State Democratic Party reviewing events in Carroll County

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Democratic Party of Arkansas is reviewing whether party rules were violated at a meeting of the Carroll County Democratic party on Feb. 25, the interim executive director of the state party confirmed Monday.

At the Feb. 25 meeting, members of the Democratic Party of Carroll County elected Charles Templeton of Eureka Springs as chairman of the county party, ousting longtime county chairman Levi Phillips.

The county party had been scheduled to meet again on Friday, March 10, but announced in an email early last week that the meeting was postponed “while the state committee reviews events from the Feb. 25 meeting.”

Dillon Hupp, the interim executive director of the state Democratic Party, said Monday that there are “pretty strong indications that the rules weren’t followed” at the Feb. 25 county meeting.

“We are reviewing what happened,” Hupp said. “We want to make sure the rules were followed. If the rules weren’t followed, then we’ll have to have a new election.”

Asked if there was evidence of impropriety, Hupp said there was.

“Based on statements from several people who were involved in the process, we’ve had some pretty strong indications that the rules weren’t followed,” he said.

Lamont Richie, a Democrat who represents Eureka Springs as the District 3 Justice of the Peace on the Carroll County Quorum Court, said the meeting began with several new members being accepted into the county party, although he said state rules allow new members to join only during primary election season. But Richie said the new members were accepted at Phillips’ direction.

“Everything that was done at the meeting was done with the approval of the chairman, Levi Phillips,” Richie said.

In fact, Richie said Phillips introduced the motion allowing the new members to join.

The motion, which Richie described as “rather protracted,” passed and the new members were accepted.

When the time came to vote for officers, Richie said he made a motion that the meeting be recessed for 30 days, since the rules say new members must wait 30 days before being allowed to vote, but Richie said Phillips indicated that he had no objection to the new members being allowed to vote immediately.

“When Lamont said ‘don’t we need to move the election to 30 days out, Levi said ‘go ahead and let them vote,’ ” said Templeton, who was among the new members. “We didn’t go over there thinking that we were even going to be allowed to vote.”

The vote was taken, with the new members participating, and Templeton was elected chairman. Vice chairman Margaret Fancher and secretary-treasurer Missy Jackson were then re-elected to their respective positions.

Richie said the meeting “sort of fell apart” at that point.

“There were what I would describe as a couple of meltdowns and then the meeting was recessed,” he said.

Richie said everything that happened at the meeting was “done in the open.”

“There was nothing done in a back room,” he said. “There was nothing done in a secret meeting.”

Phillips said Monday night that he had not spoken with the state Democratic Party and had no complaints about the Feb. 25 meeting.

“We had an election and that’s what we need to abide by,” he said. “That’s the principal core of our freedom. That’s the way we govern.”

“It was the democratic process at work,” Templeton said.

Phillips, 68, said he wasn’t sure how long he served as chairman of the county Democratic Party but said his tenure went back to at least the late 1970s.

“To the exact date, I don’t know, but it’s been a long time,” he said.

“He’s invested a lot in the Democratic Party in Carroll County,” Templeton said of Phillips.

Templeton, 71, said the state party is reviewing what happened at the meeting because new members were allowed to vote without waiting 30 days.

Templeton said the state party might appoint an interim chairman and have a new election, or could choose to leave Templeton in place. Either way, Templeton said he will be an active and supportive member of the local party.

“I look forward to working with all the Democrats in Carroll County,” he said.

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