Petition to oust Keever, lawsuit over POO are still on table
By Roger McCredie- The North Carolina Democratic Party’s website proclaims, “Victory ready!” but developments over the past year and a half, and particularly over this summer, reveal bitter divisions, especially between factions of the party’s Black community, that will have to be resolved if the state organization hopes to present a truly united front in the run-up to November 8.
And analysts both inside and outside the party say much of the internal disarray is traceable to the governance style of the state chair, Asheville’s Patsy Keever, who currently stands accused, in a petition that calls for her removal from office, of disenfranchising Black voters in more than 50 counties in central and eastern North Carolina.
The petition, which records show was received by Keever on June 10, was initiated by three downstate members of the party’s African American Caucus, one of several party auxiliary organizations The document alleges that Keever, as state chair, was responsible for “wrongfully and deliberately, if not illegally” conducting conventions in “unconstitutional congressional Districts.”
This is a reference to the February 5 ruling by a panel of three federal judges that the existing boundaries of the state’s 1st and 12th congressional districts, which were redrawn five years ago, had been deliberately gerrymandered so as to isolate African-American voters and thereby contain their statewide influence. The ruling caused the state primary to be postponed from March until June.
The petition accuses Keever of ordering district elections to be held according to the old boundaries anyway, hence a charge that in so doing she violated the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act. It further contends that the party’s district elections, held on May 21 under the aegis of Keever’s orders, are null and void “ab initio” (i.e. to begin with).
Paragraph E of the petition says that Keever’s “daily plan of action targeted various AAC Auxiliary county caucuses to discourage and ignore” 53 downstate counties with large Black populations (members of whose AAC chapters are listed as additional petitioners) from participating “in the NC Political and delegate process …”
In all, the petition catalogs 27 separate charges against Keever, most of them alleging that in one respect or another she has violated various provisions of the party’s Plan of Organization (POO), which is actually its combination constitution and by-laws. A 28th point “incorporates by reference the Complaints, Grievances and Petitions filed with the COR [Council of Review] from 2013 through 2016.”
In April of 2015, scarcely three months after taking office, Keever found herself under fire from the political blog whothehellisgeorge.com, which said, “Keever’s problems stem from her lack of understanding of the Plan of Organization (POO)—the official bylaws of the Party as voted on by state Democrats during their conventions.
“But,” the blog continued, “some high level North Carolina Democrats don’t think it’s a matter of understanding—some think Patsy Keever knows full well what the Democratic bylaws say—she just refuses to acknowledge them and does things the way she wants.”
One such action, complainants say, was Keever’s dismissal of John Brooks, longtime Labor Commissioner who was serving as Chairman of the Council of Review, the investigative committee responsible for reviewing intra-party complaints and deciding whether they will be forwarded to the Executive Committee, which comprises several hundred Democrats statewide. The Council of Review consists of one member from each of the state’s 13 districts. Keever terminated Brooks’ term in 2015 (he was due to serve until this past May) and replaced him with Ryan Butler, head of the party’s LGBT Caucus. Keever also found room in her administration for Willie Fleming, a past AAC president who had been removed for alleged malfeasance in office.
By these and several other actions, the petition says, Keever directly violated POO Section 9.01, which states, in its entirety, “Auxiliary organizations of the Democratic Party shall provide for the internal resolution of disputes within their respective organizations and shall not be subject to this section.” In other words, the petition says, Keever interfered with the Caucus’ POO-guaranteed right to govern itself.
“This discontent/internal battle goes back to 2009,” Concord member Dr. Gracie Galloway told the Tribune. “I was a member of the Executive Council when the matter of who was chair was brought up and a special meeting of the Council was called. At that meeting it was decided in no uncertain terms that the Plan of Organization was clear – auxiliaries resolve their disputes internally. Period. Full Stop.”
As for Brooks, he and the other members of the pre-existing Council of Review have filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court (Case #16CV008263) against the newly elected COR members. The suit essentially asks the court to decide which COR slate is the legitimate one.
“Patsy Keever shoots from the hip,” Brooks told the Tribune. “I’m interested in the rule of law, and in this case the rule of law is the POO.”
The Wake County Clerk of Court’s office said the lawsuit has been filed but not calendared, possibly because not all of the 12 defendants have yet been served.
“The party doesn’t have accurate, up-to-date phone numbers or addresses for so many people,” Brooks told the Tribune. “Of those 12 people, seven hadn’t lived at their listed addresses for years. I personally went to the addresses the party gave me and knocked on doors. I located two [defendants]. That leaves five,” he said.
As with the lawsuit, so with the petition itself. It cannot logically move yet past the first rung of the adjudication process because the makeup of the Council of Review itself is now a legal question.
“I am very concerned about how things are being handled in the party,” Brooks said. “I called the party’s main number at one point and got an answering service located in Delaware.”
Not surprisingly, the Tribune’s reporting on the petition and its background landed it squarely in the no-man’s-land between the AAC’s rival factions: the officers elected during the November, 2015, Caucus meeting, including Linda Wilkins-Daniels, whom the party officially recognizes as AAC President; and those led by Jannet Barnes, who maintains she was duly elected to that position the previous August.
After the Tribune’s first article on the subject, “Black Democrats demand removal of state chairman Patsy Keever,” (June 29) the Tribune interviewed Wilkins-Daniels. In a second story, “Head of African-American Caucus: Attempt to oust Keever is a hoax,” Wilkins-Daniels called the petitioners “a rogue group” and said its claims were “bogus.” This brought a furious response from the other side, mostly through its communications director, Norman Smith, a Washington-based consultant. (See guest editorial, this issue.)
Not that Keever lacks support within her party. When news of the petition was posted on the blog “Lady Liberty 1885,” one commenter, Barbara Dantonio, called it “poorly written” and commended Keever for “taking the high road” by not responding directly.
Keever’s aloofness is apparently shared by her administration generally. Party Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds has not responded to requests for comment, nor – after an initial phone call — has Communications Director Dave Miranda. Locally, both Buncombe County Democratic Chair Kathy Sinclair and City Councilor Keith Young, who is listed as Buncombe County AAC chair, have likewise ignored invitations to weigh in.
As for Keever herself, last year Miranda’s predecessor, Ford Porter, said that as a matter of policy Keever doesn’t comment on “internal party matters.”
See article: http://www.thetribunepapers.com/2016/08/25/the-nc-democratic-party-aac-ncdp-auxillary-editorial-article/