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GOP Leader, Rivals Battle Over Meeting : Politics: The beleaguered central committee chairman cancels a session on his pro-David Duke comments.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The chairman of the Ventura County Republican Party has abruptly canceled a meeting tonight of central committee members, many of whom want him removed from office because of his sympathetic comments about former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.

Citing parliamentary rules, Chairman Bill Jones said any vote to replace him as chairman would be invalid at such an “illegal meeting.”

But a group of disgruntled members of the GOP panel said Jones does not have the authority to cancel the meeting at the last minute, and they plan to go ahead with the meeting and his replacement.

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“It was a last-ditch effort to keep from being removed,” said Bob Larkin, a leading Jones opponent on the central committee. “He knows we have the votes to remove him.”

The 11th-hour parliamentary maneuvers are the latest wrinkle in the GOP infighting between the county’s old-guard Republicans and a new central committee majority made up of anti-abortion activists and others pushing the political agenda of the Christian right.

Jones was targeted for removal by old-guard members, who said they were embarrassed by his published quotes that former Klansman Duke was “good for the Republican Party.”

Jones originally called tonight’s meeting so he could explain his published comments to his colleagues on the 28-member central committee, which is set up to register Republican voters and do other basic campaign work in the county.

Yet on Tuesday, he sent a letter to committee members saying he had canceled the meeting because he cannot be removed without a formal complaint filed with the committee, an investigation and a secret committee vote. To do otherwise, he said, would violate procedures outlined in Roberts Rules of Order.

Jones said he turned to Roberts Rules because the committee’s bylaws are silent on how to remove a chairman, other than saying it must be done by majority vote.

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“I was just inviting a lynch-mob atmosphere,” Jones said.

“We have to follow correct procedures,” he said, “or with majority rule, we’d have a new chairman at every meeting. . . . The thing would be a circus.”

For nearly a year, a dozen evangelical Christians, along with three sympathetic members, have assembled the 15 votes needed for majority action on the 28-member panel.

Much of the meetings have focused on resolutions that call for a constitutional ban on abortions, prayer in public schools and other political goals of the Christian right.

Most members of the working majority have come from the ranks of anti-abortion protesters--including six who have been arrested for blocking medical clinics--and the failed 1988 presidential campaign of Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson.

Yet since Jones’ comments about Duke, a few members of the working majority have called for his resignation, saying he is impeding the work of the central committee and detracting from their anti-abortion cause.

Jones’ survival as chairman may depend on who shows up at the meeting at the Comfort Inn in Camarillo. Jones said he has encouraged members not to attend what he is calling an “invalid meeting.”

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Yet Larkin and other traditional GOP leaders have followed behind him with phone calls to round up a quorum and a majority vote. Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), a noted parliamentarian, said Jones has no authority to cancel the meeting, Larkin said.

“We are going ahead with the meeting,” he said. “If someone makes a motion to remove him, we will remove him.”

Meanwhile, the California Republican Party wants no part of the county’s central committee wrangling. “These are independent county organizations,” said Lorelei Kinder, executive director of the state party.

She said state party officials would only get involved if called upon by a majority vote of the central committee. Any complaint from a losing minority faction, she said, would probably be settled in Superior Court.

The county’s elections chief said election officials have no interest in the dispute.

“It is an internal matter for them,” said Bruce Bradley, the county’s elections officer. “It is such a partisan element, we don’t have a lot to do with them.”

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