As Frederick County’s Republican Central Committee amended its bylaws on Monday, one member and her attorney said she will sue if the committee tries to oust her.
The threat of a possible lawsuit from JoeyLynn Hough comes after the central committee on Monday amended its bylaws regarding its code of conduct, censures and removal of its members.
Committee member Michael Hill, Hough and her attorney, Robin Ficker, all assert that the change in bylaws is meant to target Hough and possibly result in her being removed from her position. Ficker is a former state delegate who has made multiple runs for public office, including Congress this year.
Other committee members — including the one who proposed the new bylaws, Brooke Winn — said the new version is not directed at Hough.
Winn said in an interview Monday night that she sought to bring rules that would hold committee members to a higher standard and to clarify the previous bylaws — what members could, for example, appropriately post on Facebook.
“We’re pretty much echoing what Donald Trump, the whole reasoning and philosophy about why he’s president-elect,” Winn said. “He’s holding politicians and party members accountable. ... He’s not asking them to do something he wouldn’t be held accountable for. I think that’s what the public should know. It’s about accountability.”
She introduced the possible new bylaws to the committee at its last meeting on Nov. 16, which was the first time any of the other members had seen them, Winn said. She said they are intended to mirror the bylaws of the Howard County Republican Central Committee.
Winn said the new bylaws would not apply to past indiscretions by committee members.
“We are not North Korea,” she said.
The vote in favor of the new bylaws was 7-2. Only Hill and Hough voted against the changes approved Monday.
Hough said central committee members believe she leaked information to The Frederick News-Post. She said she did not do that.
Winn said she personally believed Hough had “motive and means” to possibly share information to the press.
Committee Chairman Billy Shreve, a Frederick County councilman, said he did not know if Hough leaked information. He called alterations to bylaws “routine.”
Asked if the committee was discussing removing Hough, Shreve said he does not discuss committee business.
At the meeting, Hough distributed and read aloud a two-page statement to the committee and those in the audience outlining her concerns with the new bylaws.
She called the bylaws “completely arbitrary” and “vague” because they allow members to be kicked out based solely on political and personal motivations.
“What if a member is a whistleblower and reports illegal activity?” her statement reads. “There are no conscious protections in this standard whatsoever.”
The new bylaws, obtained by The News-Post, state that a member could be censured or removed for violating the code of conduct.
Possible code violations include:
- Causing harm to the “reputation and good name” of the Republican party “as it pertains to official business.”
- Verbally harassing or abusing committee members in “in plain view of the public” or during an open session of the committee.
- Disclosing remarks made by any committee member during a session closed to the public without explicit permission from the person who made those statements.
Censuring a member requires at lease two-thirds approval.
To remove a member, at least two committee members must ask for it to be on a future committee agenda. The committee chair must provide at least a week’s notice to all members that a possible removal is being considered.
Debate on the removal will take place in a session closed to the public, and the decision must be by secret ballot, the new bylaws state. Two-thirds of the votes cast must approve the removal.
The previous committee bylaws stated that a committee member may be removed for “conclusive and justifiable malfeasance and/or misfeasance in office,” determined by a two-thirds majority of the members.
In an interview, Hill said that based on comments by members at their last meeting, the threat of Hough’s censure or removal was “unmistakable.”
“For them to claim otherwise is baffling,” he said.
State Delegate William Folden (R) attended the meeting to “hear for himself” what he had read in The News-Post — that Hough, the wife of state Sen. Michael Hough (R), might be ejected from the committee.
Early in the meeting, Folden attempted to speak, but was silenced by Shreve, who said he was out of order. Shreve nearly kicked Folden out of the meeting. Folden was allowed to speak for two minutes at the end of the meeting, with everyone else.
Folden, after the vote, said the First Amendment, which had been brought up multiple times during the meeting, should always be considered.
“Taking away people’s rights and freedoms and muzzling them is a very slippery slope,” he said.