There are some proposed changes to the Utah GOP constitution designed to punish central committee troublemakers

Some Republican delegates to next month’s state GOP convention seemingly have had it with the antics of a small group of State Central Committee members who they say have hijacked the party, and are usurping the power of the state delegates to further their own interests.

This minority group of State Central Committee members has held special meetings at times when it’s inconvenient for many SCC members to be in attendance. They’ve also fired the party’s attorney who was hired by Party Chair Rob Anderson and overrode his decision to end the party’s lawsuit against SB54 because of mounting legal bills. They also mandated that a video promoting the “Keep My Voice” ballot initiative be played before all of this year’s caucus meetings.

Most recently, the “Gang of 51” adopted a bylaw change to kick signature-gathering candidates in the 1st and 2nd CD out of the party to trigger another lawsuit against SB54, but many Republicans in Utah worry if that happens, it will threaten the party’s ballot access in November.

It is notable that one of the ringleaders of this group, Phill Wright, lost the election for party chair to Anderson in 2017.

From the looks of it, some Republican delegates have had enough of this behavior, and the backlash is nigh.

One potential change is a constitutional amendment dubbed “Give others a chance to serve.” Essentially, it would term-limit all at-large members of the SCC to a total of 10 years of service on the SCC. 

“Much of the UTGOP State Central Committee membership has been in place a long time, with some members having served in these positions for over 20 years,” the proposal reads. “No organization does well without a regular influx of new people and ideas.”

State party officers and other elected officials would be exempt from the term limit rule. It would only affect those SCC members elected by the party counties.

That idea is mild compared to a slash and burn option delegates will consider, which allows them to “vacate” the at-large membership of the SCC and hit the reset button. If adopted, the amendment would allow the party chair to present a motion at a convention instructing the county parties to provide new SCC representatives to curb the activities of a “rogue” SCC. The motion is only approved if 2/3 of the delegates vote in favor.

The proposal’s description pulls no punches in four bullet points:

  1. A significant group of SCC members has engaged in tactics to disrupt meetings and call emergency meetings that are difficult to attend on short notice, these meetings often serve personal interests. The SCC has become so dysfunctional that, of our body, we have about 50 disruptive members, and 20 non-disruptive members attending meetings, out of about 184 members (38%). 

  2. These disruptions have resulted in no significant business being conducted since the election of this committee a year ago (in this, an important election year) that promotes our Platform, helps elect our candidates, or supports our elected officials. 

  3. These at-large SCC members have been fixated on taking responsibilities away from the state-delegate-elected officers, effectively tipping the balance of power in the UTGOP away from the state delegates and towards the county delegates. 

  4. Since the SCC quorum requirement is just 40 members, this significant group has taken it upon themselves to pass Bylaw amendments that are illegal, and threaten to remove our Republican candidates from the ballot in November. Fortunately, UTGOP Chairman Anderson has been able to thwart these activities…for now.

Another proposal, dubbed “Return to reason,” reduces the size of the SCC from 180 to 134 members by curbing the number of at-large members elected at the county level. It also raises the threshold for calling a special SCC meeting and for a quorum and adds term limits for the at-large members. 

The proposal’s background states it’s needed “to fix an imbalance of power within the party, which has created a State Central Committee wherein there are about 50 members who are attempting to control the party organization.” It also says “many of the 50 members who are currently at the heart of the controversy have served for so long they now exhibit ‘ownership’ of the committee.”

Diane Christensen, author of the “Return to reason” lays out several reasons the restructuring of the SCC is needed because of the behavior of this small group on the SCC, including:

  • Openly treated the Chair and Vice Chair with contempt and attempted to bypass their authority, refusing to give up the microphone and stating “this body is now in control of this meeting.”
  • Purposely dragged out meetings in order to wear out most members who finally leave, and then using the diminished attendance to their advantage to pass binding changes to the governing documents, policy and procedures.
  • Attempted to vacate the Chair from his position at meetings.
  • Spoken openly about a desire to remove the Chair and Vice Chair.
  • Violated decorum, creating utter chaos in meetings.
  • Invested the Secretary with powers far greater than those of the Chair and Vice-Chair combined.
  • Obstructed caucus and convention planning.
  • Sent out press releases and statements purporting to speak for the entire party
  • Attempted to serve as the liaison with the Lt. Governor’s office

Finally, she cites the bylaw change passed in February as the “most serious” transgression because it’s in “direct opposition to state election law” and “could have devastating effects on the election of Republicans in Utah.”

Republican delegates will consider the proposed changes at the Utah GOP State Convention on April 21.