In a shocking development, the 11-member steering committee of the Shelby County Democratic Party met for several hours with local party chairman Bryan Carson Wednesday night in the office of Teamsters Local 984 on Sandbrook St. and agreed unanimously on a vote of “no confidence” in Carson’s leadership.
Vice chair David Cambron said he was constrained in what he and the other steering committee members could say at this point, other than to assert the fact of the vote. Cambron said the entire executive committee will be given a chance to ratify or reject the action of the steering committee but was unsure as to how that will come about — whether through a called meeting or via online communication or by some other means.
Cambron said, however, that the members of the executive committee as a whole (estimated by one party source to number 73, including ex-officio members) would be informed of the steering committee’s action within 24 hours.
Other Democrats acquainted with the situation said that, while Carson’s leadership had been challenged on several grounds since his election by the executive committee two years ago, the issue that had caused most concern of late was the failure of Carson to follow through over the past several months on the party’s obligation to file a financial disclosure statement with the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance in Nashville. The disclosure report had been due in October.
Cambron said a fuller statement as to the reasons for the steering committee’s action would likely come in relatively short order. He said Carson was given the opportunity to speak in his defense “several times” during the course of Wednesday night’s meeting.
Besides the financial-disclosure matter, other issues that had caused dissension in local Democratic ranks included the party’s failure to win but one office — the Assessor’s race, retained by incumbent Cheyenne Johnson — in last August’s county general election, as well as general confusion in the party’s effort to make endorsements in November’s judicial races.
The local party is scheduled as part of its normal processes to elect a new executive committee and a new chairman next month in two stages -- a caucus on March 14 to select convention delegates and a party convention on March 28.
"I am still chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party and I will remain so until the convention," Carson told the Flyer
Wednesday night. He said the party's financial-disclosure statement had been submitted to the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance online registry as of yesterday and was in good order.
Drew Rawlins, chairman of the state Bureau, had said earlier Wednesday that the SCDP matter would be taken up by the Registry of Finance at its March 11 meeting and that the local party could face a civil penalty of as much as $10,000. Apparently the party has been late making other required financial reports.
Carson blamed his failure to submit the disclosures in a timely way on the demands of last year's heavy election calendar, along with the fact that "for a long time I've had to operate without a treasurer."
He said he would be having further meetings with the steering committee between now and the beginning of the convention process next month.
In a striking -- and ironic -- coincidence, Wednesday's action by the Democratic steering committee was taken on chairman Carson's birthday.