Pima County Republican Party leaders voted late Thursday to take party chairman Brian Miller’s keys to the GOP headquarters away and call a special meeting to try to remove him from his post.

Miller has been under fire from party stalwarts for the past month, with multiple meetings called in recent weeks after he criticized a SWAT raid in May that resulted in the shooting death of a man law enforcement officers said they suspected of involvement in drug dealing.

Several elected officials and party leaders have complained that his comments pitted the party against law enforcement at a time when city elections are looming and candidates are gearing up for bigger 2012 races.

After questions were raised about the amount of police force used in serving a search warrant Miller said he hoped the incident would foster community discussion of “the policies that routinely lead to heavily armed and militarized local police invading private homes and a renewed interest in the civil liberties codified in our Bill of Rights.”

After Miller refused to resign, the executive committee voted 10-2 to order Miller to cease and desist from acting as an agent of the county committee and return his keys.

Barney Brenner, a member of the committee who voted to seek Miller’s removal, said he wished Miller had resigned to help heal the party.

Brenner said the action doesn’t reflect a rift between more libertarian-leaning Republicans, like Miller, and other more traditional party members.

“This is solely about the best interests of the Pima County Republican Party,” Brenner said, adding regardless of whether Miller meant it to happen, his words damaged the party and the ability of its candidates to raise money and support.

Miller said it is the executive committee that has kept the controversy in the forefront, by continuing to call these meetings to complain about his leadership.

He said he’s been consistent in defending the constitution.

“This is a political witch hunt,” he said, adding, “If they wanted it dropped, they would have dropped it three weeks ago.”

The meeting has yet to be scheduled. A two-thirds vote of the elected precinct committeemen will be required to remove him from office.

Miller said if he survives, he will then call a special meeting of his own to ask the precinct committeemen to vote on the performance of each member of the executive committee.

Contact Rhonda Bodfield at rbodfield@azstarnet.com or 573-4243.