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Republican vs. Republican: Judge Craig Denies GOP Insurgents’ Induction in Flagler’s REC

| April 25, 2012

Unhappy Republicans bring a quorum to Flagler County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Craig's courtroom this morning. (FlalglerLive)

Last Updated: 1:25 p.m.

Nancy Prizer did not like Debbie Laury. Nor did she like many members of the Flagler County Tea Party Group. She wanted to keep them out of the Flagler County Republican Executive Committee, which she headed. She’d made that clear to Deborah Baril, the committee secretary, who testified in court this morning of the REC’s “deep-felt hatred of Debbie Laury” and her husband Glenn. “I was never to discuss the Laurys again,” Baril said, recalling a conversation with Prizer.

The Laurys sat in court this morning, as did several dozen Republicans, old and new guard, each on one side of the courtroom (the new guard outnumbered the old), in their first direct encounter before a judge since the new guard filed suit against the REC in February. Prizer was not there: she resigned as head of the local REC last month.

It’s an unusual case, revealing of internal matters and disputes usually kept secret from the general public–and especially revealing of a deep strain coursing through Republican organizations across the country, not just in Flagler: tea party insurgents and other similar offshoots, who are overwhelmingly Republican, are upending the way traditional Republican organizations define themselves. Some members of the Flagler executive committee tried to resist the change. Several members of the new guard had applied for membership in the REC. They’d been denied entry, according to court papers, ostensibly because Prizer did not want them there. (See background on the case here.)

The insurgents recoiled, pressed their case through various means, and failing official induction, opted to sue, hiring Palm Coast attorney William Bosch to make their case. Today they were seeking an injunction from the court, essentially to formalize the group’s entry in the Republican committee. In simpler terms: they were asking Craig, the judge to rule their membership official.

An attorney representing Prizer was in court, mainly to stress that because of Prizer’s resignation, her involvement in the suit is moot. Emmett “Bucky” Mitchell, the Republican Party of Florida attorney, took part on behalf of the state party by phone, from Tallahassee. Bosch was there in person.

And after almost three hours, Craig denied the insurgents’ request for an injunction.

“The realistic and ultimate result of that remedy would be effectively appointing 30 members to the Flagler County Republican Executive Committee,” Craig said, pausing a long time. “The court would note that this in and of itself may or may not be successful as part of the declaratory action in the case, but would be an extraordinary remedy within a motion for a temporary injunction, and having heard no legal authority from the plaintiff supporting this type of relief being requested in a temporary injunction, the court does not feel that this particular relief in this particular injunction would be appropriate.”

Debbie Laury, with her husband Glenn, in court today. Click on the image for larger view. (FlaglerLive)

Much of the case so far this morning revolved around the particulars of REC meetings (and one meeting in particular, on Oct. 12, 2011), Prizer’s and other members’ conduct relating to rules of order, and whether or not those rules were followed–as when Baril described from the stand how an attempt to induct many members was derailed when Pat Sullivan, a Prizer supporter, walked out of the meeting she was chairing. Baril said she had not adjourned the meting.

“Yes she did,” several people in the audience said, out loud.

That drew an immediate rebuke from the bailiff and the judge. “Any talk from the audience, you’re going to have to remove yourself from the courtroom. I don’t want to hear that again,” Craig said.

Baril clarified that Sullivan had not gone through the steps required to officially adjourn the meeting. The detail is key to the insurgents’ case that what followed–a unanimous vote inducting many insurgents into the REC–was proper. But the state party has not recognized those motions. Laury said all that would be needed is for official ratification of an October meeting’s minutes for the new membership to be recognized.

Mitchell disputes the court’s role in this case. “The court really has no authority to regulate the internal affairs of a political party, in this case the Republican Party,” he told the court by phone. He said the local, potential members had not filed a grievance with the state Republican party to resolve the dispute, a claim the local insurgents contest. “We have no record of a grievance being filed with the state party that would have addressed this issue, so we feel court involvement at this point is premature, and unwarranted,” Mitchell said.

Whether a grievance was filed or not is itself in dispute. The state party says none was. Laury said local Republicans did file grievance papers. But, she added, she was also aware of a similar grievance case in Volusia County that took three years, and still hasn’t been entirely resolved. In the midst of an election year, she and the class members she represents have no such time. “What chance did we have of going the grievance route,” she said in court, “and therefore decided it would make sense to seek the advice and counsel of an attorney.”

