Tag Archives: Shelby County

Shelby County Democratic Party disbanded

The Shelby County Democratic Party was forcibly disbanded Friday, punctuating years of bitter in-fighting that have recently revolved around former chairman Bryan Carson, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Tennessee Democratic Party chairwoman Mary Mancini said she notified SCDP chairman Michael Pope in a letter Friday that she had chosen to “de-certify” the state’s largest county party, effectively disbanding it.

“Shelby County is very valuable to the Democratic party because there are some good and active Democrats in this county,” she said. “The decision was made because the Shelby County Democratic Party was not supporting, engaging and encouraging all those good and active Democrats.”

In the letter, she said the TNDP would work with local Democrats to “determine their own needs, evaluate the effectiveness of past bylaws and leadership, elect officers and executive committee members, and enact reforms that bring in new people and build a strong grassroots organization.”

Corey Strong, a state party executive committee member representing Memphis, said a party whose main purpose was to organize support around electing Democratic candidates had been rendered ineffective by internal issues, as displayed in past elections.

Most recently, county party members have quarrelled about how to handle allegations that former chairman Carson embezzled more than $25,000 in his tenure. At the direction of Mancini, SCDP chairman Pope approved a $6,000 settlement with Carson, even though the county executive committee had already approved a resolution to file charges against Carson, leading to shouting matches at recent committee meetings.

Strong said the party was being disbanded because it wasn’t “living up to its purpose.”

“This is not about an individual,” he said. “This is about a systemic inability to meet the party’s own charter and the minimum requirements of the state party.”

He said state executive committee members from Memphis were the ones who pushed Mancini to decertify the party because they didn’t want the party to “flounder on the local level.”

Carson and his mother, Gale Jones Carson, are both members of the state executive committee.

Strong said the party would be reorganized, possibly as early as November, under the supervision of local elected Democrats. The party’s money would be moved into a trust until the party is reconstituted. A meeting with party stakeholders is scheduled in two weeks, Mancini said.

TNDP chair enters bona fide battle over former Shelby chair

Tennessee Democratic Chair Mary Mancini says Bryan Carson, former Shelby County Democratic Party chairman, is still a bona fide Democrat despite a vote to the contrary by the Shelby County Democratic Party’s executive committee.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

Mancini said the resolution declaring Carson “not fit” to seek office on the Democratic ticket and not a “bona fide Democrat” circumvented the process laid out in state party bylaws for officially revoking Democratic credentials. The party’s vote follows internal strife in the SCDP over how to handle bookkeeping errors during Carson’s tenure that some members say amounts to his embezzling more than $25,000.

She said Democratic bona fides — which are necessary to have “Democrat” next to a candidate’s name on a ballot — can only be revoked if the person is a candidate and if they haven’t voted in three of the previous five Democratic primary elections. Neither applies to Carson, she said. Continue reading

Former Democratic chair deemed ‘not fit’ for party label

The Shelby County Democratic Party executive committee voted 14-5 Thursday night to declare former chairman Bryan Carson “not fit” to run for public office as a Democrat, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Executive committee member Del Gill proposed the resolution, which reiterated accusations made in a resolution approved by the committee June 2 that Carson embezzled “at least $25,000” during his tenure as committee chairman.

Gill has filed a criminal complaint against Carson, and said the investigation is ongoing.

“The intent here is that Mr. Carson has some personal issues he needs to address,” Gill said.

Carson, who denies the allegations, can appeal the vote to Tennessee Democratic Party chairwoman Mary Mancini, SCDP officials said at the meeting. Both Carson and his mother, Gale Jones Carson, are on the state executive committee.

“I was unaware they were taking that vote,” he said late Thursday. “I’ll contact chairman Pope and Mary Mancini this weekend and see what I need to do as far as getting bona fides back. I thought all this was over with.”

The controversy has been festering for more than a year after bubbling over in February 2015, when Bryan Carson resigned after he couldn’t account for some expenses during his tenure as chairman. He has already paid hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees he incurred, and gave the SCDP $2,000 in February.

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.

