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Wood County GOP to review chairman’s conduct

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — The Wood County Republican Executive Committee is meeting this week over the actions of Chairman Rob Cornelius, officials said Monday.

In response, Cornelius said the meeting, which he characterized as intended to begin his removal as chairman, was improperly called. He said he asked to see the petition calling the meeting, but has not been given the information.

“So my guess is they’re lying,” he said Monday.

Cornelius, who was chosen chairman in July 2014 to succeed former chairman Greg Smith, was involved in the efforts to remove Mayor Bob Newell, a Democrat.

He filed the petitions on behalf of the group calling itself the Committee to establish a three-judge tribunal to determine whether Newell should be removed based on alleged incompetence and misuse of municipal funds related to a reported affair with Finance Director Ashley Flowers. Newell retired June 3, the day before the hearing was to start, during a press conference at city hall.

Among incidents in question is Cornelius’ conduct at the press conference and a rude comment he made in the presence of two women afterward, as well as an incident in which Cornelius answered the door of his home wielding a baseball bat when a process server called with a subpoena for the Newell hearing. Cornelius claimed the woman attempted to enter his house without permission.

The executive committee will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Black Annex in a meeting open to Republicans in Wood County, said Smith, who remains a member of the committee.

The request for the special meeting of the executive committee said the purpose was to investigate and hear charges Cornelius has “engaged in actions detrimental to the interests or purposes of the Republican Party,” to conduct an inquiry into the charges and take appropriate action if they are sustained and “other appropriate business related to these purposes.”

Thursday’s meeting will follow Robert’s Rules of Order, Smith said. A three-member review panel will hear evidence of Cornelius’ conduct and the entire committee will vote on what action to take, he said.

“We expect 100 percent attendance,” Smith said.

The meeting was called Friday by the required 15 members of the 18-member executive committee, according to the bylaws of the executive committee, Roger Conley, county party vice chairman, said. The other way for a meeting to be called is for the chairman to call a meeting, according to the bylaws.

The meeting was properly called, said Conley, adding he never said he wouldn’t release the signers of the petition.

“They will be available for all to see at the meeting,” said Conley, who will be the presiding officer at Thursday’s meeting.

The provision in the bylaws is Article VI Section 2. “The vice chairman or secretary upon the written request of no less than 15 members of the committee; provided, that no special meeting shall be convened except upon no less than four days notice by mailing written notice or phone call to each and every member of the committee. No special meeting shall be convened on Sunday or a national or state holiday.”

The meeting doesn’t meet the four-day window cited in the bylaws and is out of order and moot, Cornelius said in a message to Conley.

In a letter he emailed Monday to the state GOP committee and “conservative friends statewide,” Cornelius said, “This effort is being led by the wing of our party that supports Common Core openly, specifically Bob and Barbara Fish, and Becky Deem, the wife of Delegate Frank Deem. Sadly, former conservatives like Rocky Peck have also been drawn into this plan.”

Peck and the Fishes referred comment to Conley.

Cornelius in his email asked Republicans to contact their friends in the party and “let them know you are disgusted by the actions of liberal Republicans in Wood County.”

“Let them know you stand for conservative values, against Common Core and against liberals like Bob Fish, Barbara Fish, Mrs. Frank Deem and the weak-willed Rocky Peck,” Cornelius wrote.

Cornelius didn’t dispute making a comment after the press conference, but said he was physically assaulted there by Becky Deem, the wife of Delegate Frank Deem, R-Wood. Cornelius spoke to the sheriff’s department about the incident on Monday and it is under investigation, said Capt. Mark King with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office.

Mrs. Deem on Monday denied assaulting Cornelius at the press conference, saying she tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention.

“He turned around and said ‘Don’t touch me,'” Deem said.

The rude comment was made after that, she said. The other woman with Deem was Sarah Townsend of Lubeck.

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