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HomeNewsLocal newsAckley Remains V.I. GOP Chairman Despite Attempted Ouster, RNC Rules

Ackley Remains V.I. GOP Chairman Despite Attempted Ouster, RNC Rules

V.I. GOP Chairman Gordon Ackley has survived an ouster by 14 party executives after the Republican National Committee chief counsel’s office rejected their effort because it did not comply with party rules on meeting notices.

Gordon Ackley, chairman of the V.I. Republican Party. (Source file photo)

While the meeting Nov. 4 to vote on removing Ackley as chairman of the local party was properly called via a petition signed by the requisite number of state committee members, said RNC Chief Counsel Matt Raymer, “the petition merely requested that the chairman call a meeting; it would not itself necessarily constitute a call.”

Additionally, while a Zoom link was provided for members to attend the meeting, the V.I. GOP rules stipulate there also must be an in-person location and that at least three members from both districts be physically present before virtual technology may be used, Raymer said in a letter Friday to Vice Chairman Randolph Maynard, who was appointed acting chairman at the Nov. 4 meeting.

Raymer also wrote in a footnote that the Zoom link for the meeting was sent at 8:45 a.m. before a 2 p.m. meeting, and that “even if the link satisfied the requirement of providing a location, five hours would be a questionable length of time to provide meaningful notice.”

As a result, “the RNC will continue to recognize Gordon Ackley as chairman of the VIGOP,” he said.

At issue is apparent discord among V.I. GOP members around plans to hold the party caucus ahead of March 1 and to tally the results using ranked-choice voting.

While he declined to comment on the current developments when reached on Tuesday, National Committeeman Jevon Williams said after the Nov. 4 vote to remove Ackley that the ouster “was long in the making” and that Ackley and Executive Director Dennis Lennox did not consult with party leaders before adopting changes to the caucus process that flout RNC rules.

Williams said at the time that none of the party’s members favored moving the caucus to Feb. 8 or employing ranked-choice voting, both of which are against RNC rules that allow only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina to caucus before Super Tuesday in March, he said.

The RNC did not respond to a request for comment from the Source, but in a letter from Raymer to Ackley dated Oct. 19, it warned that the local party was in violation of the national rules and that would result in a reduced number of USVI delegates at the national convention to choose a presidential candidate.

In his response, Ackley said the party would be willing to accept the penalties and that its ranked-choice voting plan was aligned with party rules.

However, in his Nov. 17 letter to Maynard rejecting the vote to oust Ackley, Raymer implied that the matter was not settled.

“The petition requesting the November 4, 2023 meeting cited Chairman Ackley’s actions with respect to the plan by which national convention delegates from the Virgin Islands will be allocated and selected. As such, it is reasonable to anticipate that these issues will receive further investigation and be considered by the full RNC,” he wrote.

In an emailed statement on Sunday, Ackley characterized the attempted ouster as a “hostile takeover” by Williams, National Committeewoman Antoinette Gumbs-Hecht and State Committeeman Todd Hecht.

Ackley said amendments to the V.I. party’s rules that were adopted at a state committee meeting on June 16 were pre-cleared by the RNC counsel’s office and authorized the “Executive Committee to adopt a process for the election of party officers in 2024, the selection of delegates to the 2024 Republican National Convention and the nomination of candidates for public elected offices in 2024.”

The new rules were adopted unanimously at a meeting of the Executive Committee the following day, according to Ackley.

“No member of the State Committee, no member of the Executive Committee, no member of the Caucus Committee and no Republican presidential campaign ever objected, challenged, disputed or otherwise complained about either the amended party rules or the adopted caucus rules and delegate selection plan,” Ackley said.

“If there had been an objection, challenge, dispute or complaint, a member (or members) of the State Committee could have requested a meeting of the committee to address their issue and even amend the party rules, caucus rules or delegate selection plan. That would have been perfectly proper,” he said.

Instead, he first heard about possible objections in a letter from the RNC on Sept. 30, said Ackley.

“Together with legal counsel, the party immediately entered good faith negotiations with the RNC to clarify the matter and resolve it in a way that preserved the voice of Virgin Islanders in the nomination of the 2024 Republican presidential candidate,” said Ackley. That resulted in an agreement to keep the V.I. party in full compliance both nationally and territorially, he said.

“I called a special meeting of the State Committee to get the committee’s approval, which was necessary under party rules,” said Ackley. “Mrs. Gumbs-Hecht, Mr. Williams and Mr. Hecht, along with two others, decided to spike the process and attempt a hostile takeover of the party.”

As a direct consequence of their actions, the RNC applied penalties that may result in the Virgin Islands having five fewer delegates at the 2024 Republican National Convention, said Ackley.

The caucus on Feb. 8, which eight Republican presidential candidates have filed and qualified for by paying $20,000 each, will still go ahead as previously announced, he said. “As part of that caucus, so too will regular party elections,” he added.

“Hopefully, the RNC’s ruling that the actions by Mrs. Gumbs-Hecht, Mr. Williams and Mr. Hecht to depose me was unlawful and invalid puts an end to this distraction that unfortunately played out in the news after they hoodwinked reporters into believing their claims,” said Ackley.

“My focus is continuing the plan to build a real Republican Party in the Virgin Islands. Our islands deserve better than failed one-party rule,” he said.

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