County Dems may have to forfeit funds

Published 2:19 am Sunday, September 23, 2007

By Staff
About $1,000 could revert to the state
News Editor
The Beaufort County Democratic Party may have to forfeit about $1,000 that was collected by a “passing the hat” method that’s now illegal, its treasurer said Saturday.
John Murphy said a state law that went into effect in January prohibits anonymous donations to the party. Money collected at the Democrats’ First Tuesday rallies and precinct meetings may have to be returned to the N.C. Board of Elections if there are not records to show who contributed what, Murphy told a group of 10 Democrats gathered at the Beaufort County Courthouse.
“I don’t like this, but it is what it is,” said county party Chairman Surry Everett. “None of us knew this.”
During a series of monthly rallies that began in March, the party collected a total just shy of $392. To keep that money, or a portion of it, someone present at the meetings has to be able to vouch for the contributor behind each dollar amount.
The party has a better shot of keeping the $627 in “sustaining fund assessments” — the fund that holds contributions from individual precincts in Beaufort County. County party leaders believe there are records from precinct chairmen that will account for contributions collected during precinct meetings.
Beaufort County Democrats have a “sustaining fund obligation” to the state level of the party, $500 of which has been paid. But the balance due is nearly equal to the amount collected during precinct meetings, which might be forfeited.
Saturday’s meeting was initially called so the local party’s executive committee could choose a new county representative for the N.C. Democratic Party’s Executive Committee. The meeting instead became an “informational session,” because there was not a quorum present.
Betty Murphy, who is the wife of John Murphy, was chosen in April to serve on the state committee, representing the portion of Beaufort County that is part of the Third U.S. Congressional District. But after having “seen some of the inner workings,” she felt compelled to resign by mid-August, she said in an interview last month.
Billie Mann volunteered to fill Murphy’s slot, which must be held by a woman according to state rules. Mann’s nomination must be confirmed by a majority of the county’s executive committee members before it can take effect.
Mann is a founding member of Progressive Democrats of Beaufort County, a new political group on the Pamlico. She’s also one of the Grandmothers for Peace, a group of women gathering weekly near the Washington waterfront to protest the war in Iraq. She also serves as the chairwoman of the North Creek precinct.
Everett said he and some other party leaders would contact executive committee members by telephone until either a majority vote is reached or until other nominations for the seat come forth.