Thursday, October 17, 2013

LPPA Descends Into Chaos; Steve Scheetz Pressures Judicial Committee To Allow The Board To Charter Multiple County Committees & To Let Them Fight It Out With Respect To Who Are Officially Nominated LP Candidates

On August 17, 2013, the Board of Directors of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania took the extraordinary step of chartering a second official County Committee in Northampton County without decertifying the existing group and then argued before the LPPA Judicial Committee that the Board has the power to recognize, and in fact, must charter a new County Committee whenever two State Party members living in any county request that another County Organization be formed. The result of this position is that multiple officially chartered County Committees will exist in one county, each with the right to nominate candidates for local office creating chaos as to whom is the official, legally recognized Libertarian Party candidate for any office and as to which group has the right to circulate "Minor Party" petitions on behalf of the Libertarian Party. It would also permit each County Committee existing within a county to send its own voting State Representative to the Board of Directors allowing one or two large counties to effectively take control of the State Organization.

At the request of Dr. Tom Stevens, former LPPA State Chair and Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Northampton County, Northampton LP County Chair Aaron Rosengarten appealed this action to the LPPA Judicial Committee arguing that Article IV, Section 1 of the LPPA Constitution specifically says that "the functional division of the Party shall be the County Committee" and that multiple County Committees would create chaos in the LPPA. Dr. Stevens testified on behalf of the Libertarian Party of Northampton County and against Steve Scheetz, the current LPPA State Chair, who represented the Board and argued in favor of allowing multiple County Organizations to be chartered in every county. Mr. Scheetz argued, "When the Constitution says 'the county committee', it is simply stating what to call a functioning sub-unit. It does not say there can be only one."

In unauthorized discussions with Steve Scheetz,  Ken Krawchuk, one of the Judicial Committee members who served with Scheetz as an officer in the Montgomery County LP, gave Scheetz a heads-up on how the Judicial Committee members were leaning with respect to this issue, which was not in his favor. As a result, Mr. Scheetz threatened to resign as State Chair if the Judicial Committee did not rule in favor of his position to allow the Board to charter multiple official County Committees in each county. Specifically, Mr. Scheetz wrote, "I may also decide that I should be doing other things instead of trying to save an organization that is bend on self-destruction... I may be overreacting, but Ken told me how the vote on this issue may come down, and while I am extremely concerned, I sincerely hope the JC acts in the interest of the LPPA."

On September 13, 2013, the Judicial Committee ruled on the issue as follows: "...a majority of the Judicial Committee holds that there is no express prohibition in the LPPA Bylaws to having more than one organization in a county."

Matthew Kelly, who served as Membership Committee Chair under State Chairs Thomas Robert Stevens and Lawrence James Fryman, responded to the ruling as follows:

What will happen now when an individual seeks the endorsement of the Libertarian Party to run for local office? Will that person need to obtain the endorsement of all the recognized County Organizations in that county or will the local Board of Elections recognize only the Libertarian Party nominees who come from the first group to file paperwork or the first candidate to submit petitions? Since all the recognized County Committees were officially chartered, won't all nominated candidates have the right to claim they have the nomination? What about State Party members living in a county? Which group should they join? If 5 chartered County Organizations each have 12 State Party members, will that county be entitled to 5 votes on the Board of Directors? 

However ridiculous this situation makes the LPPA appear, things are actually much worse in reality. The system I had in place for following up with inquiries has been completely dismantled under current State Chair Steve Scheetz. All people expressing an interest in the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania or in running for office, received a call, e-mail and letter from the Membership Committee. Dr. Stevens personally followed up with everyone interested in running for office and he called everyone who joined to encourage them to become active on a committee or in their local organization. None of this is happening anymore. In addition, when I was Membership Committee Chair, hundreds of party members observed party business on the official lists. Now, party business is primarily conducted in secret with backwater e-mails being sent only to "friendly" Board Members while other voting members are routinely excluded from the debate and discussion. Steve Scheetz, the current State Chair, has also actively encouraged Board Members to block the e-mails of other Board Members whose opinions he considers not worthy of consideration. I never saw anything like this take place during the administrations of Dr. Tom Stevens and Lawrence James Fryman, both who were completely committed to transparency and to conducting all business out in the open for everyone to see.

The only reason you don't read about the problems the LPPA is currently facing is because all of the voices committed to party growth and to transparency have been silenced and most, if not all, of the formerly active County Committees are now inactive or on life support. Half the candidates who were committed to running for office this year dropped out and many of the Standing and Working Committee Chairs have resigned their State Party membership. This is truly a Dark Age for the LPPA, especially when you consider that just one year ago, Libertarian Party State Chairs from around the country were asking how they could bring the "Pennsylvania Miracle" to their own state.

In protest over the decision of the Judicial Committee in favor of recognizing multiple County Organizations in each county, Dr. Tom Stevens resigned his position as Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Northampton County.

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