Northumberland County’s Republicans got to the bottom of their Christmas stocking Saturday night and found either a pony or ashes and switches, depending on their points of view.
After passing out awards to several members of the county committee, Patrick O’Brien, up until that moment chairman of the committee, announced that he and all the other committee officers were resigning effective immediately.
O’Brien said afterwards that certain members of the committee, who are also members of the Tea Party, have made it impossible for the group to effectively function.
They have disrupted a party mass meeting and three regular committee meetings, he said, most recently in October with the election looming.
At the October meeting, Don Johnson and Ron Herring started making points of order “even before we said the pledge,” O’Brien noted.
As best O’Brien could tell, they and others were insisting that having an agenda set out in the meeting’s call was contrary to party rules.
“They wouldn’t stop screaming, wouldn’t believe it was a requirement and refused to come to order,” O’Brien said. “I was forced to adjourn the meeting.”
Since party rules require admitting anyone who claims to be a Republican into the committee, O’Brien said that there is “no effective way to discipline people when they misbehave.”
In the announcement of the resignations, OBrien said that he and the other officers are forming The Northumberland County Independent Committee, whose membership will be by invitation and which will not be bound by the rules of the RPV.
“It will provide a home for Republicans, independents and conservative Democrats,” O’Brien noted.
Herring, who was as surprised as anybody else by the officers’ action, said Sunday that the committee’s problems have arisen because of O’Brien and his supporters’ refusal to follow party rules, which he blames on “the new ones who’ve come in and caused the problems.”
As to O’Brien’s departure, Herring said that it was “the best thing that’s happened in two years.”
“It’s time to let the dust settle,” he added.
County Democratic Committee chairman Bill Fleischman learned of the GOP blow up Sunday night and wasn’t able to speculate on what it will mean.
“I’ll just sit back and watch,” he said.
Before O’Brien’s blockbuster announcement, the county committee handed out awards, notably to James Harper, who, with his wife, Jean, started the local GOP committee back in the 70s when the pair and another couple were all that could be mustered for a GOP convention.
Carolyn Roy was given an award as “hostess with the mostest” for her work for the committee and Ginny and Jack Ritter were given an award recognizing her service as the committee’s treasurer for five years and his oversight of committee culinary matters such as its annual oyster roast.
The rest of the executive committee apparently met in what O’Brien called a “mutinous” secret meeting of which he wasn’t told and voted to award him recognition for his leadership between 2010 and 2012 and his “gloriously victorious re-election to the chairmanship.”
In addition to O’Brien, vice chairs Roy, Tippie DeLeo and Bob Jackson resigned, as did treasurer Ritter and secretary Hilary Derby.
The committee’s funds have been sent to the Republican Party of Virginia and all the signs identifying O’Brien’s Heathsville law office as the headquarters of the county committee were taken down Sunday.
O’Brien said the signs are stored and will be turned over to the committee upon request.