Democratic Party chairman abruptly fires executive director

02/09/2014 9:15 PM

02/09/2014 10:03 PM

In a controversial move, the chairman of the beleaguered N.C. Democratic Party on Sunday fired his executive director.

Executive Director Robert Dempsey’s abrupt ouster is the latest drama to hobble a party plagued by problems in recent years.

Chairman Randy Voller acknowledged through a party attorney that he fired Dempsey roughly eight months after picking him for the job. Attorney David Harris declined to give a reason for the firing.

“There’s really nothing more to say because it’s a personnel matter,” Harris said Sunday evening.

But whether Voller has the authority to make the move remains in question. The party’s rules may require Voller to get the consent of the executive council in order to fire the executive director. The council has not met in recent days, though a meeting may be scheduled this week.

Not all party leaders agree with the move.

“I thought Robert was doing a fantastic job,” said Patsy Keever, the party’s first vice chairwoman, who essentially serves as Voller’s lieutenant.

Dempsey started in May after helping elect U.S. Rep. Scott Peters of California. He previously served as executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party and worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. At the time Dempsey was hired, Voller commended Dempsey, saying he “understands how to win elections, raise resources and communicate with voters effectively.”

Voller joined the party after a personnel scandal led to the exit of Chairman David Parker and former Executive Director Jay Parmley.

But from the start the former Pittsboro mayor has faced controversy. He barely won the job even though he ran against a candidate who didn’t want the post and then proceeded to oust the interim executive director and faced questions about owing nearly $300,000 in back taxes. Amid additional controversies and calls for his resignation, his original first vice chairwoman resigned.

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