To Mitchell, it was key that the grievance route had not been officially taken. But Craig let the case carry on, but he also focused his questions to Laury on the grievance process. He appeared, soon after noon, to be looking to give the court a way out of making a direct ruling on the membership of Laury’s class, at least for now.

Craig kept asking Laury if she was allowed to attend REC meetings. She is. He asked her if she had ever been excluded from a meeting. Absent from a meeting held at a gated community, she hadn’t. He asked if Pat Sullivan, the current chairman of the REC, had ever told her she could not participate. “Not in so many words,” Laury said, “but if looks could kill I’d be dead.”

That drew a gentle rebuke from the judge, who asked Laury to keep it factual. He was just about through with his questions to her, however.

In her testimony, Debbie Laury–an eloquently forceful advocate for the insurgents’ case–spoke of inexplicable and at times rude resistance from Prizer to the potential new members’ entry into the executive committee. Citing from a binder with about two inches’ worth of documents, she testified about local committee and party rules that, she said, supported her case for entry into the committee.

Rather than bring every one of the three dozen-odd member of the “class” of REC applicants Laury is representing, Bosch called Laury’s husband, Glenn, to the stand to speak for the class. When asked if he’d heard why he had been denied membership, he said no: he’d simply been denied. The only question Mitchell had for him was whether he’d filed a grievance, which prompted a sardonic reply from Laury, who described a letter sent Sen. John Thrasher emblazoned with the word “grievance” to catch his attention.

Robert Smith, a local activist with the REC and Bosch’s last witness, testified of speaking of that later with Thrasher, on numerous occasions. In a stunning redirect from Mitchell, the RPOF attorney asked Smith: “Are you aware that the Laurys’ attorney is not a registered Republican?” That drew groans of displeasure from people on the benches—and a request from Bosch to the court that Mitchell be admonished.

Craig then moved toward closing the hearing, just before granting the attorneys a chance to close, by suggesting that the REC should have an opportunity to be represented in the case. But it had to be represented by a lawyer. Craig went as far as asking if REC members had a lawyer among them. They didn’t. He then invited Bosch to make his closing argument, pressing him on the question again: “Why is the grievance procedure not an adequate remedy?” Clearly, the burden was on Bosch and his clients to show that they had exhausted all means of relif short of court action.

Bosch spoke of a “pattern of years of neglect” regarding such complaint. “We have demonstrated that there’s been a complete lack of absence and response to anything that we have requested in regard to correcting the situation,” he said. Therefore, he said, the grievance procedure is not a remedy. (One unspoken point: the grievance procedure itself is controlled by the state party–in other words, the umbrella organization over the local Republican Executive Committee, which may have an interest in delaying a quick resolution of the grievance, if it were formally filed.)

Craig, in a sustained questioning of Bosch, appeared unconvinced that the non-members were denied participation in the REC, short of voting on particular business, again revealing the judge’s discomfort with taking the unusual step of “appointing members to the executive committee,” as Craig put it. “You are asking the court to take an affirmative action,” Craig said. Ordinarily, he said, injunctions are requested “to keep the status quo in place.” That’s not the case here, Craig said. Naming people to the committee is not status quo. “Aren’t we putting the cart before the horse by asking for that specific relief at this stage of the proceedings?” he asked Bosch. He then cited law to illustrate the court’s limitations. “What authority does the court have to effectively name members to the executive committee?”

Bosch made a key distinction: the court would not be naming members to the committee, but it would be asserting that the committee had not followed rules set forth by its constitution and procedures. The court, the attorney said, is not defining those rules, let alone writing or prescribing them, but would merely acknowledge that the October meeting’s conduct was, in fact, valid, and the nominated members legitimate REC members. “I’m asking you to recognize a decision made by the REC on a temporary basis, until we can have a full hearing,” Bosch said.

“The party cannot ignore their own rules. Not that they can’t set their own rules. But once they set them, they must follow them,” Bosch continued, “and as a result of that, my clients have been disenfranchised, have been damaged.”

