N.C. Republican Party chairman Tom Fetzer has chastised the party's vice-chairman over an incident involving a staff member.
The rebuke has prompted the vice-chairman, Timothy F. Johnson, to accuse Fetzer of trying to exclude him from party business at least in part because Johnson is black.
In a letter to Johnson dated Sept. 3, Fetzer described an Aug. 23 incident in which Fetzer says Johnson, grabbed and berated a party staff member at a Greater Greensboro Republican Women's Club event.
"You approached her, grabbed her by the hand and would not let go of it while you berated her about the performance of the staff at the NCGOP headquarters for several minutes," Fetzer wrote. "During the entire conversation, she felt 'cornered' and unable to escape. She found your attitude to be condescending and the entire encounter to be very embarrassing."
Fetzer wrote that Johnson only let go after a witness got another party staff member to intervene.
"At best, as reported to me, you exhibited extremely poor manners, and at worst, conduct unbecoming an officer of the North Carolina Republican Party," Fetzer wrote.
Johnson said Fetzer's account is inaccurate. Johnson said while he talked, the two held hands in a protracted handshake.
"I surely was not trying to be angry with her," Johnson told Dome. "I wasn't trying to control her and not allow her to walk away."
One of Johnson's complaints was that he was not receiving e-mail messages from the party, implying that he had been deleted from the mailing list.
Johnson told Dome that he is being excluded from the party. He said he has asked for an office at party headquarters and to be included in events and planning.
"I'm the first black to serve at this role, as the state vice chair, and I'm not being included," he said. "All the people he's bringing on staff are continuing to perpetuate the traditional image of the party, which is just whites. That's all we have in our headquarters is whites."
More after the jump.
Johnson was elected to his position on a promise to diversify the party's appeal. His election came amid some controversy. Blogs began circulating a story that in 1996 he pleaded guilty to an aggravated assault charge. Johnson apologized to the party delegates for the incident, but said he was disappointed that the incident came up.
Johnson e-mailed an apology to the staff member Friday afternoon.
"With his apology..I consider the issue resolved," Fetzer told Dome. "My intention and focus needs to be on electing Republicans, not resolving internal issues like this, but hopefully this will resolve it."
That seems unlikely.
"It's not behind us," Johnson said. "This issue is between him and I. It's about him and I, the vice chair and the chair of the state GOP don't have a working relationship. That's the bottom line."