Shelby Democrats balk on deal with former chair

The Shelby County Democratic Party, on a 10-10 tie vote, failed to ratify chairman Michael Pope’s signing of a settlement with former chairman Bryan Carson, reports the Commercial Appeal. That may set up a vote in August to censure Pope.

The members of the party’s executive committee hotly debated parliamentary procedure for much of the raucous meeting, which lasted until late into the evening, leading some to walk out.

Del Gill, an SCDP executive committee member who was defeated by Pope in the chairmanship election June 2, circulated a resolution Thursday that said Pope overruled the committee in violation of the party’s bylaws when he signed a $6,000 settlement to resolve a dispute between the party and Carson over Carson’s handling of party finances as chairman.

The resolution wasn’t proposed at the meeting, but Gill said he’ll make the motion at the next meeting Aug. 11.

Pope said the meeting went “well,” but that the vote didn’t change the fact that the settlement is on the books and Carson has already paid the first of his $100-per-month payments.

“As far as the settlement, it’s done,” he said.

Pope was ordered to sign the settlement by state party chairwoman Mary Mancini in a June 24 letter, but didn’t receive approval from the executive committee before signing it on June 27.

At the heart of the disagreement is a committee vote early this year to offer Carson a $6,000 settlement, although the settlement wasn’t agreed to then. The committee voted 14-7 on June 2 to approve a resolution accusing Carson of embezzling $25,000 or more and endorsing criminal charges. Gill then filed charges with Memphis police against Carson.

Gill’s resolution argues Pope didn’t have the authority to settle without another vote by the executive committee, and calls for him to sign the resolution censoring him or face “disciplinary considerations.”

In a letter to the executive committee Wednesday, Rep. Joe Towns Jr., on behalf of the committee he chairs in the Shelby County Democratic Legislative Caucus, said the settlement is “legally binding” and “must be adhered to in order to prevent additional negative attention and financial exposure to the local party.” Towns did not immediately respond to a phone call Thursday.