“This court has actually made a lot of my arguments for me,” Mitchell said in his closing arguments. He elicited laughter from the people in attendance when he said that the party “welcomes new members.” Mitchell repeated his original point: the court has no role at this point in the issue.

In his own closing, Craig agreed that “time is of the essence,” and so expedited the case, but noted that the REC was not heard from or afforded the opportunity to present evidence. But he left no doubt about his decision, confirming where he’d leaned throughout the hearing.

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19 Responses for “Republican vs. Republican: Judge Craig Denies GOP Insurgents’ Induction in Flagler’s REC”

  1. B. Claire says:

    Are you kidding me….again….

    * According to the USDA, over 16 million children lived in food insecure (low food security and very low food security) households in 2010.

    * One out of 45, approx 1.6 million children go to sleep without a home of their own ea. yr [homelesschidrenamerica.org]

    etc. etc. etc.

    …and you Republicans are wasting our terribly diminished county funds, and Flagler County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Craig’s valuable time… on THIS petty, whiny cat fight?!

    Its bad enough you’ve caused:

    Positive ratings for Congress in the single digits where they have been for the past year.

    Now you’re trying to bring this stupidity right to our door step??

    • C. Blair says:

      Are you kidding me…again…..

      Since 16 million children live in food insecure households, maybe its time to stop sending food over seas and to Haiti and a few hundred other places that receive our “human kindness”. Perhaps you B. could maybe feed a few thousand yourself. And while your at it, take in another five thousand and pay for their well being…….Yep, that figures. All talk, NO BITE !!!!

      • Thomass says:

        Just like a republican to complain about providing food to hungry people no matter who or where they are. Guns ,bombs & soldiers that’s what republicans like to supply. “OBAMA 2012″

  2. Sherry Epley says:

    Excellent comment B. Claire! How incredibly hypocritical that Tea Party members would use the very laws and system they want thrown out to force their way into the Republican Executive committee! First the story about the push for higher taxes, and now this. . . so what does the Tea Party stand for again? Hummm. . . could that be lower taxes and less regulation . . . but just for their inner circle, and when it suits their particular agendas. In my mind, they are the worst of the worst. . . or so gullible that they can’t see how they are being manipulated.

  3. B. Claire says:

    C. Blair,

    That retort will now be the Webster Dictionary example, demonstrating a discourse level which results in a T-party driven ‘single-digit approval Congress.’

    Good work!

    • Tammy says:

      My husband and I were at that meeting and a part of it. We are NOT tea party activist! We are a group of local republicans that want to join the local Republican Executive Committee but are being kept out for unknown reasons. 

  4. C. Blair says:

    The GOP will take the House and Senate. And we will finally have another Republican president who will end this liberal nightmare that America has been in for the last 3 years. Put that in your Webster Dictionary.

  5. Dorothea says:

    The t-party appears to have an agenda to get itself injected into the power base of local political parties.. Once there they can get their members into local, state, and national offices under the guise of less government and lower taxes. Their track record, however, is an insane drive to bring our country and the Republican party, in particular, back to a 19th century social mentality. Only the gullible could believe otherwise.

    The t-party cannot achieve their true objectives if rational members of both parties don’t get involved in their local party membership. Wake and get involved before it’s too late and the t-party takes over the country.

  6. B. Claire says:

    p.s. reason: The polls all essentially tell the same story: women, blacks, and Latinos still overwhelmingly favor the president…NOT candidate Thurston Howell III…

    can’t demand

    mandatory trans-vaginal probes & ultrasounds of women
    and
    ‘show me your papers’ of Latinos

    and win the Presidency of the United States.

  7. NortonSmitty says:

    I’ve seen this movie! Dumb and Dumber I think it was called.

