Imagine being accused and punished for something, but your accusers never clarify their charges. Ever. They just accuse you of committing "irregularities," without offering proof of any kind or specifying their charges in any way. This is exactly what happened to the Union County Democratic Party when NCDP Chair Randy Voller coordinated with then (2011 - 2013) UCDP 1st Vice Chair Diane Little, to abruptly end our 2013 County Convention, denying nearly 100 Democrats who were gathered the right to vote for UCDP officers and delegates to the 8th and 9th District Conventions.
The vast majority of Union County Dems were at the convention to vote for Nancy Rorie and her slate - and it wasn't just because we supported Nancy - there was only one slate of candidates actively running. As we entered the meeting room we were greeted at the door by some of those running for UCDP Executive Council positions and volunteers passing out the convention program. Breakfast was served at 9:00 a.m. and the convention was called to order at 10:00 a.m. The first couple of hours of the convention went without an issue. Mrs. Little requested that we shift our guest speaker from after the election of officers to before the voting was to take place, and her request was granted unanimously.
During this time, roll was called and a quorum was announced twice, Surlutta Anthony rose and read the welcome letter from NCDP Chair Randy Voller, various reports were given, and we heard from Dale Nelson, the 2012 candidate for NC House District 55. After Nelson's speech, Mrs. Little instructed us to break into our caucus groups, which was odd since we had not been presented a slate on which to caucus. It was around this time when she started checking her cell phone repeatedly. Around 12:30 she announced she had received an email from Chairman Voller and she read it aloud. [Voller email]
Date: Saturday, April 20, 2013, 12:32 PM
Dear Union County Dems:
It has been a busy last two weeks as the party prepares for its conventions.
Based on the information the NCDP has received regarding Union County please note the following:
As it pertains to party building and county conventions the Plan of Organization stipulates that the first vice chair has the direct responsibility to:
1. Preside at county executive committee meetings and county conventions in the absence of the chair;
(1st VC Diane Little to preside at today's convention in the chair's absence.)
2. Plan and organize committee meetings and county conventions;
3. Notify precinct chairs as to the number of votes that each precinct is entitled to cast at the county executive committee and the county conventions;
4. Serve as the coordinator for all precinct and party organizing efforts within the county, in consultation with other officers and consistent with the strategic plan approved by the county executive meeting.
Given the information that has been received by the NCDP regarding Union County and preparations leading up to the county convention, I strongly advise the following:
1. Work with Ms. Little openly and transparently to determine the number of votes each precinct is entitled to cast at the convention;
2. In light of the strong possibility that due to issues that have been raised to the NCDP, the Democratic Party in Union County should consider rescheduling its election of officers, etc, for 2013-2015 until there is a clear agreement on delegates, access to delegates, etc.
This could potentially be accomplished by recessing the convention and renoticing (sic) it for a time between 4/27 and 5/4 by mutual agreement among all the parties in attendance at the convention today.
failure to do so could lead to complaints by various Democrats within Union County regarding today's election with the distinct possibility of new elections being ordered.
It is imperative that we remember that we are all Democrats and that our opponents are Republicans. Building our county parties is about multiplication and addition not division and subtraction.
We should model the behavior within the party that we desire to see in the public elections held every year in our communities.
And thus I sincerely hope that we can come together and focus on winning the battle of ideas and winning elections in North Carolina.
Mayor R. Voller, NCDP Chair
Those not from Union County may not understand why utter chaos broke out after hearing this, but this wasn't the first time that our conventions and officer election process had been disrupted. During the days leading up to the 2011 officer elections, anonymous attacks were made in local newspapers against candidate for chair, Nancy Rorie and other members of Democratic Women. The letters published were so defamatory that the Enquirer Journal issued an apology to Mrs. Rorie and printed her rebuttal. These letters created turmoil within the party and Rorie and her slate lost to Ed McGuire and Diane Little. Within months a member of the Executive Council resigned and by the end of his term, Ed McGuire regretted his decision to run against Ms. Rorie, saying he had been deceived. In an email sent to delegates prior to the 2013 convention McGuire said: [McGuire Email]
Two years ago, based upon what I now believe was false information, misleading information, and pride on my part, I was pursued by some in our Party to run for chair. My mistake. I ran against an honorable, hardworking, longtime Union County Democrat who would have been more successful as chair than I.
