- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The leadership of the Minuteman Project, whose civilian patrols on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2005 fueled a nationwide immigration debate, is under attack by advisory board members who say they now control the organization.

The Rev. Marvin L. Stewart, a Veterans Affairs accounts receivable technician and minister who heads the My Lord’s Salvation Ministries Inc., told The Washington Times this week that he had taken over the Minuteman Project because of “gross mismanagement” by James Gilchrist, the group’s chairman, and others.

He said Minuteman Project leaders have not been able to account for $400,000 of the $750,000 that a direct-mail company helped raised last year for the organization.

Mr. Gilchrist, Minuteman Project founder, has vowed a court fight to oust them. He asked a California court this week for a restraining order to halt the takeover, which he called illegal, but acknowledged the bitter internal battle could lead to the organization’s demise.

“It certainly could come to that,” Mr. Gilchrist told The Times. “We have led the fight for stricter immigration enforcement, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the people I am fighting against, including the open-border lobbies, are better than the people I’m fighting for.”

Orange County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Randell L. Wilkinson set a follow-up hearing for March 21.

Mr. Gilchrist co-founded the Minuteman Project with former Tombstone, Ariz., newspaper publisher Chris Simcox and set up border vigils in April 2005.

The two men split in December 2005 after bitter disagreements over funding. Mr. Simcox has since formed the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), whose financial accountability also has been questioned by some current and former members.

“We believe it is absolutely necessary to have an open and aboveboard review of the Minuteman Project’s administrative functions,” Mr. Stewart said. “We want to assure our members who have placed their trust in us to defend and protect them when the federal government fails to enforce immigration law.”

Mr. Stewart said Mr. Gilchrist did not obtain nonprofit status for the Minuteman Project and improperly used a discount postal rate to solicit donations. He also said that Mr. Gilchrist and the organization’s executive director, Steve Eichler, used Minuteman Project funds for personal gain, and that Tim Bueler, national media director, was guilty of “disloyalty.”

“This public effort is meant to dispel that cloud of doubt and to reassure our members that the leadership will take whatever steps are necessary when those circumstances arise and demand clarity of purpose,” he said.

He was joined in the complaint by Minuteman Project advisory board members Deborah Courtney, Barbara Coe and Scott Powelson.

Mr. Gilchrist, a retired certified public accountant and Vietnam veteran, is thought to have raised about $1.3 million in donations from advocates of immigration enforcement. He said that Mr. Stewart and others were seeking to “hijack the Minuteman Project” with false accusations and that as advisory board members, they had no legal authority to vote his ouster.

In court papers, he accused his opponents of hacking into the Minuteman Project Web site, www.minutemanproject.com, stealing money from its bank accounts and diverting other cash belonging to the organization to accounts they control.

“They think they can 9/11 us, but they can’t,” Mr. Gilchrist said, adding that the advisory board members, including Mr. Stewart, told him to resign or they would embarrass the organization. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

“I refused to resign, and they have no power to vote me out,” he said.

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