either event, the member will not be entitled to notice of meetings and will forfeit his or her right to vote.”

And that is where the problem began.

The treasurer, Harrison Clark, told the assembly that, while he had a list of all people who had paid dues between the May meeting and November 29, 2012, he had not noted when payments were made. Furthermore, he had not checked to see that people were actually permitted to be voting members, per the bylaws. So what we ended up with was a spreadsheet with the names of those who had paid dues which totaled 55 people.

The de facto parliamentarian, attorney and former Bangor Mayor, Larry Willey, stood and stated, "Bylaws are nothing more than guidelines," and began to pontificate on the idea that "past practices" must be considered when enforcing them.

He then told the assembly that we could vote to suspend the bylaws as to the requirements for voting members.

During the debate, the treasurer shouted that he had better things to do than "waste time on this" matter, and stalked out of the room, taking his laptop with him.

Given that, as per the usual practice of the Secretary, there had been no quorum call, no roll call, no examination of credentials, and no attempt to ascertain who were, at that moment, voting members, the point was raised by this writer that, first of all, it would be illegal for anyone other than legal voting members to participate in a vote to be taken about who could vote; and secondly, that a majority could not vote to suspend bylaws. Such a motion would be allowed only if there were not a single dissenter.

A vote was called, and at least three people -- all of them legal voting members by bylaw standards -- voted against what was already an illegal election. Two people -- State Committee members Julie Morgan and Bryan Daugherty -- abstained, stating that they would not take part in an illegal election to create another illegal election.

It was declared that the motion passed, despite the fact that objections were made about the illegality, with the bulk of those responsible for voting apparently believing Larry Willey's false statements about bylaws and about Roberts Rules of Order regarding bylaws.

Despite the fact that this illegal vote was specifically called for the replacement of the County probate judge, it set up the illegal vote for Committee officers which took place in January.

Although several people intended to file appeals, that could not be done until the minutes of December's meeting were approved. That was a known impossibility, because since May of 2012 and the influx of the so-called "liberty delegates," the practice of the Secretary, Wanda Lincoln, was to sometimes send what she termed "a rough draft" of the minutes via email to selected Executive Committee members but never presenting them for approval.

Pertinent Links:

Maine Revised Statutes Title 4: Judiciary, Chapter 7: Probate Court, Subchapter 3: Judges

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