The following is a guest post written by LCRCC member Althea Cole as a follow-up to Friday's post, "The Meaning of Corruption."
The intention had been from the beginning to help out with my precinct at the 2016 Linn County Republican Precinct Caucuses.
I’m an elected member of the Central Committee. It’s my job.
It remains my job, regardless of my feelings about the chaotic mess that has been made of these caucuses by the leadership of the Linn County Republican Central Committee.
It doesn’t mean, however, that one should remain silent about the poor decisions made by our executive leadership during the planning of the 2016 Precinct Caucuses. I was always taught to speak up about things that are not right, and I’ve had plenty of opportunity to do so in the months, now weeks, leading up to February 1st.
It is not right that our caucus team has been instructed to cram 30 (yes, 30) precincts and 4,000 caucusgoers and guests into a single site location in downtown Cedar Rapids.
It is not right that many of the 80 well-placed locations our party used in 2012 have been taken over by the local Democrats, because our party and its leaders opted to ignore the pleas of past experienced caucus leaders, who begged our executives not to consolidate our 86 precincts into large, crowded locations.
It is not right that the caucus planning team was not opened to experienced, willing volunteers, or that the leader of the team has conducted the vast majority of its meetings as closed sessions, under what he described at the August 2015 meeting as his “singular authority” to do so.
And it is not right that instead of incurring dramatically lower costs by seeking caucus sites at more of Linn County’s 80+ public schools, LCRCC Chair Cindy Golding is reported to be seeking corporate donations to offset the staggering costs of running the caucuses in large, expensive locations. The Central Committee treasurer’s recent estimates show that the 2016 Linn County caucuses are projected to cost around $11,800.00, more than 37% over the $8,000 budget approved by the Linn County Republican Central Committee. (The downtown site alone is projected to cost $6,300.00, more than 75% of the total approved budget.)
Like many other dedicated volunteers on the Linn County Republican Central Committee, I’ve been very frank and unreserved with my opinion of the mess that has been made of the 2016 Linn County Republican Caucuses since the very beginning. But sooner or later, time runs out, are we are left with the circumstances we’ve been dealt. The show must go on. The show will go on. Come hell or high water, the 2016 Caucuses will happen on February 1st at 7:00, and as I said at the beginning of this essay, it has always been my intention to lead my precinct in the 2016 Republican Caucuses.
So, on Thursday night, I emailed our “records guy” to request a copy of the Republican voter registration records for my precinct. Our central committee pays a yearly fee of $200.00 to the Linn County Auditor’s office for all of the voter registration, which may then be disbursed to our members to start reaching out to potential caucusgoers.
Two hours later, I checked my email to see two responses.
The first was from our “records guy,” Bruce Bernier:
Several other LCRCC members have requested and received a list of their precinct Republicans.
In fact, I produced a master list of the registered Republicans in all of the county precincts and sent it to the Caucus planning team lead (Paul Pelletier), and all LCRCC officers in hopes that they could assist in getting such precinct lists disseminated. Any one of them can easily break out individual precinct lists from this master list.
I have copied them on this response to your note. They can accommodate your request.
The second response was from the Linn County Republican Central Committee Co-Chair, Brett Mason:
The last time we had any significant conversation was at the end of a meeting last year. You jumped to your feet and ran to the front after the meeting was adjourned, and you were screaming over and over that you felt I was corrupt more than anyone else ever.
Others commented that it was the best meeting we had held in over a year.
In such a context, I can see no manner in which any list could be provided to you which you could possibly trust. Regrettably I see no path forward for our committee to fulfill such a request. I am certain that you could possibly purchase a list - maybe from the County Auditor's office?
Now, regardless of the exaggerated manner in which Mr. Mason apparently chooses to recall the event in which I accused him of being “corrupt” (and yes, I did,) I must urgently point out:
It is not right that the Co-Chair, Brett Mason, chose, out of personal animosity, to deny a Central Committee member access to resources that were purchased for their use.
At the same time, I can’t help but be puzzled at Mr. Mason’s version of the event during which he claims that I was “screaming over and over” at him.
Surely, I would have been noticed by others if I truly were “screaming over and over.”
