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State panel rejects second complaint from Upshur County's GOP chairman

By Christina Lane
Nov. 9, 2011 at 11 p.m.

The Texas Ethics Commission has rejected a second complaint filed by Upshur County's Republican Party chairman against a fellow Republican.

Chairman Ken Ambrose filed the complaint with the commission in October regarding Republican Madaline Barber accepting candidate applications as the party's secretary. Ambrose said Barber is not the party's secretary.

In September, the commission rejected Ambrose's first complaint related to the same matter, stating it did not "allege facts that the respondent (Barber) made a misrepresentation with the intent to injure a candidate or influence the result of an election."

The commission gave Ambrose the chance to resubmit his complaint, which he did. It was rejected in a letter to Ambrose and Barber dated Oct. 25, which Barber provided to the News-Journal late Monday.

"Chairman Ambrose swung too high in his first attempt to disqualify my position in the Republican Party Upshur County, and now he has swung too low by filing yet another non-compliant complaint against me with the Texas Ethics Commission," Barber said.

The commission said Ambrose's second compliant, like the first, "does not comply with the legal and technical form requirements for a complaint" with the commission.

"Please note that the allegations concerning whether the respondent (Barber) held or holds a position as secretary of a political party appear to be based, in part, upon the interpretation of one or more rules or by-laws adopted by a county political party," Assistant General Counsel Ian M. Steusloff for the commission wrote in his opinion."The Ethics Commission does not have the statutory authority to interpret the application of a rule or by-law adopted by a county political party that relates to the election or removal of an officer of a county political party."

Barber was among Republicans who, under former Chairwoman Brenda Patterson, revised party by-laws after Ambrose had been elected chairman, but before his taking office. The new by-laws say the party secretary is responsible for calling meetings of the Republican Party.

Further, at June 2010 organizational meeting - called by Ambrose - Barber and several elected precinct chairmen continued conducting party business as Ambrose and other chairmen went to be sworn into office by County Judge Dean Fowler. During the time Ambrose was being sworn into office, the precinct chairmen elected Barber secretary. Ambrose does not recognize her as secretary.

After that meeting, Barber began calling meetings as the party's secretary, which is permitted under the rules she and some Republicans acknowledge as the true by-laws of the party. Ambrose has not acknowledged or attended Barber's meetings, and has continued calling his own meetings. Barber does not attend meetings called by Ambrose.

Ambrose replaced the precinct chairmen who did not attend the meetings he called. Barber and two other Republican precinct chairmen sued, and Judge Paul Banner issued a judicial order earlier this year reaffirming that the duly-elected precinct chairmen held office and that Ambrose could not replace them.

The two party factions still do not attend each other's meetings. Ambrose included Banner's judicial order with his complaint.

"The judicial order you included with the complaint is silent regarding the respondent's position as secretary of a political party," Steusloff wrote.

"If you wish to resubmit the complaint, you must provide evidence that supports the allegation in a form other than the interpretation or application of the county political party rule, such as a judicial order declaring that the respondent was not the secretary."



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