The Decline & Fall of the SVTPP

The Tea Party in better days.  Outside of Rep. Goodlatte's office in Staunton, 4/4/11
The Tea Party in better days, rallying against raising the debt ceiling outside of Representative Goodlatte’s office in Staunton, 4/4/11

An open letter to the members of the SVTPP

Friends, I don’t know if you have heard the news, but I regret to say that the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots, Inc. (SVTPP) is no more.   For those unfamiliar with the corporation, it was a collection of three tea parties, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Page County.  It also included Waynesboro during the time that that tea party was in existence.

I know that there are many people within the former SVTPP who would prefer you not hear of these things, but as an elected member of the Board of Directors, I feel that it is my duty to inform you of this situation.  Based upon the information I have gathered, these are the thoughts that I have and the conclusions I have reached.  I firmly believe that in the interests of openness and transparency you have a right to know what happened.

Unfortunately, the organization has been in decline for many months now.  As you likely know, when Bruce Richmond stepped down as the Leadership Chairman of the SVTPP last year, the Board of Directors was tasked with finding his replacement.  Mr. Richmond asked several people to take over, including myself, but I did not feel that I had the necessary time and financial resources to serve the Tea Party’s need.  Only one candidate stepped forward, Dr. Ed Long of the Staunton Tea Party.  Although most members of the board did not know Dr. Long, we were encouraged to install him as the new leader based upon the recommendation of the Staunton group and the fact that there were no other candidates.  I argued that it was better to wait until we knew something of the man, but was outvoted.  That was okay.  After all, such is the nature of working with a team.

However, very quickly afterward problems emerged.  For example, Dr. Long sent several letters to Representative Bob Goodlatte on behalf of the entire SVTPP.  In one of the letters he declared that the group endorsed Representative Goodlatte’s immigration plan, however this was done without the knowledge or consent of the Board of Directors or the approval of the leadership of the three tea parties.  I protested these actions at a meeting of the Staunton Tea Party, as did the leader of the Harrisonburg Tea Party, but our objections were ignored.

At the next meeting of the Board of Directors, things got much worse.  Dr. Long attempted to modify the Board by convincing one previous Board member (the former Chairman of the Board) that he had not resigned, thus permitting Staunton three members on the board as opposed to the two allotted to them in the bylaws.  Each group was to have two representatives and thus he attempted to expand the Board under his own authority to seven instead of six.  Dr. Long tried to cancel a meeting of the Board of Directors, a power he did not possess.  He also tried to offer an amendment to a resolution I proposed compelling the Board to approve his choice for Chairman of the Board.  Fortunately, the Board resisted most of these actions.  However, it became clear to me that if we continued down this path, the Board would be treated as little more than a rubber stamp for Dr. Long’s actions.  Therefore, I felt that I had to act.

As a result of continuing problems, I drew up a list of grievances against Dr. Long.  In response, he called for my removal from the Board, stating that my present and previous employment in politics violated the nonpartisan status of the SVTPP and the 501 (c) 4 tax status.  Although I appreciated the nonpartisan nature of the SVTPP, individual members had always been free to act as they saw fit.  For example, in the previous year a multitude of individuals volunteered for Jamie Radtke’s Senate campaign and no one objected then.  In addition, shortly after being elected to head the SVTPP, and at the same time I was working for Robert Sarvis, Dr. Long listed his email address in an ad sponsored by all three groups of the SVTPP in a fundraising pamphlet for E.W. Jackson.

And again no one said a word.  Unfortunately, Dr. Long’s demand led to the resignation of one of Staunton’s Board members.

At the October meeting of the Board, we planned to discuss what to do about this situation with Dr. Long.  At that time, the Board had been reduced to five members due to the previously mentioned resignation.  The day of the Board meeting, the remaining Staunton representative notified the other Board members that he could not attend that night and that he was cancelling it, offering no legitimate reason for doing so.  As the remaining four members wished to meet, we informed him that according to the bylaws no person could unilaterally cancel a Board meeting and thus we met in his absence.  Due to all of the problems that the SVTPP was facing, the Board voted unanimously to remove Dr. Long from his position as Leadership Chairman of the SVTPP.  This letter was sent to Dr. Long.  The absent Board member and the three leaders of the member tea parties were also notified.

The resolution removing Dr. Long
The resolution removing Dr. Long

Thereafter, everything changed…and not for the better.  The Staunton Tea Party seemed to refuse to accept the fact that Dr. Long had been removed.  The Staunton representative declared our actions to be illegitimate given that he was not present.  It should be noted that several months before this whole mess, the Board met without this member, which I conducted as Vice Chairman of the Board, and neither that meeting nor what resulted from it was ever questioned.  The Secretary of the SVTPP (a member of the Staunton group) did not relay the information of Dr. Long’s removal to the email list despite repeated requests from the Board.  Communication broke down and the Staunton Board members and leaders of Staunton refused to meet with anyone from Harrisonburg or Page.  Although the Staunton Board member agreed to attend several of our subsequent announced Board meetings, he did not do so.  I was told that the Staunton group had secretly hired an attorney and was seeking trademark of the SVTPP name, but did not know how to react; after all, if true, such an action would be a gross violation of, not only our trust, but also the bylaws of the corporation, the SVTPP.

