A majority of Idaho Republican Party committee members said Thursday night at a special meeting that GOP delegates knew, by voting to adjourn last weekend's contentious state convention, that they were in essence voting to leave the party officers and platform in place for the next two years.
The Rules Committee also voted that Wednesday night's Executive Committee meeting, at which some interim party officers were elected, was invalid. And it declared that the party followed the rules by extending Barry Peterson's term as chairman.
"It is no different than the call of an umpire during a game," said Chris Troupis, a lawyer and former tea party candidate who challenged Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in the GOP primary.
GOP general counsel Jason Risch couldn't disagree more. He said early in the week that the party offices were left vacant since there was no election held at the convention - a legal opinion shared by the Republican National Committee.
Risch did not attend Thursday night's meeting to contest the proceedings. He did send Peterson a letter in the afternoon, saying he could not "attend a meeting you attempted to call as the chairman. My attendance alone would serve to undermine my legal opinion and validate your status. You lack the authority to call any meeting."
Contacted by the Statesman, Peterson sounded surprised by Risch's statements but did not respond, beyond calling them "interesting."
Idaho's Republican convention descended into chaos and infighting last weekend, and delegates ended up adjourning Saturday afternoon without voting on a platform or chairman. Peterson was facing challenges from technology businessman Doug Sayer and Blackfoot sheep breeder and political activist Michael Duff.
On Thursday, Committeeman Trent Clark argued that the vote to adjourn itself was invalid, since the legitimacy of some of the delegates was in question. Therefore, any extension of terms would be invalid, too.
"I don't have a legitimate vote because I don't have the denominator," he said. "I don't have one out of what, or two out of what."
Grant Loebs, a committee member from Twin Falls, argued that accepting Troupis' argument would mean that a chairman can do whatever he wants at a convention, even if he is wrong, and it will still stand.
"Let's go to a Central Committee meeting," Loebs said. "Bring all your folks. Let's see if we win or lose."
Committee member Bryan Smith countered that the will of the larger number of people at the convention should be respected.
It remains to be seen what, if anything, the action Thursday will settle. Loebs' interpretation is that the rules panel is advisory and its actions cannot bind the Central Committee. He offered a failed motion that would have recognized his opinion.
Enough members have petitioned to hold a Central Committee meeting to force one under party rules. No date for that meeting has been set, although Aug. 2 has been floated.
Peterson told the Statesman on Thursday that he was unaware of Wednesday night's meeting, which was described in an email by Risch.
Risch said Peterson was informed. "Barry was absolutely invited to the meeting, he was on all the email notices - in fact, I personally talked to him ... about it," Risch said Thursday.
Risch's email said eight of the 12 Executive Committee members met and voted to retain four officers but not a chairman: First Vice Chairman Mike Mathews, Second Vice Chairman Todd Hatfield, Treasurer Chris Harriman and Secretary Marla Lawson.
Dan Popkey and Kristin Rodine contributed to this story.