Eyewitness account — Sylvia Sullivan writes about last Weekend’s turbulent CRA convention in Sacramento

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Sylvia Sullivan is a much-respected East County conservative leader.  In this column she describes last weekend’s chaotic CRA convention in Sacramento.   Incredibly, she reports here, Senator Joel Anderson and others were denied their right to vote as CRA delegates.   Here is Sylvia’s eyewitness account:

There were four police squad cars in the front parking lot as I arrived at the CRA Convention at the Hilton Hotel in Sacramento on Saturday morning. Shockingly, they were there due to problems, even some physical altercation at the CRA convention! Unbelievably, it was a disturbance but at least no arrests.

Sadly at a time the sorry state of California needs the strong leadership of CRA we are mired in this mess. Something is definitely wrong in CRA. For weeks, poison emails flew back and forth as the two candidates, Celeste Grieg, the incumbent and Karen England,the challenger, battled for the state presidency. What should have been a clean competition of different visions for CRA, unfortunately, descended into destructive attacks, insults and even legal action. I have been active in CRA since the 90’s, currently serving as the president of the East County Unit.

……………………. 125  Delegates Barred from Voting

Consequently, I’ve attended numerous CRA conventions, this one had to be the most contentious, ranking as one of the worst. In their desire to correct valid problems in CRA with the endorsement process, the current leadership totally bungled it. They made last minute rules changes. The changes made demands on autonomous units unaccustomed to top down directives in a grassroots up organization.

This resulted in people of a volunteer organization, paying to show up at a convention only to learn they would not be seated as delegates. These numbered around 125 delegates ruled ineligible after a nine hours of grueling, ugly process on Saturday. In a departure from the norm, even guests who paid to register, were prevented from entering the sessions.

Thus things got heated, I was told, requiring the police to come and restore order when people demanded to enter the session. The credentials committee meeting dragged on as seated delegates voted out many units’ delegates.

…………………….. How East  County  Fared

When it came to discussion regarding the Greater Santee Lakeside unit, I wanted to offer assurance that the unit is not a fake one. On the contrary, our unit works with Frank Hilliker’s group co-hosting forums, endorsing conventions and other events. I was not allowed to speak. Even Karen England, the challenger to the president, I know has been involved with CRA for years was denied delegate status. Ironically, Senator Joel Anderson, who our local units worked hard to get elected was voted out as a delegate. The Senator was able to briefly address the convention at the dinner Saturday night only because Assemblyman Dan Logue gave him some of his time.

We were told that during the sessions, due to the still pending litigation, no video taping, recording or photos would be allowed except for the official CRA newspaper reporter. I made a simple request to be able to take a picture or two for my blog in case something exciting took place. The leadership and most members seemed inclined until Baron Night objected. He spoke against it, so it was denied failing to meet the 2/3rds threshold. They really didn’t have to worry.

The picture I was hoping to get was one of Celeste and Karen shaking hands in reconciliation. The shot I wanted was of the moment of recognizing and thanking Peggy Mew for her years of work and countless hours of faithful service when a new membership secretary was elected. And to capture the moment,of appreciation to those who served on the board so faithfully now replaced in the election. Actually, my camera would have stayed in my purse since it didn’t happen. The election resulted in Celeste winning over Karen by a vote of 165 to 119.   Celeste’s slate also swept the contested races.

…………………. Some  Closing  Reflections

This weekend reminded me of a quote, however distorted, from the Vietnam War years, “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it”  (In the interest of full disclosure, I endorsed Celeste early on in the campaign. Both ladies are long time, strong pro family conservatives who are professing Christians. It makes what happened even more regrettable. Lastly, at the end of the convention we voted to at least refund the registration fees to those who paid and were denied entrance to the sessions.)

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Thanks to Sylvia Sullivan for giving us this Insider’s View about what really went on at the California Republican Assembly meeting over the weekend.   Ms. Sullivan has long set the Gold Standard for selfless hard work to advance many good causes in San Diego county.

