The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 17, 2013

Vice chairman retains seat after raucous Limestone Republicans meeting

By Karen Middleton

— Limestone County Republican Executive Committee Vice Chairman Tony Llewellyn retained his seat in the local party at the conclusion of a two-hour closed meeting Tuesday night to hear evidence for his removal.

The executive committee went into closed session shortly after Chairman Ronnie Coffman convened the meeting at 7 p.m.

Coffman had earlier sent Llewellyn a letter saying he had received a resolution from member Brad Horner on June 27, asking for Llewellyn’s removal as vice chairman. He went on to say he had also received motions from both members Linda Wilson and Marianna Allen, requesting a vote of “no confidence” concerning the removal of Llewellyn.

Coffman, himself, also wrote that he was asking for the removal of Llewellyn as vice chairman of the executive committee, “due to verbal abuse to members of the current Steering Committee (calling them stupid and ignorant) if they do not agree with him.”

Coffman further wrote that Llewellyn made “aggressive attacks” toward members of the Executive Committee “screaming and yelling at them, very close to their face.”

Calm before the storm

The group traditionally meets for a social hour preceding the business meeting.

The meeting was held at 306 Barbecue on U.S. 72 East. Most attendees ordered dinner before the business meeting and the crowd appeared friendly and sociable. However, once Coffman opened the business meeting, the crowd turned raucous.

Member — or nonmember, depending on whose point of view — Rex Davis objected by calling a point of order on Coffman’s procedure in opening the meeting.

“Ronnie opened the meeting without a roll call,” said Davis. “Having a quorum is a basic requirement.”

Several people from the crowd began to call out that Davis had resigned and had no standing to object. Davis, a former vice chairman, said he verbally resigned in March, but his resignation had never been officially accepted and Coffman had asked him to stay on at the time.

“My resignation was not in the form of a motion; it was not voted on,” said Davis in response to a woman’s shouted comment that Davis had resigned.

Coffman countered by saying he had accepted Davis’s resignation.

Amidst the commotion one member made a motion for a roll call vote, but the motion failed for lack of a second.

Visitors and non-members of the executive committee waited outside the restaurant’s closed banquet room for more than two hours while the committee decided Llewellyn’s fate.

Wednesday, Llewellyn confirmed he would be staying on as vice chairman.

“I thank the numbers of people who came out in my favor and gave me vindication of what I was trying to do,” said Llewellyn. “When you are aware of the improprieties going on it is detrimental to the Republican Party. I don’t want that image to go out.”

However, Llewellyn would not elaborate on the “improprieties” of which he spoke.

“There’s a lot of great people — good people — who have worked their butts off and I don’t want to let anything detract from that. I want people to know that the Republican Party welcomes them with open arms and it’s time to come on home.”

Davis said Wednesday that, “The process is the problem.”

“The Steering Committee must report back to the committee as a whole and they didn’t,” he said. “Tony had raised that concern. Someone had also said that he was drunk at a meeting, and that wasn’t true. For the leadership to allow these charges to come forward was questionable.”

Following the platform

Coffman was guarded in a Wednesday phone interview, refusing to comment when asked if he felt that the issues with Llewellyn had been resolved to his satisfaction as a result of the two-hour closed meeting.

“Fifth District State Vice Chairman Harold Sachs was there,” said Coffman. “I talked to him. (The state Republican Party has) legal counsel and if they don’t know the answer, they ask the state’s attorney.”

Coffman said the Limestone County Republican Executive Committee follows Roberts Rules of Order, “unless it conflicts with the bylaws, then the bylaws will stand.”

When The News Courier asked Coffman how tolerant his organization is to members expressing conflicting points of view to the stated platform, Coffman said he “welcomes disagreement.”

However, Coffman said others should also tolerate him disagreeing with them.

“The way we look at it is we have a national level platform — things we’re for and things we’re against,” he said. “When people come in they know what we stand for. If they have differing opinions, they should possibly look for another party — the Democrats, maybe — or be an independent.”

When Davis was asked Tuesday evening if the contention in the meeting was usual, he said that issues have been known to become “emotional.”

“To say these are not good people would be wrong,” said Davis. “Personally, I feel that some people got their feelings hurt and now they’re going at it like children. They all think they are doing the right thing but when you attack someone with personal charges that’s wrong.”

Davis also said, “This kind of thing happens all over the state.” He said anger over the outcome of the last election had caused party members to turn that anger against one another.

But John Kay, political director, in the office of Alabama GOP Chairman Bill Armistead’s office, disagreed with that statement.

“No, that’s not true at all,” said Kay. “I was just at an Escambia County meeting Monday night and it went smoothly. Everyone got along. There is no reason to believe (county party organizations) are not getting along. I give no credence to the anger issue.”