  8. Maryjoe says:

    The people involved are NOT tea party activists. I’m not, Tammy isn’t, her husband isn’t, my husband isn’t, the Laury’s aren’t, the other gentleman (who’s testimony wasn’t even mentioned in the article) isn’t. As a matter of fact, he was a very vital active part of the Republican committee in NY for YEARS, came down here and denied entry onto the REC for no reason. It’s been a pattern of the REC to deny entry to those they ‘don’t know’ or who don’t agree with their small group’s ideas. The REC is supposed to be comprised of people that live in the community, allowing for two reps from each numbered pr as well as two alternates (which runs along different specifications than voting districts,) so there can be a concerted effort across the City to get the vote out and get Republicans motivated on the issues…as well as getting ‘independents’ to understand that in this county, because of how primaries are run, they have no say on what is happening in their lives if a primary is not closed. There at 35 precincts. A fully staffed REC would be 120 people. At this time there are approximately 20 members, some of whom are not active. That leaves apprx 80% of the precincts not represented. There is a lack of minority representation on the REC. And THAT is the point. THAT is the issue. It is NOT tea party people trying to infiltrate. Those of us that have been denied entry into the REC are fighting for our civil rights and fighting for the REC to do the job they are supposed to do, file the papers they are supposed to, follow the rules/regs/bylaws/constitution set up by the Republican party so the REC can function the way it should and become a vital organization representing Republicans across this city..not just those living in Grand Haven and the east side. The only ones that could possibly have any pleasure in seeing what is going on would be members of the Democratic party but even they should have an issue with civil rights being denied.

    .” But in any event is was a good day for the FCREC as far as I am concerned and the “contrarians”, Laury’s /plaintiffs, did not make any headway.” is what was sent out in an email by the Chair of the FCREC. How terribly sad they find joy in the fact they have denied entry onto the REC by Republican citizens of this county. How terribly sad that anyone with that attitude is chairman of the REC or chairman of any organization.
    It’s not over. It probably won’t be over until well after these up coming elections. What a terrible disservice they are doing. But… those of us that have been denied are doing our part outside of their little closed group. One day we’ll have a functional REC, it just won’t be in the near future.

  9. Trey Corbett says:

    Mark Twain: “I read it in the paper…it must be true,” This is Samuel demonstrating that you can’t believe everything you read. I respect all opinions-anonymous or not. However, I would ask that the political discourse not be so polarizing. However, I wish to clarify my position, which is shared by many whom FlaglerLive reports as Tea Party activists.
    While it remains true that the concentric circles of a Venn diagram would find overlapping ideology, the rift between the conservatives in this matter exists without any parallel to the Tea Party. It is not unlikened to the following scenario: If the local Democratic executive committee had a small number of members who wanted no other liberal volunteers to join, and there were 300% more people ready to volunteer their time holding up signs and walking neighborhoods to assist in spreading the gosbel liberalism. Now lets say that some left leaning individuals started a “Coffee Party.” Furthermore, without respect to this coffee party, some of the individuals were in the same group. The two remain mutually exclusive. If there were Vietnam fighter pilots and veterans of the democratic party for decades before the “coffee” party even existed, and they wanted to aid their party locally but were kept out by a small number of stubborn and change hating people, then you would not mention the coffee party and would be a proponent of allowing these fine democratic Americans to gain entry to the local Democratic Executive Committee. Conversely, that is precisely the situation with our local party.
    The local republican volunteers only desire entry into the state sanctioned and recognized REC. We don’t yell, scream and drool with antipathy to all those who possess a different idealogy. We realize there exists a dichotomy between the two ideologies. Rather than raise our voices in anger or antipathy, we prefer to inteligably reinforce our arguments with salient rationalities and truths from our respective perspectives.
    As a Christian, Paul says “…we are all one body in Christ.” In making this statement, some may spin on me that I am none tolerant of anyone who does not share my theology. However, my point in making the statement is that many Christians are liberals and many are conservatives. I love them all the same and would not hesitate to pull a mother and child from a burning car if they had an Obama sticker on the bumper.
    As an Army veteran, I wish to live in a county and country in which peaceable discourse remains the norm. I remember speaker Tip Oneal and Ronald Reagan disagreeing as gentlemen politically yet, after presenting their arguments, compromising for the good of the country. I hope our county can do the same. As a defender of Freedom for all, I wish to live where people vote regardless of affiliation to party. No country progressed Freedom as has America. As a veteran, I cringe when someone says they are not registered to vote. People!!!! Vote! The price for this right is and has been paid for by the blood of those whom you love.
    My friends, this is the attitude with which I will lead if elected by YOU to Supervisor of Elections. If it resonates with you, please “vote Trey election day.” If it does not, choose someone else. But please vote.

