The accountability committee charged with investigating Delta County Republican Central Committee chairperson Linda Sorenson, and evaluating "the quality of the chair's apology" released its findings at the monthly committee meeting held July 5.
Sorenson, and by association, the local Republican party, was the subject of local and national news coverage in the wake of a Facebook meme portraying President Obama as a chimpanzee. Both Republicans and Democrats expressed outrage over the offensive post, which they considered to be racist. Sorenson and executive committee members initially claimed Sorenson's Facebook page had been hacked. Sorenson later acknowledged she had "liked" the post, and apologized for her insensitivity.
The fallout continued on social media, in newspapers and on TV broadcasts. For the sake of transparency, Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee suggested the accountability committee prepare a full report on the matter.
The involvement of committee members Bob Johnson, Ron Rowell, Mike Nelson, Roger Bentley and Fred McKee in that investigation was acknowledged with thanks at the monthly central committee meeting.
"This has been a very unpleasant task; however, the integrity of our party is worth the effort," the report noted.
Prior to public release, the accountability committee's findings were delivered to members of the executive committee for their rebuttal. Individual meetings were held with the treasurer, secretary and chair. Vice chair Vic Ullrey declined the invitation to meet.
The meeting with Sorenson ended abruptly June 30 with her resignation. The first order of business at the central committee meeting was a vote to formally accept Sorenson's resignation. A secret ballot ensued, with 21 voting in favor, four against.
Don Suppes was elected to chair the meeting for that night only, and the accountability committee delivered its findings.
Regarding the Facebook meme, committee members noted, "While we disagree with the 'share' of the offensive meme, no rules or bylaws were violated and the right of free speech must be protected."
They addressed "inconsistent" statements of executive committee members regarding the Facebook meme, and determined the meme had indeed been "shared" by Sorenson.
The committee noted no minutes were taken at an executive committee meeting held May 28, shortly after the controversy first surfaced. "This shows a lack of executive committee transparency."
As for Sorenson's apology, the committee noted that Sorenson ignored recommendations of the Delta County elected officials and state Republican chairman Steve House regarding the content of the chair's public statement on June 7.
Bob Johnson defended Sorenson, saying the state's recommendation amounted to little more than a "politically correct pandering document."
"I don't think anyone in this room would put their name on that piece of crap," he said.
The fifth and final finding, concerning alleged candidacy preference by both the chair and vice chair, in violation of bylaws regarding preprimary neutrality, proved the most damaging. Committee members said they were provided with unsolicited statements that substantiated those findings.
Neither Sorenson nor Ullrey attended the meeting or offered a rebuttal in writing. Others, however, defended Sorenson's right to free speech.
"This is not a personal attack on Linda," county treasurer Debbie Griffith observed. "This has to do with leadership and representing us as a group. Please keep that in mind."
Some questioned why Sorenson's actions are being judged so harshly, while at the national level Hillary Clinton is has escaped punishment for what appear to be far more serious transgressions.
"My comment to that statement is, we're not Democrats," said Mike Mason. "To say that somehow excuses us, and allows us to go further that way, I say no to that too."
The standing vacancy committee will take up the issue of Sorenson's replacement, as well as replacement of two precinct committee persons who have resigned. Jim Wetzel will chair the seven-member committee, which has 30 days in which to meet.