Leaders within the Smith County Republican Party will send a resolution to the Texas party advocating for the removal of the county chairman.
Twenty-eight members of the county party’s executive committee met at the Smith County Republican Party headquarters for more than an hour and a half on Thursday night to hold a vote on the issue.
Tension was palpable leading up to the meeting, as members of the executive committee trickled in and found their seats in the array of 49 chairs, with some complaining about the seating arrangement that other party leaders had set up.
The resolution to move forward with the removal process passed with a majority of attendees in a voice vote, according to county party Vice Chairman James Carter, who presided over the private meeting at the headquarters in Tyler.
The vote was the culmination of months of conflict within the county party, after one member asked Chairman Brent Thompson to resign in January, and, when he did not, 13 signed a letter to hold Thursday’s meeting to take the issue further.
The resolution, which the Tyler Morning Telegraph could not obtain before press time, seeks action against Thompson under one provision within the Texas Election Code and two provisions within the rules for the Texas Republican Party, according to a news release issued by supporters of the resolution.
The Texas Election Code provision involves removal after a county chairman abandons the office. Thompson has not been present for the past five consecutive meetings, according to group’s the news release.
The resolution seeks action under Texas Republican Party rules related to abandonment of office, and misbehavior in the office. The release says Thompson has not been transparent with the party's finances and that the locks were changed under his leadership and specifically denied to some individuals, among other things.
The Tyler Morning Telegraph has been unable to get in touch with Thompson via phone and email. His spokeswoman, Elisabeth Ayub, said Monday he is out of the country for his job in the oil business and has been kept there longer than expected due to the job and health problems.
Craig Licciardi, the spokesman for the group calling for his removal, said Thompson has not been communicative with members of the county party's executive committee for more than six months. He said no one is gunning for Thompson’s job, and that the issue at hand involves a lack of leadership.
A six-page list of grievances against Thompson circulated to party leaders prior to Thursday’s meeting alleges unpaid bills under Thompson’s leadership, inadequate training prior to the November election, interpersonal conflicts with longtime members, and failing to live up to expectations of Grassroots America–We the People Political Action Committee. The PAC had endorsed Thompson in 2016, when he unseated incumbent Tim McCormick.
“He stated he would raise $50,000 within six months of being elected, would grow the voter base, provide ongoing training for precinct chairs and GOP activists, be available for the media, send out news releases regarding key GOP issues, demonstrate active support of the Party platform, and give the Party visibility,” the document with grievances said. “The Grassroots America board of directors endorsed him, but he has failed in every promise.”
JoAnn Fleming, executive director of Grassroots America, sent out a news release Wednesday night saying the organization’s endorsements are not permanent. She was not at the meeting Thursday.
“I can state without reservation, that Mr. Thompson has made himself ineligible for any future endorsement from Grassroots America,” Fleming wrote Wednesday. "The board will contemplate future action in support of the Smith County Republican Party precinct chairs once we have had a chance to review all the facts.
“For us, this is about accountability, transparency, and the commitments Mr. Thompson made about how he would conduct himself if Grassroots America’s Board supported his election. He has failed on those commitments — period,” Fleming wrote.
Thompson’s spokeswoman Ayub issued a signed letter from him prior to the meeting. The letter described his efforts to increase racial and ethnic diversity within the Smith County Republican Party, including in the positions of vice chair, primary administrator, communications director and precinct chairs.
“There are some in our community who seek to rule by intimidation, harassment, threats and manipulation,” the letter said. “They seek to keep their establishment ways firmly entrenched in our county and are unwilling to welcome new individuals to the table. This has no place in the Republican Party of Smith County as all races, ages and genders are invited to work together toward a common goal.”
Thompson’s letter also says that he is away trying to secure a future for his family, that he has kept on top of county business during his time out of the country, and that “to say otherwise is untrue.”
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