Party activists are calling for the N.C. Democratic Party chairman and executive director to resign amid questions concerning a secret agreement to pay a former staffer to keep quiet about sexual harassment allegations.
Chairman David Parker and Executive Director Jay Parmley are facing tough questions about a financial settlement given to a low-level staffer earlier this year who was fired soon after he complained about being sexually harassed by a senior party official. The settlement agreement and nondisclosure statement came to light Friday in internal party emails obtained by The News & Observer, but the documents did not identify the party official responsible.
At the Wake County party convention Saturday, party activists introduced resolutions demanding Parker and Parmley resign or be fired. A similar resolution at the Durham County convention called for an investigation and a zero tolerance police for sexual harassment at the party. Other party officials also are privately asking the two top officials to leave for the sake of the party.
In Wake County, Democratic consultant Perry Woods put forth a resolution saying the party "must deal with sexual harassment claims in an open and transparent fashion."
The party must be "not only beyond guilt but above suspicion, and event a hint or perception of a cover-up is damaging to the party's credibility," the resolution stated.
In introducing the resolution, Woods noted North Carolina's prominence in the national political picture as a battleground state in the presidential race and host of the Democratic convention, suggesting the state party scandal could taint the 2012 election.
The resolution also said Parker's statement Friday -- which said the party won't comment the matter --only raised more questions about how it was handled behind closed doors, even out of the purview of other top party officials.
Muriel Offerman, the treasurer of the state Democratic Party and a Parker ally, spoke against the resolution. "This is a personnel mater with in the party," she said in an interview Sunday. "Personnel matters are not to be discussed in public. Period."
A couple other Democrats echoed Offerman's remarks and Woods pulled the resolution before a vote took place. Woods declined to comment about the matter.
At the Durham County party convention, Danielle Adams, a member of the local soil and water conservation district board, put forth a handwritten resolution also calling for the party's top two officials to be removed. It came soon after Parker addressed the convention. He didn't mention the scandal in his remarks and again no vote took place and it was referred to the state party's executive committee for consideration.
The turmoil in the party ranks came the same day Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton suggested party officials should resign or be fired if the allegations are true. "We cannot tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace," Dalton said Saturday at the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party convention. "If there's any truth to the allegations, somebody should resign or be fired immediately. We won't tolerate that."
The other two leading candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, former Congressman Bob Etheridge and state Rep. Bill Faison, declined to take a stance, saying they didn't know enough to comment.
The party is not talking about the matter. But former party administrator, Sallie Leslie, said Friday she recently quit in part because of how the party handled the matter, citing "unethical actions by party leadership."
Leslie's longtime service to the party and solid reputation is helping drive activists' concerns. The Wake County Democratic Party approved a resolution supporting Leslie at its convention and her comments were cited in Woods' resolution demanding party leaders' removal.
Editor's note: Updated version corrected regarding Durham County resolution.