    Have a great day everyone–regardless of you political leanings!
    –Trey Corbett

  10. BW says:

    I have to agree that this type of thing should not be wasting our court’s valuable time. This is internal bickering by a private group and they should resolve it privately.

    On a larger note, this is exactly the type of thing that the State level party should jump in on and squelch because it is not good press for the Republican brand. C. Blair, if you in fact want your team to win I suggest standing up and demanding this type of internal bickering be cut out and definitely not played out in the public. Republican is Republican is Republican which is what was desired and what was created. The bad thing about that is that the brand overall has to always be protected. Democrat is different because although President Obama is a Democrat the real brand there is Obama.

    Enough damage has been done to the brand of Republican over the last few years at their own hands. It’s time to realize that the all those fingers that are pointing . . . there are 3 pointing right back at you.

  11. Sherry Epley says:

    Another account of that October meeting sounds like an attempted coup. . . this from the phoenixnetwork:

    on Oct. 12, when several prospective new members were to be admitted to the executive committee, Prizer and her vice chairman, Pat Sullivan, attempted to thwart the induction by leaving the meeting before that business could be conducted. Linda Obsorne and Frank Meeker (the Palm Coast City Council member) also walked out.

    At that meeting, Bill McGuire, a member of the committee (and another Palm Coast City Council member) moved to induct Glenn and Debbie Laury. There was quite a bit of noise. Sullivan was still chairing the meeting at that point, but walked out, returned, then, according to meeting minutes, “launched an attack on the Tea Party that included personal invectives against the Laurys and the Tea Party movement in Flagler County.” Sullivan then left for good, along with Meeker, and Debbie Baril, the committee secretary, took up the gavel. The Laurys were inducted. The Gail Wadsworth, the clerk of court and president of the Flagler County Republican Club, moved to accept seven additional members who’d been previously barred—Nick Bereda, Hamby, Linda Hansen, Joe Kubasky and Ruffalo. That motion passed unanimously. So was a third motion to accept 29 other members who’d been previously barred.

    On Oct. 28, Baril sent a letter to Prizer, by certified mail, to inform her that she would be removed from office at the Nov. 9 meeting. “It is with great sadness that two-thirds of the members in good standing are forced to take this action because of the violations of your oath of office and your long standing disregard” for state law and party rules, Baril wrote Prizer.

  12. thinkforyourself says:

    Is this the same woman that’s running for school board against Conklin?

    [Yes it is--FL]

  13. Dorothea says:

    A suggestion for anyone denied membership in the Republican Executive Committee; run for the position of precinct leader in this November’s elections which not only makes one a member of the REC, but allows him or her to participate in the internal election of a four year term of office for chair of the FCREC. It will be too late for the election this year, but it’s already too late to make any substantial changes, the damage to the Republican party has been done. I am wondering why anyone would go to court, when they will just have run for precinct leader anyway in November. Just head over to the Supervisor of Elections and ask for the necessary papers and the supervisor will assist you in getting on the ballot in your precinct.

  14. palmcoaster says:

    @C. Blair. Do you really think that the GOP will win any more elections with the rich vote only? Because the following won’t vote GOP”
    Women, Blacks, Latinos and other Minorities, Public Wokers, Elderlies, Students, Unionized Workers, Teachers, Firemen, Law Enforcement, Middle Class and Poo….that only leaves the rich to vote for them.
    Keep pooring the Kool-Aid and praying for the house and senate take over.

  15. palmcoaster says:

    Meant, Poor..sorry my keyboard goof.

  16. formerYRpres says:

    I’m not sure that anyone’s civil rights are really in question here. Life, Liberty & the pursuit of Happiness. Tell me where that means someone must let you into there group? I wonder how much time and money has been wasted on this. I also wonder if this group of “Insurgents” aren’t really just Lawyer Wielding Liberals in disguise? It sounds to me that Mrs. Prizer was simply trying to save an organization that she cares for from being infiltrated by destructive attitudes. Why doesn’t she have the right to say: “Go away, you are not welcome here.”?

    BTW-

    * “The difference between a Republican and a Democrat is the Democrat is a cannibal they have to live off each other, while the Republicans, why, they live off the Democrats.”
    ~Will Rogers

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