After publishing a piece Thursday morning under the headline, St. Charles County (Mo.) GOP Chair Says Caucus Letter ‘Actually Drafted by Santorum’s Campaign Team’, two new developments have surfaced: First, the post attracted some extremely negative comments from Central Committee Chair Eugene Dokes; and Second, the St. Charles County Republican Party Central Committee member who shared the information I published yesterday has told me she has been besieged by a storm of hateful email messages from select individuals on the committee. Today, I feel compelled to respond.
First, from the comments section of the aforementioned post, I look at what Dokes wrote early Thursday afternoon:
I wanted to leave a couple of comments about this letter. First of all it’s dated today which is completely misleading and false. I sent this email out before I was even on the Jamie Allman show. Secondly, at that time- there were fears from me and others that another caucus would be just as bad as before. I have since then (the very next day actually) sent another email to the committee and said that my agreement to the letter was based on fears of re-caucusing- BUT, a caucus was the only way to go since it is the only official way to let the county’s voice be heard.
Likewise, I received a similar statement from a Ron Paul Support- I forwarded that to the committee as well. Only he wanted us to only consider a caucus (which I understand). Point being Bob, as a reporter you really should have gotten some statements from me so you don’t have such an obviously slanted release. I have gone on record with the Post Dispatch and other organizations as saying I support another caucus. Now, consider this as my statement to your blog that I support a re-caucus.
It should be widely understood that I passed this along to the committee merely for discussion but never signed it.
Now, I respond.
Dokes claimed my post was “completely misleading and false.” Read the post and judge for yourself, paying particular attention to the content of the unsigned letter (PDF) at issue. Regardless of the date on the letter, it’s the letter’s content and who wrote it that’s most important.
Dokes mentioned the interview he gave Tuesday morning to Jamie Allman, talk radio host of “Allman in the Morning” on 97.1 FM in St. Louis. I listened to the podcast of the interview for the first time Thursday and heard Dokes use words like “no conspiracy,” “bad advice” and “confusion” before saying, near the end of the interview, “We do care about what everybody in the county thinks, and we do want to make sure that everybody is fully represented.” What’s troubling is the fact that the letter at issue, drafted by an unidentified “someone” in the Rick Santorum camp, continued to be discussed in committee emails the day after the radio interview.
Dokes claimed that he has “gone on the record with the Post-Dispatch and other organizations as saying I support another caucus.” I looked for his on-the-record comments on the website of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and found seven articles published since last Saturday’s caucus. In only two articles, however, did I find any mention of Dokes stating that he favored another caucus: The first article was published Thursday at 11:58 a.m. Central — several hours after my first piece was published; and the second article was published at 4 p.m. Thursday — almost 12 hours after the fact! Most recently, he was quoted as advocating a new caucus in the an O’Fallon Patch article published late Thursday night.
The fourth and final matter, which I address in different order than that in which he offered his comments, has to do with why I did not contact Dokes in advance of publishing the post Thursday morning. The long and the short of it is that I already felt jaded by some of his words that had been shared with me prior to Saturday’s 2012 St. Charles County (Mo.) Republican Presidential Caucus.
Now, I move on to the matter of the central committee member who provided the information I shared in the Thursday morning post. Her name is Brandy Pedersen, and she agreed Thursday to let me reveal her name and more information in this article.
“I believe members of the public are being mislead,” Pedersen said. “That’s why I decided to come forward out of a duty and obligation to the truth.”
A few days before the St. Patrick’s Day caucus, Pedersen contacted me and asked me to listen to a 2.5-minute voicemail message Dokes had left on her answering machine weeks earlier. Notable about the message is the fact that it was left less than 48 hours before members of the St. Charles County Council were set to vote on new township boundary lines.
Not familiar with the issue? Most people are not. Pedersen, however, believes way the way the boundary lines issue was handled is indicative of a pattern.
The voicemail message, which Pedersen shared with me, deals with the subject of communications about the process of redrawing those township boundary lines. The entire transcript of the message appears verbatim below:
“Hey Brandy, this is Eugene. Quick, I just realized that I never sent a message correctly. So, I had originally thought that I had attached it to the whole group, and I was kind of upset with myself because I forgot to remove Rob Hillman and Brent Stafford’s name and I just went back and looked at it when you sent me that text and I realized I never sent it correctly and I see I had only attached it to a couple of people’s names and clicked send and I was gonna resend it to the group but I thought, ‘You know what, it’s probably best if I don’t send this email out.’
“So, what I’m gonna do is, I’ll send you a couple other changes that we’ve made, but as far as saying, ‘Hey, this is changes that we’ve made, it only helps the Republican Party,’ — that sort of thing, I’m not going to do it, because I would rather it not go out, mostly because I don’t want it to be big news.
“I don’t want anybody to really find out that the chair of the Republican Party is getting involved or trying to recreate these lines. Then it only makes the Democrats — if they ever hear about it — want to get involved. It lets the Libertarians know that, ‘Hey, pay attention; they’re doing this, they’re doing that’ (inaudible) and I would rather avoid all of that. So what I’m going to do, actually, is just keep it under low profile. I’ll probably call all of the committee members on Monday, or Sunday, sometime, and say, ‘Hey, this is what I did. Please take a look at that,’ and leave it at that. (inaudible) I’m not gonna send out this email and try to get a mob of people there, because it only causes attention to the whole thing, and it only hurts us, I think, in the long run. Thanks.”
After reading the above message transcript, one might conclude that something unusual might have been taking place during the process of redrawing those lines. Listening to the actual message, however — as I did — either removes all doubt or, at a minimum, leaves one wanting to find out what actually transpired during the process. So I began to ask questions.
In an email message sent late Wednesday morning, I asked County Council Chair Nancy Matheny what had prompted her to solicit input on the township boundary lines issue from officials of the St. Charles County Democrat and Republican Central Committees.
