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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Civil War Breaks Out in L.A.|County Republican Committee

(CN) - Leaders of the Los Angeles County Republican Committee say that "old guard" party members staged a "Communist Russia style" coup that ousted them from the posts to which they were elected a year ago. The furious, 38-page complaint, which includes allegations of Holocaust denial and 9/11 "truther" complaints of U.S. involvement in the events of Sept. 11, also claims that the "coup events" of May 14 this year violated party bylaws and Robert's Rules of Order.

In their Superior Court complaint, the plaintiffs - Robert Vaughn, Ted Hayes, Manny Aldana, Roger Eshleman, Nancy Comaford, Constance Ruffley and Sandra Needs - say they were elected to leadership positions in December 2008.

But that didn't set will with the "old guard" defendants - Jane Barnett, Gary Aminoff, John Cozza, Leonard Lanzi, Alex Burrola and Davina Keiser - who refused to work with the young blood, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs were newcomers to the Party Committee when they were elected. They say they owe their electoral triumphs to widespread dissatisfaction with the "entrenched" old guard that had held the reins for years.

After surviving the December vote, Aminoff, the only member of the old guard to retain his position, "would soon be busily organizing a coup" with Barnett, the plaintiffs say.

In a series of emails and posts to a Yahoo! group - which are reproduced in the complaint - Aminoff went to great lengths to highlight the newcomers' inexperience.

"They were pretty much pretty much novices," he wrote in one email, adding that none of Los Angeles County's elected officials knew who they were, and none of the committee's major donors had ever heard of them.

"People who are known and who have track records don't have that difficulty in raising money. The donors know them and trust them. With the top three officers there had been no prior history, and therefore no developed sense of trust," Aminoff write.

In other words, the plaintiffs assert, "If you're not part of the old guard with a prior history, you can't be a leader in RPLAC, whether validly elected or not."

The split quickly grew nasty. The old guard derided the new chairman and executive committee as "a motley crew of assorted local hangers-on" and as "flotsam and jetsam," according to the complaint.

Aminoff made even more personal attacks, calling out plaintiff Vaughn in particular.

"For some reason, the Ron Paul backers to a great extent are crackpots," Aminoff allegedly said.

"Robert Vaughn, who was the campaign chairman for Ron Paul in Los Angeles, is a 9/11 truther who believes the government set up 9/11, and is a Holocaust denier. He also is a supporter of Palestinians and believes that Israel is Nazi-like. And ... he wants to be chairman of RPLAC." (Ellipsis in complaint, citing an email.)

Vaughn denied these assertions, but Aminoff persisted, telling him, "We don't need help from the bat shit crazy wing of those trying to be our party. The Republican Party doesn't need you to rescue it," according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs say that to carry out their plan, the old guard used a motion to "vacate the chair," then adjourned and immediately reconvened to elect defendant Barnett the new chairman, ignoring the committee's bylaws process of automatic succession in the event of a vacancy.

Then a voice vote was held to vacate all the remaining offices and the balance of the defendants were invalidly installed in their place, according to the complaint.

That was the coup: "The idea that a self-professed supermajority can walk into a meeting, suspend the bylaws, appoint a bogus temporary chairman on false pretenses, and then throw out the validly elected officers reflects a total misunderstanding of due process rights, good order, fundamental fairness, the operative bylaws and Robert's Rules of Order," the complaint state.

But the plaintiffs say the attacks on them did not stop. After briefly holding out an olive branch to the ousted leadership, to no avail, Aminoff allegedly resorted to threats, telling one plaintiff that it was time to stop raising parliamentary or legal issues.

"If you ever have any ambitions of being a leader in the Republican Party in California, you quite possibly may be ending those ambitions," he wrote in email, according to the complaint.

Another party member evidently agreed. "I am growing sick and tired, as are most central committee members, with this 'rule of law' shield being used to usurp the will of the people," the complaint states, citing another email.

The lawsuit names Does 1-40 as codefendants. It describes them as corporations, voluntary associations and others who acted in concert with the defendants.

The plaintiffs want the old guard enjoined from holding themselves out as the legitimate leaders of the committee, from holding meetings, and collecting money or maintaining bank accounts.

They also seek an accounting of all money collected and expended by the defendants since May 14, imposition of a constructive trust, and restitution and disgorgement, as necessary.

They are represented by Richard Williams with Kelly, Lytton & Williams.

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