Former Chairman Bob Rugg attempted to have the Cherokee GOP’s county committee address a complaint lodged against the party, accusing political advisor Robert Trim of verbally attacking a fellow member at a party breakfast March 8.
The complaint accuses Trim of using foul language to local school teacher Jennifer Hall and telling her to leave the event, according to Cherokee GOP Chairman Rick Davies, though Davies says he had heard conflicting reports. Hall attended the breakfast with Cherokee School Board member Rick Steiner, and she has been a member of resident group SCRAM!, which was organized to fight Trim’s client, Cherokee School Board member Kelly Marlow.
Trim declined to comment to the Cherokee Tribune on Monday night.
During the meeting at the Holly Springs Train Depot, Rugg was attempting to make a motion to put Trim on notice that a hearing would be held to determine if Trim could continue in his role as a party voting precinct captain.
The chairman shut Rugg down, saying the complaint wouldn’t be addressed until the county committee’s next meeting because Trim had made a legal challenge to whether the alleged incident was a violation of the group’s bylaws. Davies said he was waiting on clarification from the state GOP on what to do.
What followed was a heated exchange, with Trim, Rugg and other members shouting their opinions, which prompted a woman in the crowd of about 40 to yell out a warning: “Y’all stop, or I’m gonna call 911!”
Rugg said Tuesday the incident highlighted a larger issue of conflicting personalities and ideas in the local Republican Party.
“There just seems to be a lot of anger,” the former chairman said. “I’m really concerned about the direction the party’s going. I’m not the only one.”
Rugg and Davies seem to agree the infighting doesn’t serve the party’s greater purpose of promoting Republican ideals, and the lines drawn in the sand need to be smoothed over.
“I wanted to be a uniter,” Davies said Tuesday. “With the different factions within the party itself, that appears to be, unfortunately, a fleeting attempt.”
That there are opposing factions in the Cherokee GOP was clear Monday night.
When Davies declined to take up the issue of the complaint against Trim, party member Michael Sinco rose and objected. Sinco had been the lone vote against multiple measures earlier in the meeting and expressed frustration with Trim speaking out often during a discussion of proposed bylaw changes.
While Sinco spoke, another member made a motion for the meeting to adjourn, as voices began to rise and Davies explained that the motion to adjourn needed to be addressed.
“So this is going to silence the minority?” Sinco called out.
Trim shouted from the back of the room for Davies to take a vote to adjourn and questioned whether or not Rugg should be allowed to speak.
“Mr. Rugg has not been recognized to speak. He’s been stopped multiple times. Who has control now?” Trim yelled to Davies.
Sinco snapped back to Trim that he was tired of listening to him disrupt the meeting.
“Stop talking and stop overriding,” Sinco said to Trim. “You are not going to sit here and bully this as you always do. It’s enough. It’s enough. I have sat here all night and let you bully this committee.”
“No, sir. No, sir, I haven’t bullied anybody,” Trim responded.
During the loud back-and-forth, Rugg implored Davies to take action on the complaint, saying that Hall had been “seriously insulted” by Trim.
Davies told Rugg he had spoken with Hall and explained things to her.
“I have explained to her what the situation is, and she is in understanding of that,” Davies said. “I have explained to her that we will take this up in the next county committee meeting, which will be held within a 45-day time frame.”
Rugg said he wanted to make his motion, “legal challenge or not,” because of Trim’s “incorrigible and rude behavior.”
Trim asked that the motion not be allowed, while Sinco again questioned Davies.
Trim said if Sinco didn’t like the legal challenge, he should take it up with Rugg, who was chairman when the party’s bylaws were adopted and who “screwed it up.”
Davies seemed to be done with the controversy.
“Robert, enough!” he called out to Trim. “This will be handled appropriately. Everybody in here thinks that I’m somebody’s puppet — OK, I’ll say it out loud. That is blatantly wrong. I’m tired of the infighting. … I am following the bylaws. I know it’s a novel idea… You may not like it, you may not agree with it, but we’re going to follow the rules.”
Davies reiterated Tuesday his decision to hold off on addressing the complaint was based on questions of the party’s bylaws and not meant to help Trim.
“If you look on Facebook, there’s accusations that I have taken up for Trim and that I … have an agenda,” Davies said. “That agenda for me personally is not specific to one person; it is to encompass the beliefs of the party as a whole and to move this party forward.”
Davies said the situation of conflicting groups in the Republican Party isn’t necessarily isolated to Cherokee County.
“I think it’s part of a broader issue nationwide, maybe not to this extent, but I think you’re seeing multiple factions in the Republican party that are fighting to have their ideologies heard and understood,” he said.
Rugg said the Cherokee GOP has to find a way to come together.
“The party isn’t living up to what it’s supposed to be doing,” Rugg said. “There has to be a level of leadership and sanity that prevails. And if it doesn’t, the party will become insignificant.”