A star-chamber-type hearing before the Utah County Republican Party's executive committee Thursday seems like a mundane disciplinary matter to get rid of the party's elected secretary for not doing his job.
But there is a deeper thread to this issue that demonstrates how the GOP, with all its success in Utah, is becoming dysfunctional, with a battleground forming between the so-called establishment Republicans and an increasingly rabid group of dissenters hitched to a single issue and determined to take control of the party reins.
The hearing is to determine whether Utah County party secretary Jeremy Roberts, who was elected by the delegates in an organizing convention last spring, should be removed from office.
The complainant, Republican Party precinct chair Julie Blaney, alleges that Roberts is guilty of "malfeasance, misfeasance and/or nonfeasance" in regard to his duties. The wording of her complaint echoes an email sent by Linda Housekeeper, another Republican activist in Utah County.
It accuses Roberts of failing to provide delegate lists in a timely manner to candidates, failing to provide adequate notice to all Central Committee members of upcoming meetings, and failing to properly post the Utah County Republican Party governing documents on the party's website.
But what the complaint doesn't say may be more telling.
Roberts has been an outspoken champion of HB116, the recently passed bill for a guest-worker permit for illegal immigrants, and of the Utah Compact, which advocates compassion toward working undocumented immigrants. The very idea drives some elements of Utah's GOP absolutely bonkers.
Resolutions passed in the Utah and Salt Lake county and the state Republican conventions this year show that a sizeable number of Utah Republicans advocate harsh enforcement resulting in a wholesale deportation of those in the country illegally. To those firebrands, anyone on the other side is not a true Republican, no matter their conservative credentials on every other issue.
Roberts also has been in the cross-hairs of Utah County activists for his unabashed support of Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, a major player in the illegal immigration debates and a driving force behind HB116.
The anti-HB116 crowd in Utah County has been gunning for Bramble ever since, even though conservative watchdog groups give him the second-highest grade for conservative values in the Senate. The Bramble attackers have promised to run another Republican against the three-term incumbent and former majority leader if he stands for re-election.
So they were incensed when the redistricting altered Bramble's district to include a small portion of Wasatch County. That means because Bramble will represent multiple counties, the GOP nomination in his district will be decided at the state convention, not the Utah County convention where the torches and pitchforks are being assembled.
Roberts has publicly stated that he had a hand in redrawing that district, although he and Bramble cite practical reasons for Bramble to represent the entire Provo Canyon area, including Wallsburg, the Wasatch County town now in Bramble's district. The dissenters, hoping to get a crack at Bramble at the county convention, claim the redraw is an attempt to insulate Bramble from their wrath.
Other party officers cite failures on the part of Roberts to demonstrate a legitimate reason for the complaint and the hearing. Roberts has said the actions of other officers have hindered his ability to perform certain duties, so their complaint against him is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It's another chapter in the world of today's state GOP, which seems to have forgotten Ronald Reagan's golden admonition to speak no ill of other Republicans.