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Comments 10

  1. Since name-calling isn’t allowed on Rostra, the feeling about you is mutual, at least the singular last third of it.

  2. Thank you, Sylvia, for this accurate account. I too was a delegate & was appalled at what Celeste (albeit only in her lack of leadership skills) permitted her board members to do to our wonderful CRA last weekend. 2 comments:

    1) That refund that we all overwhelmingly voted on, for those who attended but were unable to participate? It’s not happening, due to more trickery. After all but a handful of delegates had left the Assembly hall, assuming the meeting was over because nothing was going on from the podium after the caucusing, a handful of the re-elected board members REVERSED THE VOTE on that motion. Their excuse? The convention had not been officially adjourned so a request for a re-vote was allowed under Roberts Rules.
    2) Considering that 100+ identified England supporters were disqualified for illegal reasons, Karen fared very well only losing by 46 votes.

  3. I am the Recording Secretary for CRA and was present at the convention. I also know Sylvia Sullivan (not as well as you do) and have tremendous respect for her. When we voted on her being allowed to take pictures, I voted yes and was disappointed she was not allowed to do so.

    But let’s set the record straight about some things.

    Like most political conventions there was a Credentials Committee appointed by the President and confirmed by the Board. The job of a Credentials Committee is to make sure the people presented to be delegates are properly accredited as Delegates for CRA’s convention and no one is going to “stuff the ballot box” by getting more people into the convention who are not proper Delegates.

    This means that the potential Delegates must be members of CRA and have been members of the Unit sending them for at least 30 days prior to the convention. That if they transferred from one CRA Unit to another one before the convention that they properly advised the Membership Secretary of CRA, the Unit they are leaving and the Unit they are going to when they transferred again 30 or more days before the convention. The vast majority of Units in CRA, unless their bylaws are written differently, require the Units to hold a meeting prior to the convention and elect their Delegates to the convention. O yes – they must also be registered Republicans! Also, keep in mind that under CRA’s bylaws for a statewide convention – the more members you have the more delegates you are allowed to send to the convention (i.e. the more votes you have there).

    The Chairman of the Credentials Committee George Park (who was also a CRA Vice President) received many, many faxed in Delegate sheets on the last day allowed for Units to send them in (those sheets must be signed by the Unit President and Secretary to be valid – again pursuant to the bylaws of CRA). Some of them were suspicious. For example, in one instance their were four sheets for four Units faxed in the same evening from the same fax machine (pages 1 of 4, 2 of 4, etc.) all for Southern California Units from a 916 fax machine that belongs to a Sacramento political fund raising firm. And all in the same handwriting!

    Mr. Park then turned to CRA’s then Membership Secretary Peggy Mew and asked her to send to the Credentials Committee a copy of these Unit’s rosters and their bylaws. This was to check and make sure the member lists were proper and more importantly that the Delegates (and Alternates if needed) were proper members of the Unit they were to represent. Also that if the Unit required an election of Delegates and that one was held (obviously to be determined by telephone conversations with the Unit Presidents).

    Both prior to the convention and at the convention itself, Ms. Peggy Mew refused to give ANY of this information to the Credentials Committee. She offered no information whatsoever to the Credentials Committee to do its job prior to her leaving for an out of the country vacation just prior to the convention. Not being able to obtain this information from Ms. Mew, Mr. Park and his Committee went to the Unit Presidents and/or Secretaries and asked for this information. This was proper under CRA’s bylaws which state:

    Section 10.07. Records. All records of each Republican Assembly shall be maintained by the Secretary and Treasurer of that Republican Assembly, available for examination by members thereof and by the officers of the CRA.

    52 Units complied with this request. In those cases where the Units did not comply with this request, the Committee would not accredit them as Delegates.

    At the convention each Unit and potential Delegate that was not credentialed was given the opportunity of making their case as to why they should be given a Delegate badge to the entire convention (not just the Credentials Committee). Once again Membership Secretary Peggy Mew (having just returned from her vacation) refused to give out any information to Mr. Park or his Committee. As each potential Delegate of each challenged Unit came and addressed the rest of the Delegates, none of them offered any reason why they did not supply the requested information to the Credentials Committee.

    Many, many of these very nice folks could not name their unit president, did not know if the unit conducted an election to elect them to be a Delegate or if they bylaws of their unit required that or not. In some cases they needed to be reminded of the name of their CRA Unit. In one case the nice young woman arguing her case discussed at length the great things the San Diego Republican Party was doing until one of the Delegates reminded her this was the CRA not the official Republican party.

    No potential Delegate could explain the four pages of four separate units sent in from one fax machine in Sacramento in the same handwriting. No one could explain why some potential Delegates were coming up on the voter roles as registered Democrats or Decline to State voters. No one gave an explanation about why come Delegates were listed on two separate Units’ delegate sheets.