Mancini orders Shelby Democrats to settle with former chair

From the Commercial Appeal:
Tennessee Democratic Party chairwoman Mary Mancini issued an ultimatum Friday to the Shelby County Democratic Party: Forget bringing criminal charges against former chairman Bryan Carson and agree to a settlement with him — or else.

At Mancini’s direction, SCDP chairman Michael Pope then signed a $6,000 settlement with Carson, who was accused by the SCDP executive committee in a June 2 resolution of embezzling more than $25,000. Carson said Tuesday he already made his first $100 payment.

“Hopefully this directive will settle everything,” said Carson, who denies the accusations but acknowledges he should have kept better records of expenses. He said the embezzling accusations were the result of “malicious underlings” within the party.

But signing the settlement was a controversial move that will likely be opposed at the SCDP executive committee meeting July 7, although whether the committee can nullify the settlement is a disputed point between the party’s factions.

“They don’t have the authority to do that,” Del Gill, an executive committee member who supports legal action, said of Mancini’s directive.

“So, she can go to hell,” he added.

In her letter, Mancini said the party’s bylaws and state law gave her authority to issue the ultimatum, but she didn’t cite specific provisions.

Mancini wrote that pursuing criminal charges would send the party “down a path of further deterioration” at a time of internal “dysfunction” and following a $10,000 penalty June 8 for a late campaign finance filing. She also implied the state party could take action if a settlement wasn’t signed by July 1.

…Gill said he filed a criminal complaint with the Memphis Police Department on June 16, and doesn’t plan to drop the complaint — whatever Mancini says. The investigation is still in its infancy, he added.

…”They’re playing with pure fire, and it won’t work,” he said. “She’s not going to win.”

Shelby Democrats pick new chair, seek criminal investigation of old chair

Shelby County Democrats elected a new party chairman Thursday night and voted to refer a matter involving a former chairman to authorities for criminal investigation, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Members of the Shelby County Democratic Party’s executive committee voted in favor of a resolution to pursue criminal charges with the Shelby County District Attorney or the sheriff’s office against former party chairman Bryan Carson.

The resolution accuses Carson of “unlawful embezzlement of funds in the amount of at least $25,000” during his term as chairman from March 2013 to January 2015.

The county party had previously attempted to reach a settlement that would have had Carson repay $26,336, an amount that was reached after two reviews of the party’s bank accounts found what party officials have called “unsubstantiated activity.”

Carson declined to comment on the matter last month, but his attorney, Robert Spence, said Carson rejected the allegations of fraud. Spence said Carson might not owe the party anything.

Party leaders said they needed to take action to move beyond the Carson matter.

…Also during the meeting, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Michael Pope, who had been acting chairman, was elected chairman. Virgie Banks was elected first vice chairwoman.

Pope said after the meeting that the party would consult with counsel before formally taking action on the resolution to pursue criminal charges against Carson.

Repayment of $26,336 sought from former Shelby Democratic chief

A Shelby County Democratic Party subcommittee overseeing mediation with former chairman Bryan Carson has accused Carson of “fraud” or misappropriation and said he should repay $26,336 in party expenses, according to The Commercial Appeal. The newspaper obtained a copy of the proposed settlement agreement.

Former SCDP chairwoman and a subcommittee member Randa Spears verified the settlement offer, which she said was based on two reviews of the SCDP’s finances. Only the first review, showing $6,091.16 in “unsubstantiated activity,” had previously been made public.

Carson declined to comment, but his attorney in the mediation, Robert Spence, said Carson rejects the allegations of fraud or misuse and is only considering settling the expenses brought into question by the first financial review.

“Under no circumstances do any of the facts prove or indicate that Mr. Carson owes anything close to $26,000,” Spence said. “I’m not sure he owes anything.”

The three-member subcommittee — composed of Spears and attorneys Yolander Hardaway and Larry Pivnick — settled on $26,336 by reviewing all party bank accounts over Carson’s tenure, said Spears, who was elected chairwoman shortly after Carson resigned in early 2015. She resigned the post in mid-April this year.

