Min­ute­man chief purges ranks; fired lead­ers queried fi­nances

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

The top lead­ers of the Min­ute­man Civil De­fense Corps have been ter­mi­nated by the group’s pres­i­dent, Chris Simcox, for re­quest­ing a meet­ing to dis­cuss a lack of fi­nan­cial ac­count­abil­ity by the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s lead­er­ship.

The purge was or­dered by Mr. Simcox, who came un­der fire last year over ques­tions about how much money the Min­ute­man Civil De­fense Corps (MCDC) had raised and where it had gone, and in­cluded sev­eral top lieu­tenants, most of whom have been with the or­ga­ni­za­tion since its April 2005 found­ing.

Those fired in­clude Bob Wright, deputy ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor; Bill Ir­win, na­tional op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer; Greg Thompson, na­tional train­ing co­or­di­na­tor; and Stacey O’Con­nell, Ari­zona state chap­ter di­rec­tor.

The four, along with a dozen MCDC state chap­ter lead­ers, had sought a May 19 meet­ing with Mr. Simcox in Phoenix over what they de­scribed as a “se­ri­ous” lack of fi­nan­cial ac­count­abil­ity. Many of them had signed loy­alty pledges last year for Mr. Simcox when ac­cu­sa­tions of fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties were first re­ported.

The MCDC is an or­ga­ni­za­tion of vol­un­teers who set up ob­ser­va­tion posts along the U.S.-Mex­ico border to bring at­ten­tion to ris­ing il­le­gal en­try into the U.S. Al­though the amount of money it has raised through do­na­tions and other sources is not clear, its mem­ber­ship to­tal is said to stand at about 4,000 — each of whom paid a $50 reg­is­tra­tion fee.

Many of the orig­i­nal mem­bers have left the or­ga­ni­za­tion to form sep­a­rate groups, cit­ing fi­nan­cial con­cerns and other lead­er­ship prob­lems.

In a May 8 let­ter to Mr. Simcox, a copy of which was ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Times, the group sought a May 19 meet­ing with the MCDC pres­i­dent, say­ing that fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion had to be turned over to lo­cal and state chap­ters. The let­ter said long-stand­ing re­quests for the in­for­ma­tion have gone unan­swered.

In the let­ter, the group — which de­scribed it­self as the lead­er­ship com­mit­tee — said MCDC chap­ters were not get­ting the tools and re­sources they had been promised and that re­im­burse­ments for on­go­ing out-of­pocket ex­pen­di­tures were not made in a timely man­ner, if at all.

In re­sponse, Mr. Simcox told Mr. Wright in a memo that the MCDC Board of Direc­tors, which he heads, had not au­tho­rized the cre­ation of a lead­er­ship com­mit­tee; that any meet­ing it sched­uled was not “sanc­tioned or ap­proved” and that any busi­ness or ac­tions it pro­posed vi­o­lated the “chain of com­mand.”

The memo, a copy of which was ob­tained by The Times, no­ti­fied Mr. Wright, Mr. Ir­win, Mr. Thompson and Mr. O’Con­nell that they were fired and warned the oth­ers that if they at­tended any meet­ings not ap­proved by the board, they also would be ter­mi­nated.

Mr. Simcox was not avail­able on May 23, and his of­fice did not re­spond to ques­tions e-mailed to MCDC head­quar­ters.

In a let­ter to “fel­low Min­ute­men,” Mr. Wright said the fir­ings would have a “dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect” on MCDC, adding that none of those ter­mi­nated “have ever had their ded­i­ca­tion ques­tioned, or have ever brought even a hint of dis­grace or scan­dal to your MCDC.”

“Each is a proven ded­i­cated pa­triot who has al­ways kept our mis­sion fore­most while fiercely pro­tect­ing the in­tegrity of the or­ga­ni­za­tion you and they have built,” he wrote. “What great crime was com­mit­ted by this group to bring about the ter­mi­na­tion of half the na­tional lead- er­ship and al­most half of the state lead­er­ship?”

“I did not ex­pect Chris to be happy about it, but nei­ther I nor the state lead­ers an­tic­i­pated the para­noia driven night­mare we were about to be plunged into,” he said.

In their let­ter to Mr. Simcox, the lead­er­ship com­mit­tee ac­cused Mr. Simcox of mi­cro­manag­ing the group, say­ing, “It ap­pears to us that one per­son has com­plete con­trol of the or­ga­ni­za­tion from fi­nan­cial, op­er­a­tional, new chap­ter de­vel­op­ment, lead­er­ship place­ment, me­dia and pub­lic re­la­tions.”

The com­mit­tee also asked for a “full ex­pla­na­tion” of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween MCDC and other groups, in­clud­ing a Hern­don, Va.-based tax-ex­empt char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion known as Dec­la­ra­tion Al­liance, founded and chaired by for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Alan Keyes. It also sought in­for­ma­tion on MCDC’s ties to the Dec­la­ra­tion Al­liance Min­ute­man Civil De­fense Corps Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Com­mit­tee, the do­na­tion-dr iven Min­ute­man Border Fence ef­fort and “any other or­ga­ni­za­tion that MCDC has agree­ments with or in­tends on in­ter­act­ing with.”

In the let­ter, the com­mit­tee also pro­posed that MCDC be re­struc­tured, adding that while Mr. Simcox could re­main as pres­i­dent “with sole pur­pose of work­ing our po­lit­i­cal arm and me­dia/pub­lic re­la­tions,” he should not be in­volved in op­er­a­tions, chap­ter man­age­ment or fi­nances. It said the MCDC lead­er­ship had to be ac­count­able to its vol­un­teers.

Last year, many of the group’s most se­nior mem­bers also had ques­tions about MCDC fi­nances and why it was be­ing fun­neled through Dec­la­ra­tion Al­liance, say­ing re­quests to Mr. Simcox for a fi­nan­cial ac­count­ing were ig­nored.

Gary Cole, MCDC’s for­mer na­tional di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions, and Mike Gaddy, who helped or­ga­nize the April 2005 border watch as field co­or­di­na­tor, were among the first to raise ques­tions about fi­nances. Both were fired.

In Novem­ber, in its first In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice Form 990 fil­ing as a 501(c)4 tax-ex­empt char­i­ta­ble trust, MCDC said it spent $450,000 in 2005 for vol­un­teers to pa­trol the U.S.- Mex­ico border, about $31,000 more than it col­lected in do­na­tions and reg­is­tra­tion fees — sig­nif­i­cantly less than the $1.6 mil­lion Mr. Simcox told The Times in July that the group had col­lected in do­na­tions since its April 2005 cre­ation.

No other fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion has been made pub­lic or given to the MCDC mem­ber­ship.

The Wash­ing­ton Times

Hot seat: Chris Simcox, pres­i­dent of the Min­ute­man Civil De­fense Corps, came un­der fire last year over his group’s fi­nances.

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