Note: This is a post from the Webmaster, not Chairman Harnett
In the recent censure of the duly elected Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, did the Central Committee follow the rules?
This discussion will examine the applicable rules in light of the NCGOP Central Committee’s “No Confidence, Censure and Restriction of NCGOP Chairman” document released on March 20, 2016. The first paragraph of that document states:
The North Carolina Republican Party (NCGOP) Central Committee, in its duties to oversee the day to day management of the Party and to protect the Party’s integrity, passed a formal resolution of no confidence in NCGOP Chairman Hasan Harnett.
Let’s examine the relevant rules.
NCGOP Plan of Organization (PoO)
The Plan of Organization or PoO is NCGOP’s constitution and bylaws, setting forth in black and white how that Party’s business is to be conducted. A new plan (which might be just like the old plan) is adopted each year at the State Convention. In evaluating this controversy, it is a useful reference.
When reviewing the PoO for sections relevant to this issue, we first encounter paragraph 5.b on page 21, which says:
b. Procedure for removal of any Member or Officer is defined in Article VII A.7 The decision of the State Executive Committee shall be final.
Now the astute reader will notice that the above paragraph refers to the State Executive Committee, not the Central Committee. Keep in mind that there has been no request or recommendation from the Executive Committee on this matter. It is also relevant that the PoO defines the Executive Committee, not the Central Committee as having:
supreme management of all affairs of the Party within the State. It may delegate such duties as it deems proper
to the State Central Committee.
(Section 2 – Powers and Duties of Committee, page 19)
Was the action of censuring the Chairman delegated to the Central Committee?
The reader may also note that the citation refers to removal rather than censure. The PoO mentions no procedure for censure. Hold that thought, as we’ll discuss situations not explicitly covered by the PoO in a moment.
So, what does Article VII A.7 say? It’s on page 24. The relevant paragraph a.1 says:
a. Any Member of a Committee organized under this Plan may be removed either:
1. By a 2/3’s vote of the respective Committee after being furnished with notice of the charges against him, signed by the lesser of (i) 50 Members or (i) one-third of the Members of the respective Committee. Any Republican against whom charges are brought shall be furnished with 2 weeks notice of
said charges and be given an opportunity to present a defense. Removal by a vote of the respective Committee shall be confined to gross inefficiency, Party disloyalty (as defined herein) or failure to comply with the County, District, or State Party Plans of Organization.
Does the procedure defined above apply to removal of the chairman? The author finds that unclear. If it is assumed to apply, then we must ask:
- Was a notice of charges against the Chairman served?
- If so, was such notice served with 2 weeks notice?
- Did the charges therein fit those specified above?
- Was the Chairman given an opportunity to present a defense?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “no”, then the actions of the Central Committee were not compliant with the PoO.
The author finds the above citations to be the ones most relevant to the issue. There is no language specific to censure of the Chairman, or anyone else for that matter.
So, if there are no provision of the PoO that specifically apply, what do we do? Fortunately, the Plan of Organization spells that out for us. Paragraph VII.C.2 on page 30 says:
2. Parliamentary Authority
The current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised shall govern all proceedings, except when inconsistent with this State Plan of Organization or Convention Rules properly adopted.
Note that the above citation says “all proceedings”. As it does not say “convention proceedings” or “county executive committee meetings”, it clearly applies to all proceedings, which would include those of the Central Committee.
Which brings us to…
Robert’s Rules of Order
Robert’s Rules of Order is the short title of a book, written by Henry Martyn Robert, that is intended to be a guide for conducting meetings and making decisions as a group.
Originally published in 1876, it has been revised regularly through the years, including two major revisions, by Robert and his successors based on feedback from users. The most recent version is the 11th Edition published in 2011 under the name Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (abbreviated RONR).
As stated in the PoO citation above, Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised shall govern all proceedings. So, what do Robert’s Rules say about the current controversy?
In the third paragraph of section 75, we find the following:
In either case, the committee investigates the matter and reports to the society. This report need not go into details, but should contain its recommendations as to what action the society should take, and should usually close with resolutions covering the case, so that there is no need for any one to offer any additional resolutions upon it. The ordinary resolutions, where the member is recommended to be expelled, are (1) to fix the time to which the society shall adjourn; and (2) to instruct the clerk to cite the member to appear before the society at this adjourned meeting to show cause why he should not be expelled, upon the following charges which should then be given.
and in the fifth paragraph:
The clerk should send the accused a written notice to appear before the society at the time appointed, and should at the same time furnish him with a copy of the charges. A failure to obey the summons is generally cause enough for summary expulsion.
Was the Chairman given such notice?
Was the Chairman given an opportunity to show cause?
If the answer to either question above is “no”, then the Central Committee did not comply with Robert’s Rules of Order, as required by the PoO as cited earlier.
Edit 03/26/2016 1:20 PM EDT:
Robert’s Rules also states:
A deliberative assembly has the inherent right to make and enforce its own laws and punish an offender, the extreme penalty, however, being expulsion from its own body. When expelled, if the assembly is a permanent society, it has the right, for its own protection, to give public notice that the person has ceased to be a member of that society.
But it has no right to go beyond what is necessary for self-protection and publish the charges against the member. In a case where a member of a society was expelled, and an officer of the society published, by its order, a statement of the grave charges upon which he had been found guilty, the expelled member recovered damages from the officer in a suit for libel, the court holding that the truth of the charges did not affect the case.
Clearly, someone present at the Central Committee meeting, if not the Committee itself, made the decision to “go beyond what is necessary for self-protection and publish the charges against the member”, contrary to Robert’s Rules.
Which brings us back to the original question:
Did the North Carolina Republican Party Central Committee follow the rules in its censure of Chairman Hasan Harnett?