RALEIGH – N.C. GOP’s general counsel, Tom Stark, sent a letter to all 600 plus members of the state party’s governing Executive Committee Thursday, outlining in detail the ongoing saga with Chairman Harnett. The smaller Central Committee voted two weeks ago to censure Harnett after allegations surfaced in an affidavit signed by Ken Robol, a Pitt Community College computer technology instructor, that Harnett asked him to crash the party’s 2016 State Convention website and replace it with one featuring lower ticket prices and a payment system he controlled. Harnett denies the allegations and publicly called the conversation “entrapment.”
“The Central Committee has remained largely silent in order to resolve these issues quietly and responsibly without further damage to the Party,” the letter from Stark said. “The Chairman and his confederates, however, have chosen a different path. They have released numerous public statements that, in my view, contain inappropriate, vitriolic and inaccurate information. Unfortunately, these statements have exacerbated the situation, and portrayed the North Carolina Republican Party in a negative manner.”
The letter goes on to provide details of the conflict that started with the chairman’s objection to the ticket price of the N.C.GOP convention in May. Under party rules the decision on ticket prices is left with the Central Committee. Committee members accuse Harnett of trying to hold the “official convention notice” hostage in order to get staff to change the prices against the orders of the Central Committee.
This week the Chairman seemed to kick another hornets nest, by calling a meeting of the state executive committee on Saturday April 9th
in Wilmington. The meeting is to take place at the same time as four Congressional District Conventions are held in: Sanford (2nd) Raleigh, (4th), Concord (8th) and Matthews (9th)
“As I write this, it appears that a new attempt is underway by Chairman Harnett to circumvent the Plan of Organization. Disregarding the Plan of Organization’s notice requirements, he has purported to schedule a meeting of the Executive Committee in conflict with numerous District Conventions. This behavior needs to stop. Instead, let us work together as Republicans for our state, our nation, and our Constitution.”
Twelve of the 13 Congressional District Chairs sent Chairman Harnett a letter this week formally requesting he cancel his executive committee meeting on April 9th. Privately the chairs say they will encourage people to attend the district conventions, likely denying the Chairman the needed number of attendees to conduct business. Instead, Executive Committee members are circulating petitions that would call an Executive Committee meeting for April 30th.
Petitions circulating indicate the Executive Committee will likely put Chairman Harnett on trial for “gross inefficiency” the weekend of April 30th. Should the Executive Committee members, who will serve as jurors find Mr. Harnett guilt, he would formally be removed from his post at the helm of the state party. The proceeding is referred to as a “trial” by the Plan of Organization and would look similar to a criminal trial.
Harnett was the surprise winner of the chairman election at the N.C.GOP convention in 2015, campaigning as a “non-establishment” candidate. Since then he’s been criticized for low fundraising and power struggles within the party, but has developed a limited following among the party faithful, frustrated with national and state leadership. His removal would come a month before new elections at the critical 2016 N.C.GOP convention May 6-8 in Greensboro. There the party will establish a platform and elect delegates for the Republican National Convention in June.