After explaining in her reply less than three hours later that she was “in meetings all day” and had “only a few minutes to reply,” she seemed quick to want to pin the blame for council members getting involved to the extent they did on St. Charles County Election Authority Rich Chrismer.
“Since Rich Chrismer did not submit the maps to the Council on time,” Matheny wrote, “the County Council was responsible for drawing the township lines.
“We decided to begin with his proposed lines that he had drawn, but not previously submitted,” she continued, adding, “We knew there was a problem with the population of at least one district.
“As Mr. Chrismer had done in 2003, we showed the maps to the Republicans and to the Democrats,” Matheny wrote. “They are, after (all), political township lines.”
“I showed the maps (as Mr. Chrismer had drawn them) to the Republicans at the Pachyderm meeting,” she wrote. “I stood up and said the maps were on the table and asked if anyone wanted to comment on them. I did not give them to Mr. Dokes. I left the maps after the meeting. I do not remember the date, but it was prior to the public meeting on the subject. (I think you were one of the guest speakers that day.)” [EDITOR’S NOTE: Though I was the keynote speaker at the St. Charles County Pachyderms meeting Jan. 27 and gave a presentation about my book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, I don't recall having seen any maps at that meeting. In fairness, however, the subject of maps was not yet on my radar, and I could have easily overlooked them.]
Matheny went on to explain that Jerry Daugherty, the sole Democrat on the council, had sought input from Democratic Party officials who replied with only one minor change request and that the council had made a couple of changes requested by Republican Party officials as well as “a couple of changes based on population and the use of main roads.”
Matheny also shared her belief that only one change made by the council had created controversy.
When asked to respond to Matheny’s comments, Chrismer told me that, although Matheny was technically correct and the county council actually has the final say on boundaries no matter what he recommends, the issue isn’t that simple.
Speaking by phone Wednesday afternoon, the veteran of many election cycles told me that he had completed the once-every-ten-years task of redrawing township boundary lines based upon population figures and submitted his rough product (i.e., a new map) to St. Charles County Information Systems officials ahead of the council’s late-2011 deadline. In doing that, he said he was under the belief that those county IS officials would finish the work they had to do on the project and forward it to the council in a timely manner. But that did not happen.
According to Pedersen and one other central committee source, an unusual proposal was raised at the committee’s Jan. 12 meeting. It called for a small, independent and impartial group to be appointed to review Chrismer’s proposed map and see if improvements could be made. Before the meeting adjourned, a majority of committee members voted in favor of the idea.
The small group turned out to be comprised of Central Committee Member Jon Bennett, State GOP Committee Member Dave Evans, political campaign consultant Tom Smith and Dokes. During the next 28 days, they came up with additional changes to the township boundary lines.
The subject of the boundary lines came up again during the “new business” portion of the next central committee meeting Feb. 9. Despite the fact that several people voiced opposition to the new map, according to Pedersen, no mention of that opposition appears in the central committee’s official minutes from that meeting. Those minutes, by the way, were sent out in the body of an email message — but not as a stand-alone document — to committee members by Secretary Barb Grimm March 6, almost four weeks after the meeting.
During another discussion of the township boundary lines at the county council’s Feb. 21 work session, according to the published meeting minutes, Council Member (Joe) Brazil stated that “the lines have changed from what the Election Authority Director submitted, which were drawn strictly by population and requested a Substitute Bill be drafted to approve the original lines from the County Election Authority.”
After a handful of citizens had the opportunity to voice their opposition to the plan to rework Chrismer’s map, another raised an interesting point. According to the same meeting minutes, “(GOP Central Committee Vice Chair) Penny Henke questioned in 2003 when lines were drawn by the County Election Authority if both Democrats and Republicans were involved in the process. Rich Chrismer, Election Authority Director stated they were not involved.”
Though that last statement attributed to Chrismer seems to contradict what Matheny told me about how things worked out in 2003, Chrismer was hesitant to lump Matheny in with any effort to inject partisanship into the process. Council Member Brazil, however, held nothing back when sharing his opinion about Chrismer’s approach to the process.
“He was being fair about it,” Brazil said during a phone call Wednesday afternoon after explaining how he believed Chrismer had done his job the right way, based simply on census-based population figures. “He even drew his wife out of her district.”
At the county council’s Feb. 28 meeting, Matheny and other council members — minus Brazil, of course — approved the new boundaries.
Brazil, a former county council chair, went on to decry the outcome of the process, explaining that some of the central committee members — who had gone to Dokes and Matheny with complaints about Chrismer’s map — seemed to forget that the seats belong to the people instead of the incumbents.
They wanted to “make it more comfortable for certain political township committee representatives,” Brazil continued. “What that did was make it more inconvenient for other people.”
After noting that this process of “picking winners and losers” was wrong and made no sense, especially when it involved Republicans against Republicans, Brazil concluded, “They just don’t get it!”
UPDATE 3/23/12 at 10:05 a.m. Central: After publishing the post above, a reader asked me this morning what it was that anyone in the local GOP might have wanted to keep “low profile.” While I couldn’t provide an answer, I am able to share some interesting new numbers. As of 10 a.m. Central today, according to St. Charles County Election Authority Rich Chrismer, 55 Republicans have filed to run for the 28 township seats on the Republican Central Committee. Most filed after the March 17 caucus. That, he said, is the most he’s seen file during his 10 years in the job. The filing deadline is Tuesday.
UPDATE 3/23/12 Almost Noon Central: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch just reported that a new caucus will be held April 10 at 7 p.m. at the St. Charles Convention Center and that recording devices will be allowed.
UPDATE 4/11/12 at 7:27 a.m. Central: Ron Paul wins do-over St. Charles County caucus.