…Del Gill, a member of the SCDP executive committee, said in an email Sunday that the committee’s April meeting was adjourned for lack of a quorum after he proposed turning the investigation into Carson’s handling of party finances over to authorities, and several members walked out of the meeting.

The proposal could be voted on at the next meeting June 2, Gill said.

Two leaders of Shelby County Democrats resign

The two top officers of the Shelby County Democratic Party, chairwoman Randa Spears and vice chairwoman Deidre Malone, have resigned, as the party faces fines of more than $10,000 for two more late campaign finance filings, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The resignations of Spears on April 13 and Malone about a month earlier puts the leadership of the party in flux again, more than a year after previous chairman Bryan Carson resigned during an internal investigation into the SCDP’s finances. Spears and Malone said their resignations weren’t related to the party’s challenges.

Norma Lester, a commissioner with both the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance and the Shelby County Election Commission, confirmed Monday that the SCDP could be fined up to $10,000 by the state board for filing its year-end finance report, due Feb. 1, more than 30 days late. The SCDP could also face a smaller fine for missing the April 11 deadline to file its first quarter finance report.

Both reports were filed immediately after the SCDP became aware it missed the deadlines, she said.

She said the board will consider the party’s filing history and the justification when deciding whether to assess a fine, and how much it would be. The SCDP had previously been fined $1,500 by the state board — three fines of $500 each for the late filings of three reports due in 2013 and 2014.

Lester, a Democrat, said she’ll recommend leniency for the party, whose treasurer “got busy” and didn’t see the notices.

“The party doesn’t have $10,000 to pay,” she said. “I don’t know what the party has, but it doesn’t have $10,000.”

Norris predicts gov will grant Memphis budget wishes

Memphis and Shelby County business and governmental leaders flooded the hallways of the Legislative Plaza Wednesday and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris told them he expects Gov. Bill Haslam to approve much of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s legislative agenda, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Norris told the crowd that he and other Shelby lawmakers are “working hard” with the governor on a supplemental amendment to Haslam’s state budget plan that will include the local priorities outlined Wednesday. The governor proposed a $34.8 billion state budget Feb. 1 and he and legislative leaders always draft a comprehensive amendment that includes legislative priorities every year before the final budget is approved, in late April.

“I’m not going to spill the beans here but all the things that are important to you are important to me and important to Gov. Haslam,” Norris said. “There aren’t any bad proposals. There’s just a question of funding availability and timing for that funding. I meet with (Haslam) every Wednesday. We’re working on every single project that’s been mentioned here today and it’s hard work.

“Some of these things now are projected to be funded. If I talked about them it would be premature and they might be at risk. But we are working very hard to meet your expectations and to help move the community forward.”

State terminates $800K adult education contract

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development is ending its contract with Shelby County Schools to provide funding for adult education classes, citing low enrollment and graduation rates and uprooting at least 800 students mid-term.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

The students, who currently attend Messick Adult Center for high school equivalency and English language learning classes, will be able to finish their coursework with nonprofit HopeWorks starting Monday.

…The termination letter, dated Feb. 4, states the contract can be ended “without cause” and does not give a reason for ending the grant. But an emailed statement to The Commercial Appeal from the state office’s Division of Adult Education said SCS has only been enrolling a fraction of students in the county who qualify for adult education, and only a fraction of those are graduating.

Labor department spokesman Chris Cannon said in the email the state notified SCS of the termination of the $805,122 contract last week, but it was not sudden.

“This has been an ongoing, year-long dialogue with Shelby County Schools regarding their performance which has now culminated in a 30-day notice of termination of their contract,” Cannon said. “Each day this decision was prolonged was a day that could have been utilized to improve the program for the citizens of Shelby County. After numerous exhaustive efforts to bring about improvement, termination of the contract was the only option left available.”

In a statement Tuesday, SCS reiterated that the state communication cited no cause for the contract’s termination.

“The District is unaware of any further concerns on behalf of the state regarding Messick,” SCS said.

Students and teachers were notified of the program closing last week.