A lawyer for Galveston County Republican Party Chairman Carl Gustafson on Monday asked a local district judge to issue a restraining order against members of the county party and to declare the actions of a dissident group within the party “null and void.”
Friendswood attorney Alton Todd filed a third-party petition in Galveston’s 56th District Court, asking the court to clear the air about who’s in charge of the party.
The filing was in response to a lawsuit filed in February by Moody Bank, which asked the court to decide who from the party was allowed access to bank accounts.
It’s the latest development in a monthslong internal party fight between Gustafson and a group of party precinct chairs who claim to have taken control of some party functions because they are dissatisfied with Gustafson’s leadership.
Todd’s filing asks the court to impose a restraining order against the group, which calls itself the “steering committee,” and to prevent its members from calling meetings, organizing party conventions, sending a list of delegates to the Republican Party of Texas or conducting any other business.
The petition specifically names eight people as third-party defendants: Scott Apley, David Buckner, Janis Lowe, Alison Putnam, Kathy Rogers, Paula Smith, Deborah Winters-Chaney and Alicia Youngblood. All eight are part of group of precinct chairs that formed the steering committee.
The filing was meant to preserve the integrity of the party, Todd said.
“This needs to get resolved,” he said.
Todd and Gustafson’s argument is that the state election code outlines the powers of the party chairman and a bylaw change written by the steering committee was not legal.
The filing goes on to accuse members of the steering committee of harming the party by sowing confusion with the bank, by claiming to have removed duly appointed party officers, by attempting to schedule party conventions in different places than ones approved by Gustafson and by posting signs advertising unapproved convention locations at polling places on Election Day last week.
The restraining order is needed because state party officials have warned Gustafson that Galveston County delegates may not be recognized at the Republican Party of Texas convention in June if the county party cannot resolve its issues, Todd said.
“The harm is irreparable not only to the members of the County Executive Committee, but also to those delegates elected from the voting public, who will not be allowed to participate in their political party’s conventions and electoral process,” Todd wrote.
The petition also asked that the court award damages and attorneys fees to Gustafson.
Members of the steering committee named in the petition will be served and have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit, Todd said.
The filing came less than a week after Gustafson handily won re-election as party chairman. He defeated former party vice-chairwoman Yolanda Waters, 12,588 votes to 8,235, a 20-point margin, according to complete but unofficial voting results.
Lowe, one of the precinct chairs who has been featured prominently in both the Moody Bank lawsuit and Todd’s petition, lost her bid for re-election to a precinct chair position to Dave Smith by 54 votes.
Buckner, Putnam and Youngblood all won re-election to their precinct chairs. Rogers and Winters Chaney will be in a runoff elections in May as they each try to retain their seats. The other precinct chairs that appear in the lawsuit were not on the ballot this year.