July 10, 2014
By Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON – As one committee member said, “A bunch of kids could do better,” the Mingo County Democrat Executive Committee came away from their organizational meeting Thursday without a new chairman.
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Dick White in the old courtroom located in the federal post office building in downtown Williamson. When White had the roll called to determine which new members, elected in May, were present, two were represented by proxy. The other 12 members were present.
White immediately questioned the legitimacy of the two proxies, maintaining that the members being represented had not been sworn in. All of those present were sworn in at the beginning of the 11 a.m. session but the two absent members could not take an oath at that time.
White asked if the two missing members – Earnest Williams and Stephanie Woolum – had been sworn in elsewhere. Nobody appeared to have the answer to that question.
White then expressed his concern that the two were not “properly seated” and could not send proxies when they hadn’t been sworn in themselves. The chairman then deferred to lawyers in attendance as to their opinions. After an exchange between White and attorney Letitia Chafin, who said the proxies were legal, other lawyers said they were not. Those included County Commission President Greg “Hootie” Smith and House of Delegates member Justin Marcum.
After a few additional comments by committee members and those in the audience, member Frances Crawford voiced her frustration with the activities of the committee. “I don’t want to be involved in a group where everyone acts like babies,” Crawford said. “I’m an adult.”
Crawford said, “It is ridiculous how we behave.” She added, “I don’t even want to come to these meetings the way you act, but I’m not going to quit.”
Crawford advocated going forward with picking a new chair, which was what the meeting was called for by a majority of the new committee members.
Her view did not prevail, however, as Freddie Newsome put forth a motion to postpone the meeting to a future date. Eventually, after lengthy discussion and revisions of the motion, it was seconded by Jerome Marcum. While the group continued to discuss the meeting, some expressed frustration with the location of the Thursday meeting. Some said the absent members possibly did not attend because the building is not handicapped-accessible.
Several minutes of discussion was followed by a formal voice vote to adjourn the meeting until July 21 at 4 p.m. That session will be held in the circuit courtroom at the county courthouse.
During the meeting, Smith said it is “time for us to quit fighting and come together.” He added, however, that he felt it was a “constitutional violation” for a member not sworn in to issue a proxy.
Justin Marcum added that, until the new members were all properly sworn in, they are not really “public officials.”
After the meeting, White said his only purpose “is to make sure we do things honestly and legal. I’m not going to do it wrong.”
Under party rules, White has until July 31 to call an organizational meeting. However, he said he will “abide by the decision of the committee” regarding the July 21 date.
The motion to move the meeting to July 21 appeared to pass unanimously.