West Virginia Record

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Ousted Wood County GOP chairman plans to sue


By Kyla Asbury | Jul 17, 2019

CHARLESTON — Removed Wood County Republican Committee Chair Rob Cornelius sent a letter of intent to sue to the Secretary of State Mac Warner, saying he plans to sue over his removal that occurred last month after his appeal was denied.

"The West Virginia Republican Party has denied my appeal of its illegal removal of members and officers of, and improper appointments of unvetted new members and officers to the Wood County Republican Committee last month by State Chairwoman Melody Potter," Cornelius said in a statement provided to The West Virginia Record. "This decision is not surprising but expected given Democrat-elected Gov. Jim Justice’s direct manipulation of the state Republican Party operation."

Cornelius said they have been forced to notify Warner’s office of their intent to sue that office in its capacity as West Virginia’s chief elections officer.

"We will attempt to compel them via writs to uphold West Virginia Code 3-1-9 and Chapter 3 generally by denying this arbitrary attempt by the West Virginia Republican Party to take control of the Wood County Republican Party and choose new members in violation of both West Virginia state law and the civil rights of Republican voters countywide," Cornelius said. "A party’s by-laws do not supersede West Virginia Code or Federal laws or this great Constitution anywhere, other than in Melody Potter’s alternate reality."

Cornelius said the voters of Wood County elected a fine Republican Executive Committee, who in 2018. The committee elected Cornelius to a second term as chair that year.

"The authority to govern the activities of the Wood County Republican Party rests with Americans in Wood County," Cornelius said. "This authority is not—and will never be—at Melody Potter's home in South Charleston or Jim Justice's home in Lewisburg. Anything else desecrates democracy and the elections we defend here in Wood County."

Cornelius said the recent acts in the name of the West Virginia Republican Party are those of "a single out-of-control chairwoman."

"Now, she is actively interfering with the operation of the Kanawha County Republican Party and assisting their chairwoman with removing a number of their duly elected members," Cornelius said. "Harrison County is next. Every other county party manned by those who love our First Amendment should be gravely concerned."

Cornelius said Potter has doubled down on her failure to lead the West Virginia Republican Party by breaking state law, selectively enforcing party by-laws and choosing to destroy the trust and capital built by the party for decades.

"Make no mistake: This is not about what’s best for the Republican Party or our conservative candidates across 55 counties," Cornelius said. "It’s solely about what’s best for her benefactor, Jim Justice."

Cornelius said the committee and the party cannot do business under the shadow of litigation or the denial of the voting rights of duly elected or properly appointed members.

"You cannot have a body function if the membership and qualifications of that membership are universally in legal doubt," Cornelius said. "As it stands, if Melody Potter is permitted to continue to use a single section of the West Virginia Republican Party’s by-laws as her crutch to support her decisions and completely disregard West Virginia Code, any member of any committee in any county can be removed and replaced at her (or Jim Justice’s) discretion."

Cornelius said allowing this practice to continue provides Potter with limitless power to choose replacements to fill unexpired terms in any Legislative office and any vacancy on any committee.

"Luckily for Wood County Republicans, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," Cornelius said. "Those of us who value freedom will prevail."

The letter was sent to Warner on July 12. In it, Cornelius states that the removed members seek a writ of prohibition on the Secretary of State's Office from publishing or honoring any roster of the Wood County Republican Executive Committee submitted by anyone but Cornelius as the duly elected chairman; a writ of mandamus to compel the office to publish and honor the most recent accurate roster for the Wood County Republican Executive Committee, submitted on June 21 by Cornelius; and grant any further relief appropriate in the matter.

Potter sent a letter to Cornelius last month, removing him as chair. In the letter, she cited Cornelius' "extensive harassment" against her, including a private phone conversation between the two that Cornelius released.

"Mr. Cornelius has not just disrupted the State Republican Party, but he has also failed to lead his own County Republican Party properly," Potter said in the letter. 

Potter wrote that given the facts outlined in her letter and the importance of the matter at hand, she felt removing Cornelius was necessary.

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