Perdue joins Dems asking NC party chair to resign

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RALEIGH (AP) — Gov. Beverly Perdue on Tuesday called for the embattled chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party to resign, adding her name to the list of party leaders seeking David Parker’s departure.
In a written statement, Perdue said she had spoken with Parker several times and told him that he had lost the confidence of party leaders. She said she asked him to step aside for the good of the party.
“I told him that the Party had to get back to focusing on our core values: strengthening schools, creating jobs and expanding opportunities for all North Carolinians,” Perdue said in the statement.
Perdue, a Democrat who isn’t running for re-election, had told reporters earlier Tuesday the situation was an internal party personnel matter.
The governor’s statement came hours after five Democratic Council of State members called on Parker to resign amid concerns about the political fallout from harassment allegations involving the party’s former executive director, Jay Parmley.
Parmley stepped aside Sunday. He referred in his resignation letter to “a supposed incident of harassment at the NCDP” but denied he had ever harassed any employee at the state party or at any other job.
Parker isn’t accused of harassment, but many Democratic leaders are unhappy with his party management while handling the allegations against Parmley. Earlier Tuesday, Parker reiterated he would not resign.
The five Council of State members said in their statement that it was in the best interest of the state and the party for Parker, of Statesville, to step aside because he “can no longer be as effective as he needs to be under the circumstances.”
“Given the importance of this election to our state and our country a change needs to be made as we prepare for the general election in November,” said the statement from Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, State Treasurer Janet Cowell and State Auditor Beth Wood.
They were joined later Tuesday in calling for Parker’s resignation by Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and the party’s legislative leaders, and then by Perdue. By Tuesday night, Dalton’s other two leading rivals in the party’s nomination for governor also joined the chorus.
The state’s top elective offices are on the ballot this fall, and the Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte this summer.
Dalton released a statement saying it’s “become evident that Chairman Parker’s effectiveness as leader of the party is greatly hindered.” Dalton also serves on the Council of State.
Marshall, the longest-serving Democrat on the council, said she’s been frustrated because she hasn’t been able to get clear answers about what led to the allegations that Parmley mentioned in his resignation letter.
“We don’t know what actually happened,” said Marshall, who wasn’t involved in the settlement. “There’s not a clear answer, there’s too much scuttlebutt.”
Marshall said she and other Democrats say it looks like an employee made allegations against Parmley and a monetary settlement was reached with the employee that contained a non-disclosure agreement.
House Minority Leader Joe Hackney, D-Orange, and Senate counterpart Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, also said late Tuesday that Parker’s resignation is needed so “the party can move forward focused on keeping the office of governor and reclaiming the majority in our Legislature.”
Party leaders have declined to address specifics about the allegations involving Parmley. Party activists have been talking about the allegations for weeks, but concerns grew late last week when emails written by party activists were forwarded to media outlets.
An internal memo that Parker wrote Tuesday to the party’s executive council said he would seek to change internal personnel procedures so that employees who feel wronged can present allegations to the party attorney.
“After consulting legal counsel, it has become clear that there are deficiencies in the personnel policies of the North Carolina Democratic Party,” Parker wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press and other media outlets. He added, “I am currently taking swift, concrete steps to fix these problems.”
Parker’s memo to the party’s 41-member executive council said current personnel rules say employees are barred from talking to anyone except the executive director about personnel matters. Such a policy appears to handcuff workers when the accused is the executive director, Parker wrote. Parker said he’ll also work with the party attorney to “review the decision making process for where funds come from, for all personnel matters.”
Party spokesman Walton Robinson declined to comment on Parker’s memo, citing the party’s’ personnel policy.
Parker said a search is under way for an interim replacement for Parmley and a permanent successor.
Prior to her statement on Tuesday, Perdue spoke to reporters after a Raleigh Chamber of Commerce event. The governor essentially gave the same response to questions about the party turmoil that her press secretary made Monday night.
“This is an internal personnel matter at the party, and the party is working on it,” she said in a video posted by The News & Observer of Raleigh. “So I would just ask everybody out there to focus on what really matters to North Carolinians, and that’s jobs for people and good schools for their children.”
State Rep. Bill Faison, one of the other leading candidates for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, said Tuesday night after a TV debate with Dalton and former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge that Parker should resign as party chairman. None of the three had gone that far during a televised debate Monday night, but each had raised concerns.
Faison said Tuesday it’s important that voters focus on the election, but “I think the focus has gotten caught up in his leadership, his transparency and whether or not he’s accounting for what he’s done.”
Etheridge initially said in an interview after immediately Tuesday’s debate he would stick with his comments from Monday’s TV debate, but he put out a statement later calling on Parker to step down. He went further after learning about all the additional Democratic leaders who say Parker should go, a campaign spokesman said.
“Mr. Etheridge believes that the party’s leadership has spoken and is a unified voice that he must step down as chair,” campaign manager Conen Morgan wrote in an email.