Luckily, I have a friend who collects a recording of all of the Central Committee meetings, and he has provided me with a copy, to which I recently listened, keeping an ear out for my own screaming voice.
The recording of the end of the October 20th, 2015 meeting plays out exactly how I remember the event itself. Caucus Team Lead Paul Pelletier receives questions about the upcoming caucuses, and although the recording cannot verify this, there are quite a few hands raised with more questions. Yet Mr. Mason, acting in the absence of the chair, interrupts Pelletier at the stroke of 8:30, saying, “Folks, it’s 8:30, we’re gonna call it on time,” and adjourns the meeting.
This act of ending the meeting before all caucus questions were answered--and before all caucus business had a chance to be completed--was, in my opinion, an act rooted in corruption. Not only did the Central Committee not have the necessary opportunity to be advised and informed of the caucus team’s progress, they also did not have the opportunity to bring forth any items of business related to the caucus, or provide any orders which the caucus team, and the Executive Committee, would be subject to carry out.
And when the committee as a whole is not in session, it is the Executives who have the power to do the business of the committee in the interim.
I would think that someone who has such an important task of executing the will of the Central Committee would want to continue the meeting until business is complete. I don't know how they could understand what business it is that they need to carry out if they don't have the opportunity to hear it from the committee as a whole and its subcommittees.
Each time our chair, or, in this instance, our co-chair, ends meetings abruptly without completing, or even addressing important business items, I can’t help but wonder if they intend for the Central Committee to be unable to instruct them on conducting their affairs, so that they may instead carry our their own agenda.
For those reasons, I did feel that Mr. Mason was corrupt in his actions that evening.
But regardless of what I think of Mr. Mason, or what he thinks of me, I repeat:
It is NOT RIGHT that the Co-Chair, Brett Mason, chose, out of personal animosity, to deny a Central Committee member access to resources that were purchased for their use.
Especially when it prevents almost 300 registered Republicans from hearing from their elected precinct representative about important changes to their upcoming caucus.
As for Mr. Mason’s insistence that I was “screaming over and over?”
While the recording of the Central Committee meeting indicates that several individuals were vocally upset with Mr. Mason for cutting off the meeting, my screaming female voice cannot be plainly distinguished.
I can, however, be faintly heard among a sea of other voices giving a stern admonishment to Mr. Mason, which I now find to be particularly ironic:
“You could do this better, and you are choosing not to…”
I deeply wish Mr. Mason would have considered these words and chosen to be better in his actions when he decided out of spite that the Executive Committee would not be providing me with the resources I need to contact the members of my precinct.
If that was not to be, I still wish that Mr. Mason would have chosen a better course of action when I presented him with this option in response to his petty obstinance:
“If you are to apologize for your egregious lapse in judgement and conduct, and assist me with obtaining the records to which I am entitled as a Central Committee member, I will consider this issue as one that needs no further attention.”
Were he to have done the right thing, it would have saved me a lot of time--and not just with writing this guest submission for Kentucky Dan.
It would also save me the money that I will have to spend on obtaining the precinct records myself if Mr. Mason enjoys continued success in preventing me from doing my job as a precinct chair.
But Mr. Mason is not the only Central Committee member with a choice, here.
I have a choice, too.
As long as I participate in politics, there will always be people like Brett Mason around. There will always exist boisterous egos over which to trip and hubris so thick one could slice right through it, courtesy of folks who prioritize power, control, influence, and the fulfillment of their own agenda over engaging the grassroots whose only skin in the game is their lives and their futures.
I must choose to be better.
I must choose to always be the grassroots.
Therefore, I will find a way to obtain the resources I need.
I will collect my fellow precinct committeeperson, and we will work together to engage and involve the members of our precinct in the upcoming caucus.
I’m an elected member of the Linn County Republican Central Committee.
And it’s my job.
****UPDATE: Miss Cole wishes to thank Linn County's "Records Guy" for helping her finally obtain the resources she was seeking, especially after The LCRCC Co-Chair reiterated his refusal to allow their provision in multiple follow-up statements.
Althea Cole is a volunteer for the Linn County Republican Central Committee, representing Cedar Rapids' 7th Precinct. She first got involved in politics during the 2012 Presidential election and hasn't given her brain a rest since.