After what threatened to be an interminable early segment, in which a dozen or so procedural motions from self-appointed Democratic Party scold Del Gill were introduced, duly hashed out, and rejected, the Shelby County Democratic Party got down to business at its regular June meeting Thursday night at the recently refurbished IBEW meeting hall and elected a new chairman. Sheriff’s Department Lt. Michael Pope.
Pope, a former party vice chair who had been serving as acting chairman after the resignation two months ago of then chair Randa Spears, was handily elected to lead the party by a
New SCDP chairman Michael Pope
margin of 17 to 4 over executive committee member Gill, whose chairmanship bid went the way of all his previous motions and who would lose a subsequent vote for vice chair as well.
In his brief remarks to the party’s executive committee before its members took their vote, Pope had appealed for party unity and an end to internal strife, but the moment of relative concord achieved by his victory dissolved somewhat in the aftermath. That was when Gill offered a new motion calling for the committee to go on record as favoring the prosecution of former chairman Bryan Carson for the alleged embezzlement of upwards of $25,000 from party coffers.
Carson had been forced to resign his chairmanship in February 2015 after an ad hoc internal audit of the party’s books showed an unresolved deficit of several thousand dollars that the chairman was not able to explain. He was also under fire for failing to arrange timely financial reports to the state Registry of Election Finance.
In subsequent months, during the chairmanship of Spears, Carson’s elected successor, the matter of unaccounted-for funds continued to be an unresolved point of contention on the party executive committee. There ensued negotiations of various kinds, both public and private, in an effort to achieve a solution acceptable both to Carson and to all factions of the committee.
At one point, a proposal to allow Carson to repay a reduced sum of $6,000 in modest monthly installments, coupled with a contention of no intentional misconduct, was submitted by Cardon through his attorney, Robert Spence. There is disagreement as to whether the full committee was apprised of the offer, which in any case ceased to be active.
Meanwhile, a new ad hoc committee appointed by then chairman Spears had performed a second audit, showing the funds unaccounted for to be in excess of 25,000 and suggesting a variety of potential responses from the committee.
That was the background of things when, in the wake of the chairmanship vote Thursday night, Gill offered his motion calling for Carson to be prosecuted. There was debate back and forth, with various other members calling for delays or for more restrained actions, but, when vote time came, 14 committee members stood up for the motion to prosecute, including several who rarely or never vote on Gill’s side of an issue. That was enough to make a clear majority.
The gravity of the decision was undercut briefly by a semi-comic moment when Gill appeared about to protest something or other regarding the outcome, as he has done numerous times over the years after losing a vote and had done so repeatedly on Thursday night. Amid various catcalls to Gill of “Shut up!” or “You won,” committee member Rick Maynard uttered the line of the night, “Take yes for an answer!”
It remains to be seen whether and how the committee will follow through on the implications of Thursday night’s vote to prosecute, but it had finally taken a decisive action of sorts and perhaps can shortly shift to what new chairman Pope proposed as the party’s main duty of the year — to elect Democrats in the various election races of 2016.