My Take on the January 27, 2017 State Central Committee Meeting of the UTGOP

The January 27, 2017 State Central Committee Meeting of the UTGOP

The Utah Republican Party State Central Committee (SCC), by constitutional authority, is “the governing and policy making body of the Party.” Think of like this…the SCC is the legislative branch of the Party and the Chairman is the Executive branch of the Party. While, the Chairman is elected as chief executive, by state delegates sent from their county precincts, to preside over meetings of the State Executive and Central Committees and State conventions, the SCC members are elected by their county delegates to represent their county precincts as the governing and policy making body of the Party. According to the UTGOP constitution, ALL authority rests in the legislative body (SCC). Any authority claimed by the executive branch (Chairman) must be explicitly granted by the SCC only. If constitutional authority is not explicitly granted it does not exist.

Who is right? …and who is wrong?

In yesterday’s SCC meeting, the first order of business brought to the floor concerned the body’s approval of the minutes for the December 16, 2017 Special SCC meeting. A necessary procedure required for the actions taken in that meeting to be authorized. SCC member Kirby Gladd made a motion, without precedence, to suspend the rules and accept the minutes of the meeting. Rob Anderson, Chair of UTGOP, immediately ignored the motion and declared the December 16, 2017 Special SCC meeting invalid. This ruling essentially ignored the accomplishments of that meeting, which included ratifying the generous offer from Dave Bateman to extinguish the SB54 debt, and made acceptance of the minutes unnecessary as, under the Chair’s ruling, they did not exist. Now before we get into the details of what happened next, I think it is important for us to review the process of the SCC conducting its business as a deliberative assembly and the rules established to govern that process.

A little history…

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Dr. Benjamin Franklin was queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation. In the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention, a lady asked Dr. Franklin “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy.”  Franklin replied, “A republic . . . if you can keep it.”

Our Constitution created a limited representative republic.  A republic is different from a democracy.  In a democracy, the majority can directly make laws, while in a republic, elected representatives make laws.  Basically, in a pure democracy, the majority has unlimited power, whereas in a republic, a written constitution limits the majority and provides safeguards for the individual and minorities.

Now, the United States of America has a constitution to guarantee a republican form of government for the people to elect members of their sate (Senate) and members of their local communities (House of Representatives) to represent their interests in Washington. The State of Utah has a republican form of government for the people to elect state Senators and House members to represent their interests and deliberate the issues of the day to make necessary decisions. And, the UTGOP has a written constitution to guarantee a republican form of government for the members of Utah’s Republican Party to elect members of their community to represent their interests. Because all of these representative groups deliberate competing ideas, they are considered deliberative assemblies. Wherever and whenever their business is conducted, Parliamentary Procedures are employed. Why?

Sometimes competing ideas draw ire… 

In America, politics is a brutal game; in fact it used to be a blood sport. Back on July 11, 1804, in a duel held in Weehawken, New Jersey, Aaron Burr, the sitting Vice President of the United States, fatally shot his long-time political antagonist Alexander Hamilton, the former Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton, a leading Federalist and the chief architect of America’s political economy, died the following day.

The Burr-Hamilton duel was fought between these prominent American politicians over political disagreements they had over a long period of time. Something had to be done. Rules needed to be established to govern the deliberations between men, and the diverse range of their thoughts. So governing documents to declare authority and the rules by which this authority could be executed were established…and parliamentary procedure was born.

Robert’s Rules of Order is the most widely used manual of parliamentary procedure in the United States. It governs the meetings of a diverse range of organizations including Congress, State legislatures, church groups, county commissions, homeowners associations, nonprofit associations, professional societies, school boards…and the UTGOP-that have adopted it as their parliamentary authority. Today, ARTICLE XIII of the UTGOP constitution states “The rules contained in the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order shall govern all meetings of the Party unless contrary to the Party Constitution and Bylaws and any special rules of order the Party may adopt.” The precedence of authority for the UTGOP is the Party constitution first, the Party By-Laws next, special rules and then Roberts Rules of Order.

As I mentioned, the SCC of the Republican Party of Utah is the governing and policy-making body of the UTGOP. As a deliberative assembly, the SCC meets to determine, in full and free discussion, courses of action to be taken by the Party using parliamentary procedure as documented in Roberts Rules of Order. Parliamentary procedure cannot guarantee that every member of the SCC will be pleased with the outcome of any decision that is made; rather, by utilizing parliamentary procedure, every member can find satisfaction in the manner by which the decision was made, and that the decisions were made efficiently with consideration for every member’s opinion. As volunteers, we meet…we debate…we vote…and we move on to the next issue.

