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Haywood Republicans boot Miller

Haywood Republicans boot Miller

High political drama — the likes of which is not often seen in rural counties — came to a head last week as a Haywood County Republican Party Executive Committee member was removed from his post.

On Aug. 3, Haywood Republican Alliance member Monroe Miller was “found responsible for one or more acts of gross inefficiency as well as being responsible for one or more acts of party disloyalty,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

Miller had the opportunity but refused to present a defense against the executive committee’s allegations. The removal from the party comes after several years of tension between the mainstream members of the local GOP and the HRA.

HRA members maintain the feud isn’t ideological, but is instead operational. Since at least last spring, they’ve attacked HCGOP Chairman Ken Henson with allegations of convention shenanigans during a counterinsurgency that resulted in HRA members losing hard-fought representation in the party.

Monroe and other HRA members have also taken issue with local GOP leaders being tight-lipped about what’s going on within the executive committee proceedings. A supposed resolution charging Miller and four others — the so-called “Haywood Five” — with party disloyalty passed in July was never officially confirmed by the party.

But last week’s proceedings make clear that whatever the resolution stated, it initiated or advanced the action against Miller, which was announced shortly thereafter when a petition submitted by members of the executive committee asked the HCGOP for Miller’s removal.

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Whether or not the HCGOP becomes stronger by ridding itself of a methodical, meticulous, outspoken activist or weaker by martyring him remains unclear, as does his ultimate fate — but perhaps the biggest lingering question is whether the HCGOP’s purge is over, or if this is just the beginning.


The hearing

The meeting to remove Miller seemed almost a formality — a surreal spectacle of a nation more divided than ever, even amongst members of the same political party.

Hand-written signs near the entrance to the Bethel Rural Community Organization Fellowship Hall warned against bringing weapons or recording devices into the executive committee-only meeting, and two sheriff’s deputies stationed by the front door proved they were serious about it.

Around the corner, grade school cheerleaders practiced their routines on the blacktop, with several stray thunderheads punctuating the clean blue air above the forest-green mountain range behind them.

While not unprecedented, it is unusual for formal proceedings like this to take place, irrespective of the merit of the case against Miller.

Before the meeting, HCGOP Executive Committee Member and Miller supporter Jonnie Cure called the whole affair a “crucifixion.”

And if the very notion of armed guards protecting a closed hearing during which a member of a political party was being charged with supporting opposition candidates, breaching confidentiality, making false and vulgar statements and otherwise contributing to the “gross inefficiency of the local party” doesn’t sound biblical enough, it all took place in the shadow of the cross-topped tower of the church next door.

fr miller hensonAt least two members of the HRA were slapped with “no trespassing” orders in May, but that didn’t stop a small group of other Miller supporters from showing up anyway. One, Paul Yeager, came armed with a video camera, taking footage of everyone who showed up, including Henson.

“How does the removal of Monroe Miller further the goals of the party?” Yeager boomed as he followed Henson, who paid him no mind.

Miller walked in just before the 6:30 p.m. start of the hearing, armed with a clipboard and seemingly prepared to defend himself against the five separate charges brought by the party against him.

Just 12 minutes later, Miller emerged and said he was told he’d be charged with trespassing if he did not stop his audio recording of the proceedings.

According to the HCGOP’s rules for the meeting, it was to be held in executive session, meaning, “all matters discussed, and all evidence presented shall be confidential and not communicated to anyone outside the meeting room.”

Miller then milled about with supporters outside the meeting for 20 minutes, until NCGOP District 11 Chairman Aubrey Woodard appeared and politely asked Miller to return to the meeting — without his recorder — and present a defense.

“I’m going to turn my recorder on as soon as I walk in that door,” Miller told him.


The aftermath

Woodhouse gave no further comments about the deliberations, the evidence or the vote against Miller, and the exact nature of Miller’s existing sanctions aren’t yet known.

In a comment last week on The Smoky Mountain News website, Ted Carr said that this action would not “expel [Miller] from the party” and would instead “remove him from the Executive Committee.”

But Miller also serves as a county precinct chair; if he’s been removed from that role as well, it’s tantamount to expulsion from the group of decision makers that drive the agendas of any county-level political group.

Regardless, the state party may still weigh in on the situation.

Woodhouse did say that the HCGOP also passed a resolution that night “referring the matter to the [NCGOP] State Executive Committee, which can impose further sanctions up to a ban on holding a ‘party office’ for up to five years,” adding that the committee “may or may not” take up the matter at its November meeting.

Until then, other members of the Haywood five aren’t sure if they’ll experience the same fate as Miller, and don’t really seem concerned.

“I don’t know or care,” said HRA member Jeremy Davis. “I’m doing what’s right and in the best interest for the community I live in. They are in the wrong on this and anyone that knows them knows this.”

“I have no idea,” Yeager said. “I doubt that I have been as big an inconvenience for them as [Miller] has. However, they do not have much track record as rational actors.”

The feud between the HRA and the HCGOP certainly isn’t over, but in the meantime, Yeager’s original question of whether the action against Miller advances the Haywood County Republican Party brand seems to be settled.

New York City native Al Goodis attended the meeting, but wasn’t allowed inside despite receiving a notice of the hearing in the mail.

“I used to be an unaffiliated voter until around the last election, then I changed to Republican,” Goodis said. “And now I gotta put up with this crap?”

Would he, knowing what he knows now, have done the same?

“Probably not.”


Monroe Miller timeline

2010 — Monroe Miller attends his first HCGOP meeting, despite being registered as unaffiliated.

2013 — A two-year tug-of-war for control of the Haywood GOP begins.

January 2015 — Miller is charged with misdemeanor cyber stalking of HCGOP volunteer Savannah Tedesco.

March 2015 — Cyber stalking charges against Miller are dismissed by a judge; Ken Henson is elected HCGOP Chair; future members of the Haywood Republican Alliance take control of the HCGOP.

February 2017 — HCGOP members regain control of the party from HRA members during party elections.

July 2017 — A closed-session action by the HCGOP begins the short march towards Miller’s removal; members of the HCGOP Executive Committee petition for Miller’s removal.

August 2018 — Monroe Miller is removed from his HCGOP Executive Committee post by the HCGOP Executive Committee.

November 2018 — An NCGOP committee may consider additional sanctions against Miller.

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