Kristi Dunn: Thrasher Needs to Correct Greer’s Mistakes
To some the arrest of former Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chairman, Jim Greer, may have come as a surprise. However, to some of us who have been fighting corruption within the RPOF, it was an absolution of our concerns and warnings.
As members of the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC), we often find ourselves in opposition to those within the party, because we stand for consistency and accountability. The RLC is a coalition of traditional conservatives and liberty-minded Republicans working within the Republican Party to promote individual liberty, less government and state and national sovereignty. We advocate for strict adherence to the United States Constitution in accordance with the original intentions of its framers. One thing that differentiates us from most conventional Republican clubs is that we are not afraid to hold our elected officials accountable and to point the finger at our own party in an effort to keep those who represent us, principle-oriented and value-driven.
Because of that stance, under Chairman Greer, local RLCer’s John Stevens and Will Pitts were removed from their positions in the Republican Party of Florida. While the grievances filed against them stated that they were attempting to disparage the Republican Party, they were actually seeking to remind others that, while to some it may seem that the Republican Party has lost its way, it was still the place for the conservative message.
The RLC has stood in opposition to Jim Greer since the 2008 election season. At that time, Greer began to threaten RLC members who were questioning his actions in the chairman position. This hostility extended into some of the local executive committees, including the St. Johns County Republican Executive Committee (SJCREC).
In 2008, John Stevens ran for state committeeman within the SJCREC. However, a week prior to the election, Stevens agreed to step down from his candidacy in return for an agreement with the SJCREC to stop their own ongoing harassment of RLC members who were calling for closer scrutiny within the RPOF.
In 2009, the agreement made by the SJCREC was proven to be meaningless, as the SJCREC moved to file grievances against Pitts and Stevens for their outspoken roles in calling for accountability within the party.
Greer, having the sole discretion to choose how to handle the grievances, removed every RLC member who’d had a grievance filed against them from around the state, as well as other members of the RPOF.
Shortly after this purge, others finally began to heed the warnings of the RLC and began examining Greer’s dealings closer. Finally in December 2009, after months of investigations, and mounting evidence of Greer’s corruption as chairman, members of the RPOF State Committee and several donors called for a meeting in early January 2010 to vote to remove Greer from RPOF.
With a vacancy for the chairmanship, John Thrasher appeared as a likely successor. However, in order to be eligible to run for this position, Senator Thrasher needed a seat on the state committee. The SJCREC resolved this by having then state committeeman Jon Woodard resign his position so Thrasher could take that post and be eligible to run for RPOF chairman. At the meeting in which Thrasher was elected, the SJCREC conveniently cleaned their ranks of supposed “ineligible” members, which just happened to include RLC member Cliff Johnson.
Mr. Johnson was told that he had missed too many meetings and was therefore denied a voice and a vote in the Thrasher election. The situation escalated when the officers of the SJCEC could not provide proof that he failed to meet the attendance requirements. Mr. Johnson has since been able to prove his removal was done under false pretenses and the SJCREC had no choice but to reinstate him into his elected position as a Republican Precinct Committeeman.
While many of the details were never relayed regarding that meeting and the events surrounding Thrasher’s election, it should be noted that the RLC had contacted SJCREC Chairman Harlan Mason on the way to the meeting to confirm attendance. At that time Cliff Johnson and other RLC members were told they would be welcomed, only to be denied entry upon arriving.
The night of the State committeeman vote, I was told that only members were allowed in the meeting during the vote. However, this was not true, as various members of other RECs found themselves easily accepted into the room, and rather conveniently found jobs or titles that afforded them the luxury of breaking the same rule that was being used to keep Johnson, myself and other RLCer’s out of the meeting.
The events of that night led to a massive uproar and a great deal of name calling and slanderous statements regarding myself and the other RLCer’s that were present at that meeting. However, after several months of asking to see the records that the SJCREC had used to exclude Johnson, he was finally allowed to view them.
Simply viewing the records proved that he had in fact not been in violation of the SJCREC attendance requirement, and should not have been removed from his position (and subsequently denied his right to vote).
Thrasher easily won the election for RPOF chairman. While the RLC (and myself personally) have been vocal opponents of Senator Thrasher (since last year’s special election to fill the beloved Jim King’s seat), we were excited to hear Senator Thrasher’s acceptance speech. In his speech, he stated that his goal was to bring the party together. Soon after, Chairman Thrasher met with Will Pitts and John Stevens, promising to look at the grievances and rulings issued against them by Chairman Greer. He assured Pitts and Stevens he would look into the matter of reinstating them, as well as other members of the RPOF who had been purged during Greer’s time as chairman.
Fast-forward to the events of recent weeks. With Greer’s arrest, we have learned that nearly the entire administration of Chairman Greer has been corrupt from the beginning. The RLC feels wholly vindicated now that our calls for accountability have proven viable. The RLC will continue to call for principles before party, even when powerful members of the executive committees oppose such a stance.
We (the RLC) have experienced severe opposition at various points over the past two years. (Including, the events that denied Johnson entry to the State Committeeman vote). We are encouraged that many rank and file Republicans are beginning to understand that the RLC has consistently stood for transparency and accountability, and has a now proven valid purpose.
We are all hoping that the Republican Party of Florida will see much brighter days ahead. We hope that, with the corruption finally exposed, our members that stood against it will be reinstated.
For now, we would like to use this time to again implore Chairman Thrasher to keep his word regarding looking into reinstating Stevens, Pitts and the other Republicans purges under the Chairmanship of Jim Greer.
(This editorial originally appeared in the July print edition of the Jacksonville Observer Monthly. Pick one up today!)