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Debate persists over GOP applications in Upshur County

By Christina Lane
Sept. 22, 2011 at 10 p.m.

Some Upshur County Republicans believe already-indicted party Chairman Ken Ambrose could face official misconduct charges related to the upcoming primary election.

Republican Madaline Barber has been accepting candidate applications, acting as the party's secretary. Barber said she is the duly-elected Republican Party Upshur County secretary. Ambrose said she is not, and that any applications accepted by her might not be valid. Ambrose has filed a complaint against Barber with the Texas Ethics Commission saying Barber is misrepresenting herself.

"Be advised that your failure to post my notice to accept candidate applications on the Upshur County Commissioner's Court bulletin board opens you up to potential official misconduct charge(s)," Barber wrote in a letter to Ambrose, which she also provided to the News-Journal. "Furthermore, your failure to accept any applications I have received will prompt an immediate district court action against you under the new 'Loser Pays' law adopted by the 82nd Texas Legislature."

Ambrose already faces charges of theft of more than $1,500 and less than $20,000 and misappropriation of fiduciary property related to using the Republican Party's primary funds to pay for an attorney. His trial is slated to start Oct. 3 in Upshur County's 115th District Court.

Barber has said she would accept applications on three dates at the American Legion Hall on U.S. 271 across from Walmart in Gilmer while Ambrose is taking applications weekly at the Republican Party Headquarters in Gilmer. According to the Texas Election Code, candidate applications can be accepted by the party chairman, the party secretary or both.

At an organizational meeting in June 2010, Ambrose asked precinct chairmen to be sworn into office. Some of the precinct chairs refused and continued conducting business, including naming Barber as secretary, without Ambrose and the other chairs who went to be sworn into office present. The debate between the two Republican Party Upshur County factions has continued since that time as to whether Barber is the party's secretary.

Steve Findley, who serves on the state executive committee representing Upshur and surrounding counties, requested clarification from state Republican Party Assistant General Counsel Eric Opiela.

Opiela said in emails to Findley that the Republican Party of Texas rules do not address selecting a secretary; therefore, local by-laws govern the selection process.

"If (local by-laws) do not address this issue, then Robert's Rules would govern," Opiela said in the email.

Now, the two groups are arguing as to what are the true Republican Party Upshur County by-laws. On April 22, 2010 - prior to Ambrose taking office, but after he had been elected chairman in a runoff election - the county's Republicans met under then-Chairwoman Brenda Patterson's leadership. They suspended the by-laws - which Ambrose supporters say is not permitted under Robert's Rules of Order - and then amended the by-laws. The amended by-laws show the Republicans added officers to the party, including a parliamentarian, sergeant-at-arms and chaplain; took away the chairman's rights to call meetings and ability to act as the party's spokesman; and gave the secretary the authority to call meetings.

Ambrose contends the April 22, 2010, meeting was not properly called and therefore the amended by-laws do not govern the Republican Party. Barber and others in the Republican Party disagree and say the amended by-laws are in place. Barber, Cynthia Ridgeway and Blanton Dawson took Ambrose to court earlier in the year regarding them being duly-elected as precinct chairman. When Banner issued his judgment, he stated he was not providing a ruling on the party's by-laws or any other party business except to reinstate the elected precinct chairmen whom Ambrose had tried to replace when she refused to attend meetings.

Candidates can continue filing for precinct and county chair positions through Nov. 20. From Nov. 12 to Dec. 12, candidates can file for elected offices.



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