On Your Side Investigation: Outsider shakes up Washoe Republican Party
With campaign season heating up, the Washoe County Republican party finds itself in complete disarray following the resignations of four top officers. And there are a lot of questions about where the party will go from here.
One thing we do know: There is a major battle going on behind the scenes, as we uncovered in our On Your Side investigation.
The announcement of those resignations came as a shock. They included the chairman, Adam Khan, and the first vice chairman, Tom Dickman.
Even more shocking perhaps is who it was that spearheaded the effort to take down the party's top leadership.
His name is Gary Schmidt.
He's an outsider in his own party, and even his own attorney, Chuck Kozak, agrees with that assessment.
"He is an outsider for sure," Kozak told us.
Fed up with what he calls a lack of openness and transparency within the party, Schmidt filed a lawsuit demanding the names and addresses of all 350 members of the Washoe County Republican Party's central committee. Schmidt said he and others were essentially being shut out without access to that information.
"So you can communicate about all the issues," his lawyer said. "You can't get your word out to the rest of the central committee if you don't know how to get a hold of them."
Schmidt's lawsuit was dismissed by a judge. But it started a dialogue that has divided the party over key issues of openness and power.
"We've kind of got a click that's been running this party in the name of Bill Raggio for a number of years," Kozak added.
Adding to the infighting is $12,000 in legal fees spent to defend the four executive officers against that lawsuit. That money was not approved by anyone else in the party.
We asked Tom Dickman, one of those who resigned, why the money was spent without being approved first.
"I'm going to take issue with that and say it wasn't just four guys ringing up a bill. We informed everybody what was going on," he said.
But to be clear, we asked Dickman again whether anybody approved that financial expenditure.
Dickman said the party by-laws allow for money to be spent on attorneys' fees to defend the executive officers as long as the allegations aren't criminal.
"Everybody had been advised as to what was happening," he said.
He also admits that while Schmidt's lawsuit did not prevail in court, it has clearly succeeded in shaking up the party.
"Obviously, whenever you have members suing the organization they are a part of, it's going to create two different distinct sides."
The question now is what side will prevail moving forward? Dickman said the Republican effort is still in good shape, though it may take a different shape.
"We may wind up with a parallel effort," he said.
Gary Schmidt's attorney says his client simply believes outsiders, along with everyone else, have a right to have a say in what goes on in their party.
And he has proven he's willing to fight for that right.
"He wants openness in this party, and he wants people to participate," Kozak said.
A lot of this is still up in the air because no settlement has been announced by the party. And Schmidt's attorney could file a motion to have the lawsuit reconsidered by the judge. In the meantime, the party will hold its convention on April 2 to elect four new executive officers.