N.C. Democratic Party roiled by questions about harassment

jfrank@newsobserver.comApril 13, 2012 

The state Democratic Party faces serious questions about a secret settlement agreement with a former staffer who was fired after raising concerns about being harassed by a superior, according to documents and interviews.

A member of the party’s executive committee, Watt Jones, sent a complaint to Party Chairman David Parker in March asking about the allegations and financial settlement with the former employee, urging him to “clean up this mess before it gets worse.”

“If this hits the media, the Democratic Party, our candidates and our credibility are doomed in this election,” wrote Jones, according to a copy obtained by The News & Observer.

The staffer’s firing has caused consternation within the party ranks for months. A party spokesman told The News & Observer in December he could not comment on an internal personnel matter.

Soon after the staffer left, former longtime party administrator Sallie Leslie quit. “The unethical actions by party leadership, of which I will not be a part of or have my reputation be associated with such” caused her to leave, she told The News & Observer on Friday.

Now more prominent Democrats are calling on the party to come clean. “We don’t know the findings of fact, so it is important for the party chairman to review and report the facts to the governor, the Council of State and members of the State Executive Committee,” said strategist Brad Crone. “There needs to be complete transparency; let’s get the facts out and then we can move on with campaigns at hand.”

On Friday, Parker at first said he could not comment on the matter. He later put out a statement: “Over the last several months, several employees left their employment with the NCDP for business or professional reasons unrelated to their job performance, by mutual agreement of the parties involved. These are personnel matters about which we cannot and will not comment further.”

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Frank: 919-829-4698