As delegates demanded to vote, Mrs. Little called Voller and put him on speaker phone. While he said we could vote, he repeatedly warned us against it. After hearing Voller speak, delegate Terry Michaelson was recognized by Mrs. Little and Michaelson moved that we proceed with a vote on the one slate of candidates running. That motion was seconded, however, Mrs. Little refused to call for a vote. There was more chaos as delegates realized Mrs. Little was not going to allow us to vote. Finally, Mrs. Little abruptly ended the meeting without a proper motion, second or vote to recess.
Our response to Chairman Voller's email
The email from Chairman Voller shows a receipt date and time of 12:32 p.m. on April 20th, which means the email was sent and received during the midst of our county convention. After initially seeing the email I found it odd that such an organized, well-structured email would be sent to address a situation that had supposedly just occurred, especially since Mr. Voller was scheduled to address at least one other county convention. It certainly isn’t the type of email you typically find typed out on a smartphone or tablet when the sender is rushing around from appointment to appointment.
In the email, Mr. Voller encourages officers to work with Mrs. Little to conduct county business, however, Mr. McGuire had not yet moved from Union County. He was still a legal resident of Union County and at the time he was still the UCDP chair. Mr. Voller, however, failed to include Mr. McGuire in his mailings. Had he done so, Mr. McGuire might have been able to assuage any concerns Voller had. Once UCDP Chair Ed McGuire found out about Voller's move he responded in a strongly worded email. [McGuire Email to Voller]
Don't be too hard on yourself for having been "taken in" by Ernest Walker and Diane Little. After being courted by both these individuals to run for Chair of the Union County Democratic Party, it took me three to six months after winning the election to figure out that they were using me to settle old grievances.
I regret that you never discussed with me by email or personally, that which Diane discussed with you. You sent an email outlining your recommendations to the officers of the UCDP, but you did not copy me, even though I am the CHAIRMAN. What a terrible oversight on your part. On Thursday or Friday I had a long and profitable discussion with Doug Wilson, your Political Director. He understood the situation, and I doubt he would have advised the action you took.
As you must be aware, the Party that I continue to chair (no replacement was elected) is in disarray, due directly to your involvement in Union County Democratic affairs.
As the continuing Chair of the UCDP I need to ask: After having helped to break the orderly transition of authority, what do you propose?
Voller's disruptive email also alludes to unspecified allegations of irregularities in regards to precinct organization and certification. Since UCDP County Chair, Ed McGuire, and his appointees Nancy Rorie and Bill Hutton had followed the Plan of Organization and the State Chair’s instructions in facilitating the organization of precincts and then certifying organized precincts, there was no reason for Mr. Voller to grant Mrs. Little’s unproven assertions the power to end our convention. She’d had plenty of opportunity to check up on Mr. McGuire’s precinct certifications through her access to VoteBuilder.
If Mr. Voller had any questions about precinct certifications surely he could and should have spoken with the man responsible for that particular duty or with the two UCDP Democrats who assisted Mr. McGuire in carrying out those duties. Mr. Voller failed to do so.
All organized precincts had been entered into VoteBuilder and Mrs. Little had been forwarded a delegate list by Mrs. Rorie and had acknowledged the receipt of the delegate list in an email exchange between several others. Surely, if she wanted to check up on these delegates, their addresses, proper precinct and party affiliation she could have used VoteBuilder to do so since she had access to the database. The minutes of the March 21, 2013 Executive Committee meeting show that Mrs. Little was aware that Bill Hutton and Nancy Rorie were facilitating precinct organization, and that she said she would deliver precinct reports to them. [UCDP Minutes 3/21/13]
Since we were convening to elect a new slate of officers and as there was no public indication from any corner that Mrs. Little would continue in any leadership position in Union County, why would Mr. Voller send a letter encouraging people to work with her on the day she would vacate her position as 1st vice chair?
