Blackwell: GOP Caucus Was A Sham, Steele Abused Power Of Speaker's Office
Blackwell's allegations, in an email sent and obtained by The McCarville Report Online, are the latest in an on-going series of attacks from some House members dissatisfied with Steele's leadership.
Steele, in a statement to TMRO, said, “I’ve never been one to dive down in the mud, so I’m certainly not going to start now. What I will say is the vast majority of us know we’re sent here to do a job, so we’re focused on doing that job and doing it well. I’m proud we spent time on policy at our retreat and I’m confident Oklahomans will be glad we did, as well. Beyond that, internal Caucus issues are handled in the Caucus and personnel issues must be handled in accordance to law, so I cannot comment further.”
Here's Blackwell's email:
From: Gus Blackwell
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2011 3:26 PM
To: Republican Legislators
Subject: 2011 OHOR Republican Caucus Retreat
Dear Fellow Republican Legislator,
I do not use the term "caucus member" because, after Tuesday's meeting, it is apparent our dysfunctional group is anything but a meeting of members of a political party tasked to decide policy. Obviously, our caucus retreat was not intended to be an opportunity for our caucus to discuss, debate, or decide policy. Instead, our caucus meetings have become carefully orchestrated and planned events, with little or no time for the actual discussion of caucus business.
The 2011 Republican Caucus Retreat in Shawnee stands as an outstanding example of what I am writing in this email. After a first day of tours and dinner, no caucus business was transacted. The second day had time for a breakfast with a political presentation, a 30-minute museum tour and five and one-half hours of other presentations, before staff was asked to leave and we actually began "caucus business." Our discussions as a caucus lasted less than 45 minutes out of the over 15 hours of scheduled activity.
Although I had requested to be put on the Caucus agenda over a month earlier, my topic, discussing Speaker Steele's removal of people from positions of authority, was relegated to the last item on the agenda. Realizing the lateness of the hour, I requested from Chairman Watson the topic be tabled until the next caucus meeting, so it could be fully vetted. He informed me, "No, the Speaker wants to address it now."
What followed was the one of the most absolutely abominable displays of caucus politics I have witnessed in the legislature. After just 10 minutes, while I had the floor and was responding to the Speaker, a motion was entertained to adjourn and quickly half-voted on.
As a senior member, who has been Acting Speaker, Speaker Pro-Tempore, Chair of three different committees, and who has served on every Republican leadership team except the present one, I would think I would be allowed to have more than two responses to speak on a topic I requested be discussed and which strikes to the very core of how we operate as a majority. However, I wasn't, neither was Rep. Trebilcock or any other members of the caucus.
The explanations given for the replacing of Rep. Trebilcock are just not plausible. Rep Trebilcock was fired from the Leadership Team in July and not replaced as Energy Chair until November. NO HOUSE VOTES occurred in that interim (only the Speaker Designate election). I'm curious how Speaker Steele knew Rep. Trebilcock (allegedly) missed 30% of his votes. In the past, members could only access their own information on that subject. Besides, he missed more votes before he was appointed and the whole subject is extraneous to his job as Chairman. The fact others weren't fired as Chairs is also irrelevant, since they weren't threatened, as he was before the election.
My question on the abuse of power, by the Speaker, extended well past the replacing of Rep. Trebilcock and into the myriads of other firings and resignations, which have occurred in the House. Another firing of a House employee happened yesterday, while this topic was being avoided. An employee with just two days to go until her 25th year of service to the House of Representatives was fired and escorted out, like a criminal. No longevity check
in her stocking this year.
With power comes responsibility and accountability. While the Speaker may have the power to fire people at the House, he is still accountable to the Caucus for his actions. On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, his response to the caucus was simply to cut-off the meeting and go home.
His actions do not pass the infamous "smell test." In this bucket, Rep. Dank, (the one which you carried) there is not even an inch of honey.
Representative Gus Blackwell, District 61