Transparency and Accountability in the MA GOP

The fourth debate proved notable as the candidates actually debated on substantive issues and clearly separated themselves as establishment and full- or nearly-full platform conservatives. The moderators stayed in the background for the most part and even let Ben Carson hold the press accountable by explaining the lies they told about him, while giving Hillary a pass on the lies she told about Benghazi. The full- or nearly-full platform conservatives found in Carson, Trump, Cruz, Paul, and Fiorina, all demand transparency and accountability in government.

We in the Massachusetts Republican Party should demand no less from State government and, indeed, even from our own party. That’s why I and others on the State Committee demanded a vote on a set of Bylaws amendments that are common-sense amendments to hold the Executive Committee accountable and their actions regarding payment of a salary to the chairman transparent to the full Committee.

On 29 January this year, the State Committee reelected Kirsten Hughes as State Chairman by a near unanimous vote. The very next week on Wednesday, 4 February 2015, the MA GOP Executive Committee decided to pay the Chairman a salary of $90,000. Some members of the Executive Committee reported that no notice had been given that such a vote would be taken on the conference call meeting and that the motion was made at the very end of the call by the Chairman of the Budget Committee.

No one questions the ability of the Executive Committee to make such a decision as the Bylaws of the State Committee in Article IV, Section 1 state this clearly. Most would also concur that paying the current Chairman is appropriate. No one is attempting to change this or to take away the salary of the current Chairman.

Question arise, however, regarding the process that was used, the timing of the decision to pay to the chairman, as well as whether such a decision should come under review by the entire committee. The Executive Committee is a Standing Committee (Article VI, Section 1) and must comply with meeting notice requirements of such committees as required by Article VI, Section 10. That is, a meeting notice must be sent at least five days in advance of the meeting, “…and if special or unusual business is to be considered, a statement thereof shall be contained in the notice.” Emphasis added.

I would consider paying a salary to the chairman “special or unusual business” especially since none had been paid prior to the meeting. No such notice was given, but should have been. Further coming just 6 days after the vote to reelect the chairman with notice of the meeting coming the day after the elections has the appearance that there was an intention of paying a salary to the chairman in advance of the elections. These circumstances cast a shadow on motives of leadership. Such an appearance creates distrust and contempt of the Committee particularly in light of the 2014 State Convention and nomination vote for governor.

Finally, this incident shed light on the provisions of Article IV, Section 1 that give the Executive Committee the sole authority to establish not only the salary but the terms and conditions as well. While the Executive Committee should have the authority to negotiate the salary and terms and conditions, the full Committee ought to have a consenting roll in the process. Even the Executive Committee is given such oversight of the chairman when appointing an executive director.

To address these issues I offered two amendments (Link: Accountability and Transparency Amendments) to the Bylaws at the May meeting of the State Committee. Both provide more specific notice requirements not only for Executive Committee meetings at which a chairman’s salary and terms and conditions will be discussed, but also to the entire State Committee prior to the election of the chairman that upon election the chairman will be paid a salary. One of the amendments also requires State Committee advice and consent  of Executive Committee decisions regarding the salary and  terms and conditions associated with paying the chairman.

These common-sense and fiduciarily responsible amendments were committed to the Bylaws Committee for review. Unfortunately, the Bylaws Committee voted 9 to 1 against recommending adoption. I was the sole vote in favor. The State Committee will take these amendments up at its next meeting scheduled for Wednesday, 18 November 2015.

Corporate America is demanding transparency and accountability of boards of directors and officers of corporations not only in the operation and profitability of the company, but in the salaries of the officers charged with the duty of running the company. The American people are demanding the same transparency and accountability of government. Is the Massachusetts Republican State Committee any different? No. Next Wednesday, the State Committee should vote unanimously to adopt these amendments.

About Bylaw Bill Gillmeister

Bill Gillmeister is a governance professional, school committee member, and Treasurer of End Common Core Massachsuetts.