The row between Barry Peterson — who insists he remains Idaho Republican Party chairman over the objections of Gov. Butch Otter and the Republican National Committee — escalated Wednesday night when the party's Executive Committee elected interim officers.
Peterson said early Thursday that he was unaware of the meeting, which was described in an Wednesday night email by GOP general counsel Jason Risch, who has opined that the chairmanship has been vacant since the state convention adjourned Saturday without electing officers.
"I was in the office all day yesterday and nobody came to the office and said a word to me about the meeting," Peterson said, adding that he did speak with Risch about a Thursday night Rules Committee meeting.
Risch, however, 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 yesterday afternoon about it," Risch said Thursday.
Risch's Wednesday email says 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. The four represent both the party's tea party and establishment wings.
"The appointment of these individuals allows the day to day operations of the Idaho Republican Party to continue including the filing of the election (finance) reports," Risch wrote.
Sunshine reports are due to the Secretary of State today.
But Peterson stood his ground, saying the convention delegates only voted to adjourn after Convention Chairman and Congressman Raul Labrador said officers would remain in place for another two years.
"It's completely inappropriate and it's not within the rules that the Executive Committee can elect the officers," Peterson said in a phone interview as he drove to his Boise office shortly after 7 a.m. "And that only eight people would disenfranchise over 500 delegates by taking it upon themselves to vote the officers of the party rather than having the delegates do it!
"I just don't understand why they're so determined to run over the process," Peterson continued. "It's beyond me. We had the convention, they roped-a-dope around for over four hours so that the delegates couldn't vote."
Peterson questioned the legality of the meeting and said 10 days' notice are required. "I thought I was the chairman and the only officer authorized to call an executive committee meeting. Nobody called me about it at all."
Risch, however, said, "This is a big step toward unifying the party, once a chairman is elected by the State Central Committee hopefully we can move forward in a constructive manner."
Risch and the general counsel for the Republican National Committee agree Peterson's two-year term expired when the convention adjourned. Peterson, however, sought another opinion from former attorney general candidate Chris Troupis, who says Peterson remains in office.
The Rules Committee meets at 7 tonight at the Capitol to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, 20 Republican State Central Committee members have petitioned for an Aug. 2 meeting of the Central Committee to elect officers to serve until the next GOP convention in 2016.
Peterson said rumors that flew around Boise Wednesday that he was throwing out documents and preparing to quit were false. He said he tossed "a box of old junk" in the dumpster outside the Hoff Building.
"It was kind of a rat's nest of old and empty boxes and a broken chair and odds and ends," Peterson said. "We had people there and I said, 'Why don't we clean up around here and look a little bit more like we're presentable to the world?'"
Peterson said he plans to spend Thursday on the job. "I will be available to staff and the people at the office."
Risch told the Statesman that Article I, Section 8 of party rules allow the Executive Committee to temporarily fill the first and second vice chair; Section 11 authorizes the same for secretary and Section 12 for treasurer. The language mandating the chairman be elected by the State Central Committee is in Section 6, Risch said.
Risch's email follows:
-----Original Message----- From: Jason Risch firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Wed, Jun 18, 2014 8:12 pm Subject: Party Officers Reinstated
Executive Committee, et.al. -
As you are aware there was an executive committee meeting tonight dully called by several different committee members to address the vacancies in the various Party offices. A quorum was first established with 8 of 12 voting committee members being present. Motions were made, seconded, discussed and voted upon which placed the former officeholder back into office with the exception of a Chairman. As you know the rules do not allow for the appointment of Chairman and that issue will have to be resolved at a State Central Committee Meeting. Specifically: The following interim officers were elected to serve until the next State Central Committee meeting:
1st Vice Chairman: Mike Matthews 2nd Vice Chairman: Todd Hatfield Treasurer: Chris Harriman Secretary: Marla Lawson
The appointment of these individuals allows the day to day operations of the Idaho Republican Party to continue including the filing of the election reports tomorrow and Friday.
I would encourage everyone, even those who did not appear for the meeting, to accept these officers as an interim solution to the uncertain position the party has been in since the adjournment of the Convention. As members of the Executive Committee you are the collective Party leaders and all across the state the Party members look to you for guidance and will follow your lead. I applaud the committee for its hard work addressing this difficult task and their neutrality in appointing individuals from both perceived “sides” of the factions within the party. This is a big step toward unifying the party, once a Chairman is elected by the State Central Committee hopefully we can move forward in a constructive manner. I also appreciate the attendance of a few of the State Constitutional officers, their representatives and representatives form the Congressional Delegation.
Jason Risch IRP General Counsel
Jason S. Risch Attorney at Law
Risch Pisca pllc Law and Policy
407 W. Jefferson Boise, Idaho 83702
Telephone: (208) 345-9929 Facsimile: (208) 345-9928 E-mail: email@example.com Web: www.rischpisca.com