"The grand ideas of Ronald Reagan live…in young Americans like Jason Shepherd…"

Around Town: Boxing Gloves – They might have come in handy at GOP convention

by Otis Brumby, Bill Kinney, Joe Kirby
Around Town Columnists The Marietta Daily Journal
May 20, 2011 12:00 AM
 
BY THE TIME last Saturday’s state GOP convention was gaveled to an end in Macon, not only had the state party gained a chairman, the Cobb party had lost its attorney. Georgia Republicans re-elected east Cobb’s Sue Everhart as chair over challenger Tricia Pridemore, also of Cobb. As one might expect, with the two leading candidates for state party chair hailing from the same county, the convention delegation from that county, Cobb, was sharply divided. And as often happens at political conventions, passions came to the fore amongst the delegation, which consisted of 135 members and 89 alternates.Problems arose, however, when 37 members of the delegation were no-shows and there was no rule in place to determine which alternates would be seated. New Cobb GOP Chairman Joe Dendy then said he would be the one to determine which alternates would be moved up. He told AT on Friday he did so based on advice from the state party’s attorney earlier that such decisions were up to the county chairmen. So Dendy asked the delegation to approve his decision via a voice vote in the crowded, noisy hall.

“Those sitting in the back of the delegation could not hear as Joe stood in the front and tried to yell,” recalled the Cobb GOP’s attorney, Jason Shepherd. “People in the back were yelling that they didn’t know what was going on and Dendy would yell back, ‘I just got through explaining what’s going on!’ This led to frustration, anger, and confusion, none of which is good for a highly charged convention.”

Dendy, a Vietnam combat veteran, noted that he was speaking as loudly as he could in “my Army captain’s voice” trying to be heard over the din and was still noticeably hoarse on Friday.

Dendy critics say the decision on who to seat should have been made by a “neutral” process, such as alphabetical order, random drawing, etc.

Dendy’s decision prompted Shepherd and others to request a hand count of the delegation on the question. Dendy says by his count and those taken by three others his motion had passed; while Shepherd contends that his and other tallies taken during the chaotic scene showed it had failed. Then, fearing that Convention Chairman Randy Evans would disallow all Cobb’s votes if the matter were not wrapped up quickly, Dendy decided to go with his own vote count.

“Unfortunately, the ones who had come up with different vote totals were running around telling everyone that I had ignored their count,” Dendy said.

Dendy then seated only alternates who were Everhart supporters, said Shepherd, a Pridemore supporter.

Not true, Dendy told AT.

“Looking at who was voting for which candidate was not the factor that drove my selections,” said Dendy. “To me, this was not just about the chairman’s race. I had to look at what was the best for our county party and who I felt had earned the right to be moved or could benefit the party in its growth plans.”

Explained Dendy: “I do not apologize, for I did what I thought was right under the circumstances. I also feel that I was very fair in the selection process. It was not going to be pretty either way. No matter who I chose, I would have been accused of not being impartial.”

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ONE OF THOSE left unhappy by the turn of events was party attorney Shepherd, a John Marshall Law School grad and unsuccessful 2010 state legislative candidate who spent the past four years as the Cobb party’s parliamentarian. He was appointed to the pro bono attorney position at the beginning of the year by then-Cobb Chairman Scott Johnson to succeed John Sours of Smyrna.

“I wrestled with the decision for most of the convention, but eventually decided for my own integrity, I had to resign,” he told AT.

He wrote his resignation letter on his Blackberry during the convention and showed the rough draft of it to county GOP Secretary Jamie Carswell, Johnson and former vice-chair Darryl Wilson.

“I informed Joe Dendy that the letter was waiting in his email immediately after the convention adjourned,” he told AT. “Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney may resign if he believes his client is acting in a way that is imprudent or repugnant. I believe the chairman acted in a manner that was both.

“There is no need to have someone advise the Party on the Rules when the Party leadership has no intention to following them anyway.”

Responds Dendy, 67, who with wife Billie co-owns a local travel agency, “I regret that he feels that way. I don’t want to get into a war of words with Jason in the paper. He has his beliefs about what happened, but that’s not the way it came down.”

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THERE WAS NO SHORTAGE of sharp feelings on the convention floor. Shepherd says he was punched in the back by a female member of the delegation during the hand-vote so hard that it left a bruise, but that she had apologized “and we’re still friends.”

Likewise, state Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb), an Everhart supporter, kicked Scott Johnson in the ankle with the side of her foot to get his attention as he was talking to a fellow Pridemore supporter. She told AT that their shoes collided with “a loud pop” that made what she described as a friendly nudge sound worse than it was. Johnson, too, downplayed the incident.

“It was not a malicious act,” he said. “We’re still buddies.”

Of the tense emotions at the convention, Dendy added, “If we’d had some boxing gloves down there, I’m sure we all could have used ’em.”

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MS. EVERHART got plenty of congratulations from well-wishers after her victory, including one from an unexpected quarter. She arrived home from Macon to find a large bouquet of flowers waiting from former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes of Marietta, who was defeated by Nathan Deal in November’s gubernatorial race. You’ll recall that Deal handpicked Ms. Everhart’s challenger for the GOP chairmanship, Ms. Pridemore.

Read the note on Barnes’ bouquet to the winner: “Congratulations. You beat him. I couldn’t.” — Roy Barnes

TALK ABOUT YOUR WHIRLWIND COURTSHIPS! The Cobb school board, which had spent the past five months looking for a superintendent to succeed retiring Fred Sanderson, eventually fell head over heels for Dr. Michael Hinojosa of Dallas, Texas. And although spokesmen say he was properly vetted, the fact is that they did not receive his application until May 12. Then followed an in-person interview here on Sunday lasting two to three hours. It must have been love at first sight, because the board wrapped up contract details with him by phone on Wednesday night and announced his selection on Thursday.

The board also has been vague as to how it and the new super found each other. Board attorney Clem Doyle concedes that he called Hinojosa to alert him to the opening, but who was it who brought the Dallas candidate to Doyle’s attention? When asked, two board members told Around Town it was “some guy.”

The board had been dissatisfied with the 17 candidates presented to them by the Georgia School Superintendents Association, and had dug up eight or nine others on their own before hearing about Hinojosa.

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Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Around Town Boxing Gloves They might have come in handy at GOP convention

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Around Town Boxing Gloves They might have come in handy at GOP convention