Ambrose read excerpts of comments that visiting Judge Paul Banner made on Jan. 3, when a lawsuit brought against Ambrose by three precinct chairmen on the executive committee was resolved. Banner ruled that the trio—Cynthia Ridgeway, Madaline Barber, and Blanton Dawson—were indeed members of the committee, although Ambrose had argued they weren’t because they hadn’t taken an oath of office.
Since then, two separate factions of the Upshur GOP—one led by Ambrose and one presided over by Mrs. Ridgeway—have been holding separate gatherings which each group contends are the legitimate quarterly meetings of the committee. Neither side recognizes the other’s meetings as valid, each faction has elected its own secretary, and the groups disagree on who is supposed to call the meetings.
Ambrose has contended he is supposed to call the meetings, and said Wednesday night’s gathering at Republican Headquarters was a quarterly gathering. His opponents believe Mrs. Barber—who is recognized by them but not Ambrose as the committee’s duly-elected secretary—calls such meetings under bylaws approved June 5, 2010.
In his court ruling, Banner attached a copy of by-laws which were purportedly adopted during what Mrs. Ridgeway claims was an “illegally declared recess” at the committee’s tumultuous June 5 organizational meeting. Ambrose contends the judge attached all the by-laws in order only to approve one of them, which says how prior notice of meetings must be given to committee members.
On Wednesday night, he told the GOP gathering that “bylaws are just a lot of paper stuck (to that order) to get to that one item.
“At no time did the judge. . .say any bylaws (were). . .in effect,” Ambrose argued.
He cited a portion of the Jan. 3 court hearing transcript in which Banner in part said this:
“The only reference that is made to the bylaws, which was exhibit A, is just saying that is how the prior notice has to be given. It doesn’t adopt them. It doesn’t say anybody has to live by those orders. It doesn’t say whether those bylaws are good, bad, repealed, amended, modified, or even whether they are in effect or noted. It’s only referenced for the purpose of giving the notice. To redo this order is just going to generate, I think, substantial, avoidable expense for both sides.
“And if somebody wants to file a thing claiming that somehow or another. . .my earlier. . .ruling in December says. . .that the Republicans of this county have to live by some particular set of bylaws, they are not going to get much of a hearing. I’m not going to be likely to entertain that.”
Ambrose also cited a portion of the transcript in which the three plaintiffs’ attorney, Ed Merritt of Longview, was quoted as saying that the bylaws were improperly amended under Robert’s Rules of Order.
Ambrose told the gathering, “So their own attorney” says the rules of what the chairman terms a “shadow group” were “improper.”
Mrs. Ridgeway on Friday said “I am agreeing that he (Banner) did not approve the entire set of bylaws.” But, she said, Banner attached the by-laws “as a directive for how Mr. Ambrose was to call the meetings,” and they state that the party secretary will call them for Ambrose.
“Mr. Ambrose never denied that Madaline Barber had been elected secretary in that (June 5) meeting until Judge Banner ordered him to provide notice to the elected precinct chairs” of meetings, said Mrs. Ridgeway. Some committee members, but not Ambrose, reocgnize Mrs. Ridgeway as the committee’s elected vice chairman.
She further said Banner recognized the executive committee “as being confined to the elected precinct chairs,” but that Ambrose continues giving notice of meetings to vice chairmen who she contends Ambrose improperly appointed to the committee.
Mrs. Ridgeway also said that any bylaws approved before the June 5, 2010, meeting had ceased to exist. Ambrose had told his gathering Wednesday night he is operating under bylaws approved in October 2008.
Mrs. Ridgeway additionally said she believed the transcript portion purportedly quoting her attorney, Merritt, was actually a statement from Ambrose’s attorney, Russell Soloway, or that Merritt was misquoted in the transcript.
Ambrose on Wednesday asked why his foes wouldn’t take him to court over the issues that divide them. He said they are now “having a (parliamentary) trial” (under Robert’s Rules of Order, part of what Mrs. Barber recently said is an effort to impeach him).
He said his foes have repeatedly changed the amount of money they have accused him of stealing from the party. Although criminal charges against Ambrose of stealing and misusing party funds have been dropped, he said his opponents now accuse him of stealing $6,200 in party funds and using “colorful language.”
Joy Connery, one of only two of the committee’s approximately 15 precinct chairmen who attended Wednesday’s meeting (Wayne Oney was the other), said Ambrose’s foes “went against their own bylaws” by attending the June 5, 2010, meeting that Ambrose called. Mrs. Ridgeway disgareed, saying no bylaws existed when he called the meeting.
Said Ambrose, “This will be resolved in the March (6) election (for county chairman). . .Either I will be the chairman, or I will be a cattle rancher.”
Ambrose has announced for reelection, but has no announced opponent so far.
He also said the upcoming primary election will cost less than 10 percent of the $32,000 he said it cost taxpayers under his predecessor, Brenda Patterson—an amount he termed “an outrage” that equaled $14 per vote.
“If we continue to move in the right direction, that will never happen again,” Ambrose averred. He said “I’ve reached folk hero status now”—an apparent reference to the criminal charges against him being dismissed—and that he is being told he is appreciated for the “job I am doing and the risk I am taking.”
About 10 persons attended Wednesday night’s meeting, including eight which Ambrose considers committee members. Those eight included himself, his wife, party treasurer Linda Ambrose, and several of his appointed vice chairmen, in addition to the two precinct chairmen.