Minuteman Chief Purges Ranks

Jerry Seper, Washington Times, May 24, 2007

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.

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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-of-pocket expenditures were not made in a timely manner, if at all.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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