Mr. Voller has offered as his excuse that the problem was in Mrs. Little’s execution of his instructions. Unfortunately, it went beyond Mr. Voller sending a confusing email. He also called in and repeatedly emphasized that if we proceeded with our convention our votes might be overturned, instead of emphasizing that we had a right to cast our votes in the first place.
New Election May 16, 2013
Having our convention abruptly end without the election of officers meant that Union County was, in effect, without any leadership. As our county falls in both the 8th and 9th Congressional Districts, the chair from each called and announced a meeting for May 16, 2013. From the minutes: [Minutes from UCDP Executive Committee Meeting May 16, 2013 - Page 1 - Page 2]
Precinct reports, which were created by 8th District Chair June Mabry using VoteBuilder data, were reviewed by the precinct chairs and/or vice chairs and/or secretaries and certified by the precinct chairs and/or vice chairs and/or secretaries to certify precinct meeting attendance and election of precinct officers.
June Mabry, 8th District Chair, Lonnie Baucom, 8th District 2nd Vice Chair, Frank Deaton, 9th District Chair, and Doug wilson, NCDP Political Director, examined the certified precinct reports.
The "book" containing precinct reports had been turned over to Diane Little at the convention in April and it was our understanding that Randy Voller had the book in his possession. Without the book of precinct reports and attendance logs, VoteBuilder was used to determine and invite the chairs, vice chairs and secretaries.
The election proceeded and the slate of - Nancy Rorie, Chair; Bill Hutton, 1st Vice Chair; Tiffany Wilson, 2nd Vice Chair; Nydia Morales, 3rd Vice Chair; Garthalia Johnson, Secretary; and John Kibler, Treasurer - was elected.
Was this our happy ending? Nooo...Randy Voller wasn't finished meddling yet
Voller Suspends the Union County Democratic Party without Cause
On June 20, 2013 State Chair Randolph S. Voller sent an email through Executive Director Robert Dempsey informing newly elected UCDP Chair Nancy Rorie that he was suspending the Union County Democratic Party from active status because of unspecified complaints. Keep in mind that Voller had been in possession of our "book" that included all of our precinct reports for almost 60 days which is plenty of time to go through each one in order to give us a specific list of the "irregularities." [Voller Email - June]
Please be advised, due to the numerous complaints received by the north Carolina Democratic Party and its Council of Review, we are temporarily suspending the active status of the Union County Democratic Party, as per the Plan of Organization. Therefore, any official party activity is suspended until such time that the Council of Review has had an adequate opportunity to review the complaints and issue its decision.
It is imperative for the well-being of the county party and Democrats across the state of North Carolina that we follow the process as established by the Plan of Organization. We respect the right of Americans to congregate, as established by our federal Constitution; however any agreements, resolutions, or other activity adopted by the Union County democratic Party prior to the decision of the Council of Review will not be binding.
Copies of the email were passed out and it was read aloud at the Executive Committee meeting scheduled for that same night. With 46 Democrats present representing 38 organized precincts we voted unanimously to ignore Mr. Voller’s inappropriate directions. Mr. Voller claimed that the right was granted him by the Plan of Organization. No such right exists.
At that point, it had been 60 days since the convention and we were still not being told exactly what we had been accused of - there were still only "irregularities" and "complaints" without any explanation as to what they may be. Also, at this time, the numerous complaints sent to the Council of Review numbered exactly one and that complaint had been filed by Diane Little. We had not chosen to file any complaints, but this letter from Voller was the final straw.
Sadly, the story doesn't end here. We won our Council of Review hearing with the Council ruling that there was a quorum at our convention, which meant the convention should not have been ended in the way it was and the voting should have proceeded. The Council also found that the elections subsequently held in May 2013 were valid.
Happily, since the COR ruling, there has been peace in the party locally. To this day we have never been told what the specific irregularities were/are or what the other complaints were. We know that there are still people spreading rumors about racism. After one story of a speech given by a Voller supporter to Cumberland County Senior Dems, our group decided to make this video.