WILLIAMSON — If county party executive committees are designed to promote unity at the local level, a meeting of the Mingo Democrat Executive Committee may have failed to meet that goal Friday.
Dissension and raised voices highlighted the meeting, called by Chairman Dick White for 4 p.m., Friday, in the county commission room at the courthouse. In the end, four motions were offered and none were approved by the committee. Finally, a motion to adjourn culminated the session, with no apparent official action being taken concerning poll workers. That was allegedly the purpose of the meeting, since White maintained a March 3 meeting to name poll workers should not have been held.
The chairman and some committee members who did not attend the March 3 meeting insisted the meeting was “illegal” because a “Code III” emergency had been declared. Media attempts to clarify exactly what a “Code III” emergency is and who has the authority to declare one were unsuccessful during the week. Eventually, the best officials could do was supply a definition of such an emergency under Ohio law.
So, committee members Friday debated the merits of the March 3 meeting as well as the legality of the emergency declaration and the March 14 session. Vice Chairman Freddie Newsome pointed out that, under state law, a county committee has until 70 days preceding the election to name poll workers. He and other allies on the committee insisted that date would be March 4. They also pointed to an election calendar from the secretary of state that appears to confirm that date.
White was alternately defiant and non-committal during the session that lasted nearly an hour. On occasion, he argued with committee members regarding the process and at other times he appeared to completely ignore those who stood up to make motions and offer seconds.
Newsome made the first motion, requesting that the committee agree that the poll workers selected at the March 3 meeting for five of the county’s seven magisterial district would stand. After the motion was seconded and White appeared to have no intention of actually taking a vote on the matter, a different motion was made to accept the new recommendations made for the two districts that were not included in the March 3 meeting.
Although White did not attempt to take a vote on either motion, he kept telling Newsome that the names of poll workers approved at the March 3 meeting had “already been submitted.” An executive committee must send names of nominees to the county commission, which actually employees the poll workers. At issue here was primarily the fact that representatives of five of the county’s districts were present March 3 and two were not. Thus, the meeting approved the names of workers in five districts and left two unnamed, in keeping with the tradition of only approving those names submitted by committee members.
While White and his supporters insisted that the “courthouse was closed for a Code III emergency” on March 3, others in attendance said they had no trouble getting to the building. County Clerk Jim Hatfield, a committee member, said he had a key to the front door “and I unlocked it and let people in.”
Marsha Maynard, who was absent for the March 3 meeting, insisted she had not signed recommendations made by the male member of her district, Ernest Williams, but eventually agreed that those named at that session were valid. The two districts that were not represented, Tug/Hardee and Lee, had no pollworkers named on March 3.
Secretary Lisa Kirk kept insisting that she was “afraid to come in this building with six people when a state of emergency was on and we have already had so much trouble,” apparently referring to local officials who have been named in federal fraud investigations.
Having not voted on the previous two motions and seconds, Kirk finally offered a motion to “close” the meeting, which was likewise seconded. White took no vote on that, either.
Debate continued, with attorney Della Cline-Gentile asking at one point if anyone had ever “heard of Robert’s Rules of Order”?
As committee members and others in the audience declared that White was “out of order,” the meeting drifted into chaotic debate by all of those in the room.
Finally, a motion to adjourn was offered, seconded and apparently approved by all in attendance.
When asked as he left the chair if no “official business” had been approved, White refused to respond to a reporter and stormed toward a side door. As the reporter followed, White opened the side door and slammed it shut on the reporter. Moments later, the sound of the door being locked was heard.
Earlier, when asked if he is a public official, White maintained he is not. When a reporter pointed out that White is chair of the Mingo Democrat Executive Committee and, thus, a public official, he questioned whether the reporter is a public figure as well. White also kept insisting that Democrat State Chairman Larry Puccio “wants to talk to you (the reporter)” since White alleged that “false information” had been printed in the newspaper.
Members of the committee quietly exited the meeting room under the watchful eyes of sheriff’s deputies and court marshals.