Back to the January 27th SCC meeting of the UTGOP…

When the presiding officer, Chair Rob Anderson, immediately declared the December 16, 2017 Special SCC meeting invalid, he was making a ruling. The Chair makes rulings and as outlined in the UTGOP constitution, has certain duties governed by rules when making those rulings. In this case, the ruling was out of order (without merit).

When any member of the governing body disagrees with the ruling of the Chair, he can make a motion to Appeal that decision. This motion, which is not debatable, instantly takes the decision out of the hands of the Chair and places it into the hands of the membership, as it should be in a practice based on the democratic process where majority rules. The majority then will decide if the Chair’s ruling is sustained or upheld. The governing rules of the Party guarantee this process as the SCC is tasked with governing and making policy for the UTGOP.

An Appeal from the Decision of the Chair is a motion focused on the decision of the Chair, not the person in the chair. It shouldn’t be taken personally. It’s simply a method to handle a disagreement between two points of view. “Disagreement is the natural state of tension that precedes an act of creation or resolution.” So in a large assembly, disagreement is healthy, and helps the organization make the best decision if discussion is approached fairly and consistently. Once the Appeal is made and seconded, the body votes to sustain or reject the decision of the Chair, and the assembly moves on. In a deliberative assembly, healthy disagreement and debate leading to compromise has always been the American way.

So…when Layne Beck motioned to appeal the ruling of the Chair, which claimed the SCC meeting on December 16th was invalid, and the Chair, Rob Anderson, ignored Mr. Becks authorized Appeal…all hell broke out.  The Chair, Robert Anderson, was out of order, he broke the rules!

The SCC has a constitutional duty to make decisions so, if the Chair ignores your motion, process it yourself…

On a rare occasion you will run into a Chair who, for whatever reason, ignores a member making a motion or moving an Appeal. There are a couple of things that might be done in that situation, but the first one is to get the motion processed and give the body a chance to vote on it.

Because the Chair is refusing to process the motion you have just made, and because this is a meeting of the membership, Robert’s Rules gives the membership a way to handle this situation. If the Chair refuses to recognize your motion, you can stand at your place and you can process the motion yourself, putting it to a vote of the assembly, without debate. This is an extreme answer for an extreme problem…but it is there for a reason, representative government trumps autocratic rule.

One must be careful with this approach. If you do not have the majority of the members sympathetic to your perspective, then you might be seen as a disruptive force in the meeting and the Chair, with the majority behind him, will treat you as such. That treatment would first be the Chair calling you to order. If that didn’t work, the Chair would then name you, which is the equivalent of preferring charges. You are now opening yourself up to disciplinary action from the group.  At that point any member could make a motion to impose a penalty for your actions. That penalty can range from requesting an apology, to censorship, to removal from the meeting room, to suspension of membership rights for a period of time, or even expulsion from membership (which would require a two-thirds vote).

At the January 27th meeting, despite the Chair calling on plain clothes off-duty policemen to remove Mr. Beck from the meeting…and even threatening his arrest and the arrest of anyone not taking their seats, the majority of the SCC, sympathetic with Mr. Beck’s stand, voted to overrule the decision of the Chair. This action resulted in the passing of Mr. Beck’s motion to accept the minutes of the December 16th SCC meeting. In spite of the Chair’s unlawful behavior, governing rules prevailed as did the sentiment of the majority of the SCC.

It is important to note here that the governing documents of the Party are legal documents and the duty of the Chair is to properly enforce the rules of the organization under these legal documents while conducting its meetings. He is entitled to the presence of a Registered Parliamentarian to assist him. When the Chair ignores the rules and acts improperly, he is not only breaking law, but abdicating his authority and in essence is removing himself from his position as the Chair. Remember the Chair’s role is to facilitate the group in making decisions. The focus is on the will of the members, not the will of the presiding officer.

While there are many ways available to the SCC to deal with a recalcitrant Chair, I will not get into them here…perhaps fodder for another blog post.

In the meantime, the Republican Party of Utah should be proud of the stance Mr. Beck and the majority of the SCC took at the January 27th meeting in order to get the business of the Party conducted.