The officers and committee of the Troup County Democratic Party were dissolved Thursday night.
In a meeting called by George Johnson, chair of the third congressional district for the state Democratic party, he said the party had failed to properly elect a committee in December and therefore its officers, elected by the committee, were rendered null and void. An election for a new committee is to be held April 13, and the new committee will appoint new officers.
Katie Harris, who was elected as chairman of the party in January, said the move is akin to an impeachment. She and secretary Mike Smith believe Johnson dissolved the board because Johnson had asked local members last month to not pursue charges against Will Crosby, the local party’s former treasurer charged with embezzling funds, and officers had refused. Harris and Smith did not attend Thursday’s meeting.
Johnson said Thursday that dissolving the officers was not retribution and the issue was not over Crosby, even though he had asked for the local party to let the issue go in order to avoid negative publicity and possibly rolling back on previous chairman Chris Sloan, a friend. He said Thursday that he stood by those remarks, but that the issue was now out of the party’s hands and in the justice process, so it was irrelevant to the matter at hand.
Johnson said that the issue was due to the local party’s bylaws containing errors and not properly electing a committee and officers.
“In each county and each state party, each are supposed to be somewhat the same. … The previous set of bylaws, the ones in effect until January, they were flawed,” Johnson said Thursday. “There were problems with them. … There should not have been any power of appointment (or) four year terms” for committee members.
“If not the full county committee, at least half of the county committee should have been elected by the party at large in December. And then the … county committee would elect from its members the officers of the party”
However, that didn’t happen, Johnson said. The previous standing county committee elected the new officers. Then, new county committee elections were called in January, but not properly announced. They were announced the day of the meeting, Johnson said.
In an email to Democratic party members, provided to LaGrange Daily News by Harris, Johnson said that the TCDP had appointed committee members, which was not allowed under the state bylaws.
“However it was done in the past was illegal and accidentally overlooked by the DPG (Democratic Party of Georgia),” Johnson wrote.
In an letter provided by Harris and dated Monday to Johnson, DPG vice chairman of county parties R.J. Hadley and DPG chairman Mike Berlon, Harris wrote that no appointments were made under her administration, but were under Sloan’s. She believed that the meeting to dissolve officers was a way to impeach her over refusing to let Crosby off embezzlement charges.
“I have been treated disparately and without the benefit of due process,” Harris wrote. “… Given our differences on this matter, it begs the question: is the intent of the meeting called by George Johnson an attempt to impeach me?”
Johnson said, “Troup County’s not been singled out for any reason. … We’ve got the same sort of problem in Carroll County.”
Johnson said the April 13 meeting will allow any declared Democrats to vote on a new county committee. Once the committee is elected, then nominations will be taken from the committee to elect new officers, meaning all eligible Democrats will have an opportunity. He said whoever wins in 30 days will have the positions “fair and square.”
“Everyone involved can agree that it’s fair and square,” Johnson said. “The county committee will be elected and they will proceed as they would have in December.”
In the meantime, Johnson said the party should suspend any financial transactions and designated vice chairman Elliot Smith as interim chairman.
“I was going to appoint Elliot and Katie (Harris), if she had come, to be acting co-chairs for the next month, but since Katie’s giving such a hard time and rejecting any premise that this is OK, I’m just going to appoint ‘Scout’ (Smith) as acting chair for the 30 days,” Johnson said Thursday. “… I’m not preferring one side over the other, I just want everything to be fair.”