    Under these circumstances the Delegates present (with some exceptions) upheld the Credentials Committee’s findings and voted to not seat these folks as Delegates.

    I know that people were angry that they were not seated as Delegates. Their anger should be directed at their own Unit Presidents who refused to cooperate with the Credentials Committee or comply with the CRA bylaws. The elected officials who were also denied a Delegate badge should ask their Unit President that question too.

    No one in leadership at CRA nor any CRA member wishes to deny any properly credentialed Delegate the ability to participate and vote at a CRA convention. But if their Unit Presidents will not give even basic information to the Credentials Committee what is the Committee and ultimately the other members of the Convention to do? As much as everyone would like to see everyone seated as Delegates, no one wants voter fraud either.

    By the way, Membership Secretary Peggy Mew was up for re-election. She was not re-elected – George Park was elected in her place.

    I hope this helps give some clarity to the situation at CRA’s convention last weekend.

    There is much, much more that could be and likely will be about this convention last weekend. That will have to wait for now.

  4. Mr. Alexander:

    Thank you for responding.

    San Diegans were startled to read here that Senator Joel
    Anderson was denied CRA delegate status. He has been
    a hard-working movement conservative activist in this
    county forever.

    Do you know how this may have happened?

  5. Dear Mr. Sills,

    Thank you for the question. It is a reasonable and good question.

    Senator Joel Anderson was apparently a member of one of those units that refused to give the Credentials Committee their membership information and bylaws – or any information at all.

    It is sad that he was not allowed to be a Delegate as he is a former CRA Vice President. I know he is very angry about that. If he were to call me and talk with me I would advise him to contact his Unit President and ask him or her why the Senator’s Unit did not cooperate with the Credentials Committee? Why withhold very simple and basic information from the very committee charged with qualifying people as Delegates?

    It is very likely that if Senator Anderson’s Unit President had cooperated with the Committee his unit’s Delegates, and therefore the Senator, would have been able to be credentialed and vote.

    I should mention that CRA’s bylaws do not provide for any “ex officio” delegate status for elected officials.

  6. Dear Barry,

    Thanks for the question – it is a very good one as the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) got a lot of press and a lot of misinformation was put out about it including from the post on the Flashreport you referenced.

    The Court in the TRO enjoined the Board and ultimately CRA’s convention from using the Board passed (by a 31 to 15 vote) Convention Rule that a Delegate must reside within the geographic boundaries of the CRA Unit they are going to represent. In other words the TRO barred CRA from using residency as a basis to disqualify a Delegate. Since the Board Rule was ONLY about the residency of a Delegate, and ONLY the Board Rule was enjoined, using the residency of a Delegate to qualify or disqualify a Delegate was ALL the Court was enjoining.

    In page three of the Court’s order, the Court stated that the Credentials Committee could still enforce the bylaws regarding delegate irregularities. The Court’s TRO order went on in page three to state:

    “IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pending the hearing and determination of the order to show cause,
 defendant CRA and its officers, employees, agents and any other persons acting with them or on their
behalf, are restrained and enjoined from taking any action directly or indirectly to disqualify and refuse to 
seat, pursuant to the policy approved by the CRA Board of Directors between March 29 and 31, 2011,
 otherwise qualified delegates that have already been selected and presented to CRA for the CRA 
Annual Convention on April 15-17, 2011.”

    Notice the words “otherwise qualified delegates” near the end of the order.

    The TRO and its requirements were fully incorporated into the Convention Rules. CRA’s attorney more than once read the Court’s order to the Convention Delegates and he stated clearly that residency should not be used as a basis to disqualify an otherwise qualified Delegate.

    To my knowledge NO Delegate was denied a Delegate badge and the right to vote based upon residency at all. Several times during the Saturday session when Credentials Committee Chairman George Park was chairing the meeting, he repeated over and over that residency played no part in the Committee’s determination of the qualifications of a delegate to receive a badge and to participate in the voting. The Credentials Committee’s recommendations to the entire Convention were not based upon residency at all.

    I should add that the Court did NOT “assume jurisdiction” over CRA’s convention election as stated in the blog post you referenced. The term “assume jurisdiction” gives the connotation that the Court itself or through some appointed third party conducted the CRA Convention elections. The Court’s order did not do that.

