Procedural Jiu Jitsu

   

It’s been a minute since our original post, Lafayette Republican Swipes $35,797. So, some additional, interesting events that have transpired in and around her removal may prove instructive.

Denice Skinner had the great idea for the Lafayette Republican Parish Execute Committee (RPEC) to hire an outside marketing firm for the upcoming elections next year. Why she suddenly needed help from an outside firm was not made clear. However, at the April 2022 RPEC meeting she wanted it to be MetaCom (who rents office space from her). That conflict became apparent to the members, who quickly voted to remove Skinner as treasurer at the very next meeting in May.

The RPEC eventually agreed to the concept of hiring a marketing consultant, but hired a different firm. As a result, Skinner refused to turn over control of the RPEC’s official Facebook Page to the new agency. On August 9th, the RPEC executive board (Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, and Parlimentarian) sent a demand letter via an attorney. She still refused to turn over the page. On September 7th, the RPEC body (all members) passed two resolutions authorizing legal action, and asking Skinner to resign. She refused to resign. It was about 1:23pm on September 12, 2022, when the news broke that the RPEC had officially voted to vacate Ms. Skinner’s seat.

Many have wondered why the RPEC called a vote asking for her resignation. While that action appears to be trivial, procedurally, it was an outward sign to all of the members (and to Skinner) that they had the two-thirds (2/3) majority required for her removal.

The Controversy

As we mentioned in Lafayette Republican Swipes $35,797, the RPEC’s second Facebook page was created as “Lafayette Republican PEC” on July 12, 2019. However, since my original article, Team Denice (Dustin Arnaud, Solange Noriega, Landon Boudreaux, and Denice Skinner) have been trying to convince themselves (and the public) that the official page of the Lafayette Republican Party was nothing of the sort. That’s in spite of that May 9th, 2022, screenshot that declared it the “Official Page of the Lafayette Republican Parish Executive Committee. Tim Breaux, Chairman.”

It’s worth mentioning that the date, May 9th, 2022, is not arbitrarily. That’s the same day that the RPEC voted to remove Denice Skinner as Treasurer. The screenshots were recorded then exactly because everyone expected what would happen. That is, Skinner would attempt to exact her revenge by hijacking the official page, of which she was an administrator.

Everyone is more upset now than when this started

Absconding with the Party’s $35,797 Facebook Page asset is bad enough. However, it probably wasn’t quite enough to get two-thirds of the Lafayette RPEC to vote to remove her. In fact, quite a few of them just wanted to move on and forget the whole thing. “It’s not worth it. Just let her have it,” they said. But then something happened.

In the days after the Louisiana Republican Party endorsed Congressman Higgins for re-election, Skinner started using the page to promote one of his opponents who just happens to rent office space from her. Do you detect a recurring theme here? Even while she claims that the page does not belong to the Lafayette Republicans, she’s been using the “Lafayette Republicans” moniker to promote attacks on a sitting (and Party endorsed) Republican Congressman as well as to promote other candidates for public office who have not been endorsed. She also used the page to make scores of posts in support of the now famous Livingston librarian. Those posts could be perceived as the Republican Party wanting sexually explicit content to remain in the public library children’s section.

These intentionally misleading posts have been very confusing to the average citizen. Her incendiary use of social media under the guise of the official party banner has been driving phone calls, text messages, and emails to Republican Party members and leaders across the entire state. It was this flagrant misuse of the Lafayette Republican Party brand that spurred many of the more milquetoast members into action.

The Hustle

As W.C. Fields once said, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with [boloney].” Denice Skinner, acting as the official (but now converted) Republican Party page, explains. “The PEC knows it’s not their page. And they know an owner can change the purpose of a page. But, then again, it may be they just don’t have the intelligence to understand how social media platforms operate.”

The implication here is that Skinner claims ownership of the page because she created it. However, anyone in the marketing business knows that an asset created on behalf of an organization is the property of that organization. This is common practice for paid contractors and volunteers alike. If the official Lafayette RPEC page was owned by her, as she claims, it would not have included a caveat that the “Lafayette Republican Parish Executive Committee is responsible for this Page.” However, since converting the page to her own use, she appears to be covering her tracks by changing that section to now read, “Denice Skinner is responsible for this Page.”

Legal Questions

Even though she’s been voted off of the Lafayette RPEC, her “dazzling brilliance” continues on Facebook. “There are only three ways to remove someone from the RPEC once they are on. They commit a felony, they are no longer a republican, or they move out of their district. None of those things have happened. I am still on the RPEC. They have no authority to remove me. Mr. Lunsford at C4NL is a liar.”

She’s referring to Louisiana’s Title 18. Specifically, LA RS 18:444 H, which explains the state’s rules regarding the removal of an ‘elected‘ PEC member. However, Ms. Skinner was not elected, she was appointed.

As with anything that goes on in an organization, there is a process that must be followed. Since state law is silent on removal of an appointed member, it falls to the bylaws. On the matter of removal, the bylaws only repeat Title 18; remaining silent on removal of an appointed member. When both the enabling legislation and bylaws are silent, it then falls to the standing rules. Since the Lafayette RPEC has no standing rules, the question falls to the presiding officer to make a determination.

Procedural Jiu Jitsu

According to their bylaws, Lafayette RPEC is governed by Robert’s Rules of Order. Members have rights. Any action that affects these rights generally requires a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the body present (two-thirds of the members attending the meeting at hand). Removal of a member fits the requirement because it affects a member’s rights (RONR (12th ed.) 44:4(e)). They knew they had the two-thirds (2/3) majority thanks to that aforementioned test vote. However, a timely objection (point of order) could be made by any member who believes the motion is erroneous or illegal. If no objection is raised, the body is effectively agreeing with the presiding officer’s unchallenged ruling (that the motion is in order) (RONR (12th ed.) 23:3, 5).

In this case, not only did no one object, including Ms. Skinner (who did show up to the meeting, but left early), but Ms. Skinner (by proxy) even participated in the vote! How can anyone take her seriously when she waited to object until after the votes were counted? Procedurally, the proper time to object is after the chairman states the motion but before it is seconded. Vis: “After debate on such a motion has begun—no matter how clear it is that the chair should not have stated the question on the motion—a point of order is too late.” (RONR (12th ed.) 23:5)

Final word

So, the deed is done. Denice Skinner is no longer a member of the Lafayette Republican Parish Executive Committee. Every rule was followed, as evidenced by Ms. Skinner herself making no timely objection to a motion for her removal. There are a few loose ends yet to tie up, however. The return of the Lafayette Republican Party’s $35,797 asset will be sought in the courts. It may take quite some time for the legal process to work that issue to completion.

Pursuing their asset like this has no downside for the Republican Party locally and state-wide. Even if the Party loses the page forever, it’s a win because they fought so hard to recover it. It’s also a win because they removed (for cause) the person representing herself as the Party without the Party’s approval. They can also use this adventure as an example of their spirit and courage with potential donors.

On the other hand, Ms. Skinner’s fight has no upside. Even if she’s miraculously able to keep control of the Facebook page, a judge should at least agree that her use of the Republican brand is deceptive and order her to stop doing so. Likewise, converting an asset that the Party believes is theirs has already done significant damage to her reputation. After all, who would hire a political consultant who has so clearly established a track record of untrustworthiness?

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