Grassroots Gunrights: The Smoking Gun

Something strange is afoot in the SC gun rights community!

Grassroots SC, Inc. (also known as “Grassroots Gunrights”) is a well-known gun rights advocacy organization in South Carolina. For several years now, that organization has strongly opposed any legislation that would threaten gun rights of the citizens of this state. They have fought the good fight.

But something has been going on recently at Grassroots Gunrights that just does not smell right. The organization recently sent out a frantic letter and ballot to “2492 members eligible to vote” asking them to vote to amend the organizations Article of Incorporation to “change from a corporation that will have members, to a corporation that will not have members.” With this ballot comes a lengthy and tortured explanation by the group’s president, Ed Kelleher, why the Board of Directors recommends members vote for this change.

In the letter, Mr. Kelleher claims he “recently found out” – after being a leader in this SC nonprofit corporation since July of 1999 – members have a right under SC law to obtain the membership list. Just how competent is someone who “just found out” such a critical piece of information after being on the board of directors for over ten years?

The letter attempts to scare members into voting for the change to a “non-membership” organization by saying “This private personal information of the most active pro gun rights people in SC – and that means YOU – is vulnerable!”

So is Mr. Kelleher saying that some anti-gun person or organization has indeed infiltrated their membership? Is some anti-gun organization trying to obtain their membership list? The letter never says this outright, but appears to imply so.

But sources say that something very different is happening behind the scenes, and members are not being told the whole story by Grassroots leadership.

A group of members is evidently unhappy with the current leadership of Grassroots. It appears they are worried that the board of directors may have knowingly failed to hold annual membership meetings and annual elections of directors (as required by SC law) since the organization formed in 1999. That is almost TWELVE years!

If there have been no elections in over a decade, this must mean all the current directors have been directors from the beginning. One can assume the other directors are aware of this failure to comply with SC law as well. Just why it is that presumably intelligent leaders of a gun rights organization would open the organization up to civil and criminal prosecution in this way is unclear.

We hear that some members have become so concerned about this exposure to civil and criminal prosecution caused by this failure of leadership to obey the law for so many years, that they have requested a copy of the organization’s bylaws and have requested an election be held. By SC law, any member can obtain certain information from a “membership” organization. By law, any member can obtain documents such as a copy of the bylaws, a membership list with names and addresses, the minutes of past meetings, and copies of financial documents.

So far those who run Grassroots have not provided that member with all of the documents he requested. However, Grassroots leaders did quickly craft a letter and ballot which was mailed out to 2492 members. (One wonders why a South Carolina gun rights organization that has been around for over ten years does not have ten or twenty thousand members by now. After all, this IS a southern state. Could this too be a failure of leadership?)

But shouldn’t Grassroots be able to maintain the privacy of their members’ names and home addresses? Actually no, not according to SC law they shouldn’t. Maybe the list should be kept from those outside an organization, but not from the organization’s own members. With no access to a membership list, a member who wished to run for office in an organization’s next election would be unable to inform all other members of his qualifications and desire to be elected.

Hmmm. It seems that members have had:

1. No access to the Grassroots bylaws for many years,

2. No copies of meeting minutes

3. No access to the membership list

4. No (mandatory) elections.

A common thread begins to emerge, here.  It would seem that Grassroots leaders are running scared, scrambling to find any way they can to prevent giving the list out. Grassroots President Ed Kelleher’s letter claims the reason is to “prevent confiscation” of the names and home addresses of members, by “enemies.” And this privacy is important because Mr. Kelleher “promised” members that the membership list would always remain private. Even if his promise violates the law?

Why not simply provide the member with those documents which the law requires to be released? Why not simply hold a members meeting and an election? Perhaps there is concern among current officers that they would not be reelected. Would not annual reelection of the current officers simply serve to strengthen their legitimacy?

It appears the real truth is that the current leaders in fear of losing their tight grip on the organization. Hence the frantic tone of the letter and the ballot, which if it passes would guarantee the current leaders of Grassroots would remain so for life. But it still would not protect the organization from being sued, nor its officers prosecuted, for failing to hold elections over the past dozen years.

Grassroot may indeed be in the throes of a death struggle right now. But if so, it is NOT from outside, evil, anti-gun forces. Apparently it is because current leaders have failed miserably at upholding their fiduciary duty to follow the law for many years, and someone finally caught them at it.

If Grassroots survives this ordeal at all, it will have to be with new leadership. Who would donate one dime to an organization – no matter how lofty its goals – led by people who are willing to violate the law for to hold on to their offices? And who wants to be a “non-member” of an organization – even a great one – in which people cannot vote, and whose leaders are apparently willing to brush aside pesky laws which conflict with a man’s promise? What other laws are such “leaders” willing to violate?