CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and state Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter are being sued over the removal of an elected county GOP chairman.
Rob Cornelius, chairman of the Wood County Republican Executive Committee, filed the lawsuit Wednesday morning in Kanawha Circuit Court.
“Chairwoman Potter’s attempted removal of petitioner was in violation of his rights including his state constitutional right to serve the office he was elected to, his right not to be removed from that office without complying with principles of due process, and his right not to be removed from a county office absent compliance with West Virginia Code 6-6-7.
“As such, petitioner’s attempted removal by Chairman Potter was ineffective and should not have been recognized by Respondent Warner,” the lawsuit states.
Cornelius’s lawyer Anthony Majestro is a well-known trial attorney in Charleston.
Potter sent a memo June 18 removing Cornelius as the chairman of the Wood County GOP.
Cornelius had been outspoken on social media about Gov. Jim Justice and in opposition to Potter.
Potter wrote that Cornelius “has engaged in multiple acts of constant disunity.” She cited state party bylaws in removing him from the Wood County GOP.
Potter also named six new members of the Wood County GOP, including a newly appointed chairman.
The Secretary of State is supposed to accept updated county party rosters. The office questioned Potter’s authority in making the appointments but eventually concluded it lacked standing to challenge her.
Cornelius’s lawsuit contends Potter did not follow due process in his removal.
He says any removal process should follow the Wood County bylaws or Roberts Rules of Order.
That would have meant confidential investigation, formal notification of the accused and trial — essentially, impeachment.
Cornelius also contends that he remains the elected chairman of the Wood County GOP and that the Secretary of State’s Office should accept the roster that he submits, rather than Potter’s version..
The Secretary of State’s Office this morning acknowledged the lawsuit but had little additional comment.
“Mr. Cornelius did provide the Secretary of State’s office with a 30-day notice of his intent to bring the lawsuit. However, we have not yet been formally served with the lawsuit,” stated spokesman Mike Queen.
“It would be improper for us to comment without first having our legal counsel analyze the content of Mr. Cornelius’ complaint. In any event, we look forward to bringing a quick resolution to the matter.”
Potter declined to comment this morning.
“I have no comments on any potential litigation related to this situation,” she stated in an email.”
“I stand by my decision to remove Mr. Cornelius from the Wood County Republican Executive Committee in accordance with our state party bylaws. I will have no further comments on this matter. Thank you.”
During an appearance last month on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Potter said she had the authority to remove Cornelius. Potter cited two state party bylaws giving her the power.
One of those gives the chairwoman unilateral authority to take such action when “time is of the essence.”
“This is an emergency. We’re getting ready to go into the 2020 election,” she said on “Talkline.”
“I inherited these bylaws and you have to use good judgment and common sense. I don’t get involved with county committee disputes unless I’m asked to.”
The state GOP’s summer meeting is this weekend at The Greenbrier.
Cornelius’s statement about the lawsuit alludes to that meeting, as well as a proposal to change the way GOP delegates are selected to attend the national convention.
“Essentially, Melody Potter wants to cancel my election in Wood County. Our lawsuit clearly defines why she cannot,” Cornelius stated.
“But she also wants to cancel more than 3 million votes for RNC Delegates next spring, and will try to execute that plan to deny democracy this weekend. She won’t be happy until her powers are unlimited, like Galactus.”