Four resign from GOP central committee

Chairwoman, three others say the move is aimed at healing the split over ousted member

Carroll County

September 24, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Republican Central Committee, already marred by infighting caused by the ouster of one member, was effectively cut in half yesterday with the resignation of its chairwoman and three other members.

Chairwoman Michelle Jefferson cleared out her office at committee headquarters in Westminster late Wednesday, shortly after a court hearing during which the committee was unable to resolve its differences with Joseph F. Burns Jr.

After the central committee removed him in July, Burns filed a lawsuit against the panel. He was temporarily reinstated by a Circuit Court judge, pending the outcome of a hearing Oct. 12 on the legality of the ouster.

Hoping to end the rift in the party, Jefferson, Yvonne Deardorff, Josie Velazquez and Travis Zepp submitted their resignations to the GOP state central committee yesterday.

"Something had to be done to stop the bleeding," Jefferson said. "Once the contention goes away, everybody can go back to the business of re-electing the president. Volunteers will be a lot more willing to work with us if they are not walking into a firefight."

Jefferson said she hoped the resignations would induce Burns to drop the case. But Michelle M. Ostrander, a Westminster lawyer representing Burns, said yesterday that she is uncertain if that is possible.

"Burns is not permanently reinstated on the committee; he is only officially not put off of it," Ostrander said. "We have to have some resolution. A new committee does not eliminate what prior members have done."

John M. Kane, chairman of the Republican State Central Committee, said the four members who resigned took the high road for the sake of the party.

"They don't want this to be a distraction, and they will still go about the business of getting Republicans elected," Kane said. "I am sorry to see these resignations. These are good, hard-working people who have offered to stop the disruption."

The committee, traditionally a nine-member panel elected by county Republicans every four years, has worked with seven members recently because of the resignation of Amanda Boyd and the removal of Burns.

"The remaining ... members can replenish the committee and let it go about its business," Kane said.

After his ouster, which came in an executive session, Burns sought legal redress, claiming that the committee had no authority to remove an elected official. Jefferson has never elaborated on the reason for Burns' ouster, calling it "housekeeping."

Judge Michael M. Galloway ruled Wednesday in Burns' favor and scheduled a hearing next month.

During the proceedings Wednesday, attorneys for the committee and for Burns were unsuccessful in seeking a compromise.

"Our resignations are bandages to heal," Jefferson said. "None of us has done anything wrong. Somebody had to be the adult and do the right thing. We are all saddened that it has gotten to this point, where adults could not work together and put aside their petty differences."

Velazquez, who was appointed to the committee a year ago, said tensions among members have mounted steadily for months. "I am sorry that things didn't work out for the good. This is a sad day for everyone," she said.

The court order temporarily reinstates Burns on the committee, allowing him to attend meetings and participate fully.

Burns said yesterday that he intends to help make the decision on a replacement for state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, who represented South Carroll and western Howard County until his death Sept. 11.

"I am certain the committee can pick up the pieces and move on," Burns said yesterday.

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