Under the Dome

NC Democratic Party tries to oust former labor commissioner John Brooks

N.C. Democratic Party chairwoman Patsy Keever is trying to replace former longtime state labor commissioner John Brooks as chairman of the panel that handles disputes within the party.

Keever said this week that she’s appointed Ryan Butler, president of the LGBT Democrats, to lead the party’s Council of Review.

Brooks, however, said Keever doesn’t have the power to kick him off the council, and he says he’s still the chairman. It’s the latest example of the often public infighting that’s plagued the state Democratic Party in recent years.

Brooks was the state commissioner of labor from 1977 to 1993. He ran unsuccessfully for the post in 2012.

“There is an attempt to usurp the authority of the Council of Review by the new chair of the party, but it is not in keeping with the requirements” of the party’s by-laws, Brooks said.

Brooks points to a provision in the bylaws – known as the party’s Plan of Organization– that requires a vote by the state executive council to remove members of the Council of Review. The executive council includes dozens of party leaders.

The bylaws say removal is only possible when a council member is “disloyal to the party, has refused or failed to perform his or her duties, or is guilty of any misconduct.” Brooks’ term doesn’t expire until 2016.

Ford Porter, a spokesman for the party, said Keever won’t comment on “internal party matters,” but he issued a statement about the change.

“Patsy Keever has brought great energy into the NCDP and is building a team to make the party stronger and more competitive,” Porter said. “Per the Plan of Organization, there are four appointments to the Council Of Review by the chair. Ryan Butler was appointed to the COR, then appointed chair.”

Brooks says the dispute stems from a recent ruling by the Council of Review. The council removed Chris Hardee as chairman for the Third Congressional District following a complaint that he no longer lives within the district. Hardee was represented at the hearing by Wake County Commissioner John Burns, and the council scheduled another hearing Sunday to determine if Hardee was truthful under oath, Brooks said.

“That’s still an outstanding issue to be considered by the Council of Review, and they want it covered up,” he said.

Brooks said he won’t step down unless the state executive council votes to remove him.