County GOP meeting could upend leaders

Board, party chair to be decided at upcoming session

By Katy Sword, Columbian staff writer

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On Oct. 17, everything could change for the Clark County Republican Party.

One of three things could happen. Chair David Gellatly — who has survived months of efforts to remove him as chair — will finally gain control of the party and replace four board members. Gellatly and Vice Chair Leslie Meharry will resign. Or a mishmash of the two, leaving some members in place and Gellatly’s future unclear.

This showdown will take place at a special meeting based on a petition signed by the majority of Precinct Committee Officers in Clark County. The petition is to remove State Committeeman Joe Wagner, State Committeewoman Katja Delavar, Treasurer Suzanne Gerhardt and Secretary Karen Trumbull “for divisive conduct destructive to the goals of the Clark County Republican Party and unbecoming of their offices,” according to the document sent to more than 170 PCO’s on Sept. 8.

The petition further alleges that these board members have not participated in the majority of activities, such as electing candidates, but instead chose to focus on “dividing us from within and creating false narratives in order to achieve personal agendas that are not reflected by the majority of our great members.”

This division within the Clark County Republican Party is not new information. Infighting has been prevalent since Gellatly took over in January.

To further complicate matters, the board held a special meeting Saturday and unanimously approved a resolution to refer Gellatly’s position as chair to the PCOs at the next board meeting Oct. 21.

“I believe the majority of the PCOs really want a positive change after all of this division,” Gellatly said. “The only way the party can move forward and get that positive change is to remove those that cause the disruption. I would expect we would see a positive outcome, but it always depends on who shows up.”

Gellatly said the PCO meeting will be one of the most important meetings the party will have had.

“The meeting will be either a reset and make our party something to be proud of again or it will continue downhill,” he said.

Delavar, one of the board members facing a PCO vote, said the petition is just retaliation by Gellatly.

“Why it’s happening is because we blew the whistle on the chairman,” Delavar said. “We’re being whistle blowers, the four of us.”

She said to her understanding the petition is still being evaluated for its validity, meaning it’s possible the vote might not proceed.

PCO Steve Nelson said he’s planning to attend the Oct. 17 meeting, but plans to go into it with an open mind. If change will occur, he’s unsure.

“Those meetings are very intense and honestly can be quite ugly,” Nelson said. “People are tired of that. If people are tired enough to make a difference, I don’t know.”

He added that it would be nice to get back to party business instead of wasting time with infighting.

Gellatly agreed.

“I think no matter where we are at as far as party lines, I think everybody can agree we can do better,” he said.

If the meeting doesn’t result in the removal of Wagner, Delavar, Gerhardt and Trumbull, Gellatly and Meharry will resign Oct. 21. Gellatly said he has not discussed the “random and unlikely possibility” that only a few board members are removed, but not all four and what that would mean for his resignation.

“I can’t continue to put in the time to respond to the egregious and outrageous nonsense that has gone on for far too long,” Gellatly said. “I’m dedicated to helping move the party forward and to leading to the best of my ability, but I can’t do it under these circumstances.”

Katy Sword: 360-735-4534; katy.sword@columbian.com. Twitter: twitter.com/katysword