Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Aug. 4, 2020

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Clark County GOP chair faces recall effort

Group claims he’s mishandled party’s finances, broken rules

By , Columbian political reporter
Published:

Eight months after being elected chair of the local Republican Party, Earl Bowerman faces a recall effort by a group of precinct committee officers who claim he’s bungled the party’s finances, broken rules and failed to perform required duties.

Although a meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday evening, Bowerman said he hadn’t been presented with the petition seeking his removal until contacted by The Columbian. Bowerman called the claims in the petition false or nonsensical. He called his detractors’ behavior disruptive and subversive, likening them to “The Squad,” a group of vocal and combative freshman Democratic congressional representatives who have risen to national prominence.

This is the second time in two years a chair of the local Republican Party has faced a recall attempt as factions of the party vie for control. This time, there is a dispute over whether the party’s bylaws are being followed. Another factor in the recall attempt could be Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring, who has expressed an interest as serving as the party’s vice-chair.

Party pugilists and petitions

In recent years, the Clark County Republican Party has faced infighting and financial woes. In 2017, former chair David Gellatly survived what was effectively a no-confidence vote over his leadership and management of party finances. Last year, the Clark County Republican Central Committee agreed to pay $74,725 to the Washington Attorney General’s office for failing to report contributions as required by law.

Bowerman, a strong supporter of President Trump, was elected chair of the party in January after unsuccessfully challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in 2018.

Brent Boger, who served as county GOP chairman from 2002 to 2006, said that the party is divided between a pragmatic and a more “extreme” faction. He said the more extreme faction has been in and out of power since 2012 and is responsible for the fine. He placed both Quiring and Bowerman in the “extreme” faction.

“I’m not surprised to see what remains of the moderates in the local party question his leadership,” Republican Clark County Councilor John Blom, who also serves as a precinct committee officer, wrote in a text. “It’s unfortunate that the local party has spent most of the last five years on intra-party squabbles.”

It’s not clear whom is spearheading the effort to recall Bowerman, and multiple Republican local officials declined to comment. The three-page petition, obtained by The Columbian, states that Bowerman “regularly and egregiously” violated the party’s bylaws.

Some of the claims in the petition are arcane and confusing. But one allegation states that Bowerman shut down a winter fundraising event after a deposit had been paid, and didn’t hold a different event to make up for the loss. The petition further states that Bowerman unilaterally decided to not accept the conditions of an offer to pay off the attorney general’s fine without conferring with the board or central committee.

“This is a big fat lie,” said Bowerman.

He said he had been in conversation with Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, about finding funds to pay off the fine but denied there was a settlement offer. Harris could not be reached for comment by deadline. Bowerman said that the deposit for the winter fundraising event was instead used for the party’s Lincoln Day Dinner and was approved by the board.

According to the petition, Bowerman stated that he “doesn’t believe the party should be supporting the elected officials,” contrary to the party’s bylaws. He operated a private Facebook page with the party’s central committee name and logo, according to the petition. The petition states he failed to attend meetings, violated bylaws “with a disruptive group” in a committee meeting and didn’t send out emails or call for required meetings.

Bowerman said that the party’s bylaws prohibit it from making endorsements before the primary election but supports candidates in the general election. He said he set up a closed Facebook group for precinct committee officer communications and changed its name after receiving complaints. He disputed that he didn’t attend or call for required meetings. He called the charge he violated bylaws “nonsense.” He said some meetings are the responsibility of committee chairs. He said one meeting was set for the night of the Lincoln Day Dinner and other duties were handled by other party officials. He said he has proof he sent out required emails.

In response to the petition’s charge that he didn’t adequately raise funds, Bowerman said that half of the attorney general’s fine is paid and he expects it to be fully paid soon. He said he’s kept party expenses down and pointed to the party’s success in last year’s elections.

Bylaws dispute

While the Clark County Republican Party Central Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday to consider the petition, the process is clouded by a dispute over whether its submission violated party bylaws. The party’s bylaws state that members of the executive board may be removed by a petition signed by a majority of the precinct committee officers. The bylaws state that the petition needs to be verified by “a local, third-party auditor approved by a majority of the board.”

Last week, Bowerman posted a letter to Facebook signed by seven members of the 10-member Clark County Republican Central Committee Executive Board to the precinct committee officers stating that this requirement had not been met and the meeting scheduled for Tuesday is out of order.

Absent from the letter is the signature of Park Llafet, the party’s secretary. Llafet told The Columbian that the petition was audited and verified by the Washington State Republican Party, which he said meets the bylaw’s requirement. He didn’t offer an exact number of signatures on the petition.

“It has nothing to do with a personal bias against Earl Bowerman,” said Llafet, of the petition. “That needs to be very, very clear.”

He said that the bylaws are “murky,” but the state party (which didn’t respond to a request for comment) was the most appropriate to audit the petition. But Bowerman said that the third-party auditor chosen wasn’t approved by the board and thus is in violation of the party bylaws.

Vice-chair

The petition also targets Brook Pell, who served as the party’s vice chair, for recall over claims of not attending board meetings, not helping with the Lincoln Day Dinner and “bashing” elected Republicans. Pell had previously announced her resignation and confirmed in an email she had resigned. But Llafet alleged that her resignation wasn’t properly submitted and thus her recall is active.

Earlier this month, Quiring, the elected chair of the Clark County Council, announced that she would seek Pell’s position. Quiring declined to comment.

Boger said that it’s not unusual to have elected officials serve as precinct committee officers because the positions are hard to fill. But he said it would be “highly unusual” to have an elected official serve as party vice-chair because such positions traditionally go to the party’s grass roots. Bogar said he suspects Quiring is pursuing the post to galvanize her base and help her faction keep control. Bowerman had a different perspective.

“I think she would be phenomenal,” said Bowerman of Quiring as vice-chair. “It would bring stature to our party.”

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