Today is the day that a group of delegates, who felt that they were treated unfairly, will attempt to reconvene the Scott County GOP Convention. Kevin Hall over at the Iowa Republican has two articles on this topic, one on RPI Chairman AJ Spiker’s responseSCC member Jeremiah Johnson’s plea to delegates to reconvene the convention. As a former chair of county, district and state convention rules committees I want to weigh in on this issue. To be fair I should point out that as a member of the State Central Committee, Scott county is neither in the district that elected me (the old 2nd) nor the district that I now represent (the new 1st). Of course the opinions expressed here are my own and I do not speak for RPI or the SCC.
I was not at the Scott County Convention. I was busy chairing the platform committee at the Linn County Convention. I have however heard from people at RPI and delegates who were at the convention. I also had a brief phone conversation with Jeremiah Johnson last night to discuss what happened and his letter to delegates. The two primary grievances that the group who want to reconvene have seem to be: 1) The conventeion never elected a permanent chair. 2) The handling of the report of the nominating committee
Electing a Permanent Chair
While Robert’s Rules of order call for a convention to elect a permanent chair, the proper remedy for a violation of this or any other rule is for a delegate to object by rising on a Point of Order. The time to remedy the situation was on the day of the convention. Personally I do not see reconvening the convention as necessary or appropriate to remedy this issue. The group has a point but they also had a responsibility to know the rules and attemp to correct the situation during the convention.
The Nominating Committee
If there is one thing I have learned this election cycle it is how byzantine a system we have in our several counties of electing district and state convention delegates. It seems no two counties do it quite the same way. One of the challenges for the new State Central Committee (elected at the April 21st District Conventions) will be to determine whether the State Party should define a uniform procedure for electing delegates to district conventions.
The procedure for electing delegates falls under, the Code of Iowa, RNC rules, RPI Constitution and Bylaws, County GOP Constitution and Bylaws and rules adopted at the convention and Robert’s Rules of Order (RONR). Since I was not at the convention I cannot comment on everything that happened but talking to multiple eyewitnesses it seems that there were some clear violations of RONR in the handling of nomnation and election of delegates.
According to RONR (11th Edition §46 pp.434-435) the report of the nomination committee is not something that is approved or amended. It is simply to place certain names into nomination. The section further states:
I have not read the Scott County GOP Constitution & Bylaws nor have I read the rules adopted by the Scott County Convention. Unless they state otherwise Robert’s Rules is the controlling authority.
The problem that I have is … what to do about it. RONR provides a mechanism for delegates to raise points of order when rules are not being followed. There is even a procedure for REMOVAL FROM OFFICE AND OTHER REMEDIES FOR DERELICTION OF DUTY IN OFFICE OR MISCONDUCT. (RONR 11th Edition §61 pp.65-653). All of the remedies provided in RONR call for action by delegates when the offense occurs. I have been somewhat surprised that in counties where there was advance concerns about procedures at convention neither side appears to have come to the meeting armed with a good knowledge of the rules. In some cases, convention leadership has ignored the rules and acted (mostly out of ignorance) like dictators. In other cases delegates have abused the rules (also out of ignorance) and caused disruptions.
I do not know what the right solution is for Scott County (and I am simply an observer so I have no authority inthe matter) but I am inclined to believe that the time for remdial action was at the convention and that today’s effort is a waste of time.
The moral of the story is that our district and state convention chairs must be capable of fairly and impartially running the meetings in compliance with RONR and all other applicable rules. We must also have parliamentarians who are committed to provide competent, accurate advice to their respective chairs. Parliamentarians must realize that their proper role is advisory only, they cannot make or overrule rulings. Parliamentarians must also relaize that thier responsibility is to the convention, not to the chair or a particular faction. They should also be willing to fairly give advice on parliamentary issues to delegates.
As one who has chaired a large nuber of meetings and conventions I know this. When everyone agrees and there is little controversy, the chair can be somewhat informal in the enforcement of the rules. In the charged environment of our 2012 Caucus to Conevntion cycle our district and state convention chairs must be absolutely rock solid in their knowledge and enforcement of the rules.
To convention delegates I would say
[[Note: The Scott County Convention rules specifically adopt an archaic version of Robert’s Rules, Roberts Rules of Order, Revised as its parliamentary authority. This version became out of date in 1970 and has been superceeded by 6 subsequent editions. The current and authoritative version is Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, published September 2011. All citations in this post are from the current version but the relevant sections are largely unchanged from the older version.]]