SVTPP By-Laws 5-23-13

In December, the Staunton representative on the Board sent letters to both the leader of the Harrisonburg Tea Party and me.  He demanded that either the leader of the Harrisonburg Tea Party resign or that she withdraw the Harrisonburg Tea Party from the SVTPP.  My letter simply demanded my resignation.  Curiously, when questioned, the Staunton Board member admitted that he did not write the bulk of what was in these letters and merely signed them.  Given he did not possess the authority to act in such a fashion, both of these demands were refused.

Letter calling for my resignation
Letter calling for my resignation

After these letters, Staunton continued their silence with respect to the Board of Directors and the Harrisonburg and Page groups.  Then in February, Mr. Richmond the leader of the Staunton group visited with the leaders of Harrisonburg and Page.  He delivered a letter announcing that Staunton had seized control of the SVTPP and that Harrisonburg and Page had been kicked out.  This action was in violation of the bylaws of the organization.  Staunton claimed that they had secured the trademark to the name of the SVTPP as well as the group’s 501 (c) 4 status, without either the knowledge or consent of the Board of Directors.

While the troubles with Dr. Long were ongoing, I asked Mr. Richmond if he would consider leading the SVTPP once more, but he declined.  According his self-proclaimed title in this February letter, it seems that Mr. Richmond changed his mind and decided to wrest control of the organization without the proper authority from the Board.  Although I pressed Harrisonburg, Page, and the Board to contest this issue in court, it seemed as if the group was tired of the infighting.  The attorney for the entire SVTPP offered mediation in his law office, but again the leaders of Staunton refused to participate.  In addition, if you receive the official SVTPP email newsletter, you may have noticed that the Staunton group has erased all mention of either the Harrisonburg or Page County Tea Parties.

While drafting a letter announcing their withdrawal from the SVTPP, the leaders of the Page County Tea Party stumbled across some surprising information.  Apparently erroneous information had been given to the Virginia State Corporation Commission in both 2011 and 2012.  The Commission requires annual reports and information as to who serves on the Board of Directors.  Although I was elected to the board in mid 2011, my name did not show up on the 2012 document.  The names of the Page County representatives did not appear anywhere and even the names of the Staunton representatives were wrong or nonexistent.  Instead, the list included board members who had resigned either in 2011 or even earlier.  You can see the 2011 and 2012 paperwork for yourself on the State Corporation Commission website.  In addition, a representative from the State Corporation Commission mentioned that as the 2013 paperwork had been filled out so incorrectly that as of November 30th of 2013, the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots, Inc. was no longer a legally recognized group in the state of Virginia.  Although that information was sent to the leadership of Staunton, they chose to keep it from the Board of Directors and from you.

So my fellow tea partiers, I wanted to let you know that the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party, Inc. is no more.  Yes, the Staunton group may continue to use the name SVTPP, but if they do so you ought to know that it was hijacked through deception.  As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the group as a corporation is not recognized by the state of Virginia though I have heard that the Staunton group is seeking to change this status now that they have eliminated Harrisonburg and Page from the fold.  I’m sorry to see the organization go, especially with such horrid infighting.  We speak of the corruption in Washington and unfortunately it seems that corruption has taken both the Staunton Tea Party and the SVTPP too.  Unfortunately, some people have decided to tread down a dishonorable path, using the tea party merely to advance their own power.

Despite these setbacks, both the Harrisonburg and Page County Tea Parties have resolved to move forward; however, we will proceed on a course separate from Staunton and the SVTPP.  Page County has already withdrawn from the SVTPP and once Harrisonburg makes their announcement official, my service to the Board of Directors will come to an end.  Yes, Staunton has had many troubles, but as there are still many fine individuals in the Staunton Tea Party and we share many of the same goals, let us hope that they will thrive in whatever route they think best.  Regardless of what the future may bring, it is imperative that we should never forget the founding principles of the modern Tea Party, the ideals of a limited and constitutional government with a driving focus on fiscal responsibility.

I wish you well in your forthcoming endeavors.

Written by

Joshua Huffman

Soon to Be Former Harrisonburg Representative

SVTPP Board of Directors

 

With additions and concurrence by:

Merle Hilscher

Former Page County Representative

SVTPP Board of Directors

 

Carl Hilscher

Former Page County Representative

SVTPP Board of Directors

4 Replies to “The Decline & Fall of the SVTPP”

  1. I am from Page, obviously, and was active in Hburg. I always loved Staunton and wanted to move there upon finding a job. I attended a Tea Party meeting and soon found out that there version of “Tea Party” was wacko.

    1. Can you tell me more about what you observed or experienced that led you to believe that something was amiss with Staunton?

  2. I will not attend Staunton Tea Party meetings. I felt there was something going on with this group that was not up to Tea Party ideals. Thank you for your letter.

  3. There were some differences of opinion In the best ways to proceed going forward regarding tax status and what activities could be engaged in by the Svttp. Due to the inability to reconcile the differences Stanuton Harrisonburg had to part ways. That being said those of Staunton wish Harrisburg and Page the best of luck on their future endevors promoting limited government.

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