    The Court also did not order that all delegates must be seated even if they failed to qualify as Delegates under CRA’s bylaws or, as has been noted in my earlier comments, when the Delegates and/or their Units utterly failed to cooperate in giving the Credentials Committee even basic information necessary for the Credentials Committee and the Convention itself to find them to be “otherwise qualified delegates.” The Court’s order did not say that.

    I hope this answers your question.

  7. For my friend Barry Jantz, I wanted to mention that the CRA complied with every aspect of the court order. I was one of the officers and organizers of the CRA Annual Convention, holding positions as Chairman of the Convention Rules Committee, Convention Parliamentarian, Chairman of the Bylaws Committee, Senate District Director for the First Senate District (a voting position on the CRA Board of Directors), etc.

    I ensured that every member of the Board received a copy of the court order and I personally read aloud from it at the Board meeting at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 15, 2011. I made the motion that was adopted by the Board of Directors to approve temporary Convention Rules that explicitly incorporated the TRO.

    As Chairman of the Convention Rules Committee, I made certain that every Committee member had a copy of the TRO, understood the TRO, and agreed to comply in good faith with the TRO. At my suggestion, the Convention Rules Committee unanimously adopted the temporary rules as the Committee’s recommendation to the Annual Convention. When the Convention Rules were adopted at the General Session at approximately 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, April 17, 2011, I presided over the Convention and I personally read from the TRO to the hundreds of delegates and guests assembled and I distributed numerous copies. The final Convention Rules, as amended by the General Session, explicitly incorporated the TRO, just as the temporary rules had done.

    As Convention Parliamentarian, I was privately or publicly consulted about many of the purported delegates who were rejected for accreditation by the Credentials Committee and by the General Session. In every single instance, with no exceptions at all, the reasons given for rejecting the person as a delegate involved violations of specific sections of the CRA Bylaws that were unrelated to the question of delegate residency. The most common problem was that there was no evidence at all that the person in question was a member of the local chartered Republican Assembly that he claimed to represent or was even a member of CRA. Based on what I saw, I believe that most of the individuals who were denied accreditation were not registered for the Convention and were not present. When present, the delegates who were challenged were allowed to speak and many of them were seated, based on their explanations to the General Session.

    I am pleased to report that no one ever sought to violate or challenge the TRO or any aspect of the court order, during what was otherwise a very contentious Convention. Specifically, no one present at the Convention ever took any public action to directly or indirectly disqualify or refuse to seat otherwise qualified delegates on the basis of the Board of Directors policy that was proposed on March 29, 2011, which policy concerned delegate residency. I cannot recall a single instance when the residency of delegates or purported delegates was mentioned or discussed. In some instances, residency might have been implied, such as when Karen England publicly admitted that she was (by her own account) still a member of the Placer County Republican Assembly when her name was submitted as a delegate for the Yolo County Republican Assembly. She also said that she was not present when the Yolo County Republican Assembly held its “election” for delegates and she had no idea when or where the alleged meeting was held. Even in such instances, residency was never actually stated or discussed.

    In closing, I should mention an unfortunate aspect of the TRO that made the Annual Convention more difficult than it should have been. Numerous local clubs allied with plaintiffs refused to provide any information at all to the Credentials Committee or the Convention. Some claimed to have been told that the court order prevented the Credentials Committee from gathering information relevant to the accreditation of delegates, such as which persons were actually members of their clubs, when they joined, and when they were elected or appointed as delegates. The CRA Membership Secretary, who was out of the country when the TRO was issued, publicly refused to provide membership information to the Credentials Committee, the CRA Board of Directors, and the Convention itself when she addressed the General Session on Saturday morning, April 17, 2011. Tragically, some delegates may have been denied accreditation because their own clubs and the CRA Membership Secretary both refused to provide any information or evidence about their eligibility to serve. Fortunately, in several instances (such as the Santa Clarita Republican Assembly, the North Butte Republican Assembly, and the Ladera Ranch Republican Assembly, all of which were allied with Karen England and plaintiffs), the delegates present provided the information necessary to ensure compliance with the CRA Bylaws and they were promptly seated, regardless of residency issues.

    Tom Hudson, Chairman
    CRA Convention Rules Committee 2011

  8. I’d like to thank both Craig and Tom for their detailed responses. We all appreciate you taking the time to address the issues in this public manner.

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