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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

County GOP chairman survives no-confidence vote

Party split on Gellatly’s leadership, accounting

By Katy Sword, Columbian politics reporter
Published: September 10, 2017, 6:05am

Two meetings in the last week have resulted in calls for Clark County Republican Party Chairman David Gellatly to step down, in the latest in a series of struggles to control the local party.

The first was a special executive board meeting on Sept. 2. The sole agenda item for the meeting was a motion to refer Gellatly’s chairmanship position to the precinct committee officers, a group elected by registered voters who consider themselves party members. The motion effectively would have served as a vote of no confidence by the executive board.

The argument for the chairman’s removal stemmed from what PCO member Ann Donnelly characterized as “minor accounting points.”

Eighteenth Legislative District Chairman George Hacker offered a little more detail.

Hacker said Gellatly cut a check for $7,500 to conservative political commentator Tomi Lahren after she spoke at the party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner in June. This was cause for concern because at an Aug. 2 meeting, the board discussed Gellatly’s involvement in finances and issuing checks without another member’s signature. Hacker said the board thought the issue was resolved until Gellatly paid Lahren the second half of her $15,000 speaking fee.

“That’s where for me it got to a point where the chairman was out of line and needed to be brought to PCOs,” Hacker said.

Donnelly, however, said she felt Gellatly explained the issues “very satisfactorily.”

The motion failed to receive a supermajority vote as required by the party’s bylaws to move forward. The final vote was 7-4 in favor of referring Gellatly’s position to the PCOs.

One voter’s status was a point of contention for the board, that of Vice Chair Leslie Meharry. Meharry resigned her position at the Aug. 2 meeting. She later revoked that resignation and returned to the board as vice chair for the special meeting Sept. 2. Some members argue she was brought back just to ensure the motion did not pass. Without Meharry’s vote, a supermajority would have been obtained and the PCOs would decide Gellatly’s fate.

Meharry declined to comment on the situation.

Gellatly characterized the move as a power play by a group of “anti-Republicans.”

“That small group of people had really felt they got to a point where they could control all outcomes of the party,” he said. “Now they feel like they’re losing control.”

Second meeting

Just four days later, the executive board held its monthly meeting. The first motion at Thursday’s meeting was made by Secretary Karen Trumbull to remove Gellatly as chairman and proceed with the meeting. State Committeewoman Katja Delavar said the motion was made “because we feel like we were unfairly handled (at the special meeting).”

The motion was met with a walkout by Gellatly and two other board members, Meharry and Jim Johnson. Tom Tangen left the meeting just before the motion was made. The walkout left the board without a quorum.

Delavar argued that Gellatly influenced those members to join him by walking out and disrupting the meeting.

Gellatly said he absolutely agrees.

“That’s the point of it,” he said. “We had business to do but once we realized this thing was another attempted coup … there was no point to continue.”

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This infighting isn’t new. Power plays have become the new norm since Gellatly took over as chairman in December.

“For about 30 days I would say everyone was playing along or excited about it,” he said.

Infighting was so disruptive that Gellatly offered to resign before the Sept. 2 meeting even occurred. He sent an email to the board Aug. 31 outlining his resignation plan after the election season concluded.

“However the agitators on the board rejected it and they demanded I leave immediately, which I am not willing to do,” he said.

Gellatly’s hope for unification has been replaced with resounding disappointment.

“I believe that this board is at a point where we have irreconcilable differences and the PCOs will decide who they want the leadership to be one way or the other,” he said. “Either we have a real Republican party or we have an anarchist takeover.”

Those who want Gellatly out — a group that includes Delavar and Hacker — argue the chairman has prevented the board from hosting fair meetings.

“The way the Sept. 2 meeting was run, I felt that I didn’t have a voice,” Hacker said.

All party members say they want to move forward and focus on upcoming elections, but until the chairmanship dispute is resolved, progress is unlikely.

The party’s future could go one of two ways. First, the PCOs can individually petition to consider the chairmanship. There’s rumblings of this pathway already among the board and PCOs. The second option involves removing other board members.

PCO Steve Nelson said he’s heard the next quarterly meeting might include a resolution to remove those board members who are trying to remove Gellatly.

There’s only one thing the two sides agree on: the future of the party is at the behest of the PCOs.

Columbian politics reporter