D is for … dysfunctional?

Published 2:51 am Tuesday, September 25, 2007

By Staff
The Beaufort County Democratic Party’s meeting Saturday put the D in dysfunctional.
Party Chairman Surry Everett cannot allow this to continue if he wants the party to attract “new blood” and its efforts to be taken seriously.
Based on the party’s fundraiser last month, Beaufort County Democrats looked like a force to be reckoned with. Remember? Just about anybody who was anybody from the Democratic political scene was there, minus the governor and state Senate leader Marc Basnight. The event attracted plenty of Dems who aren’t from this district, including state House Speaker Joe Hackney, who’s from Orange County. State Court of Appeals candidate Kristin Ruth made the trip from Raleigh because she “heard it was the best thing going” in North Carolina that night. And it was.
The Democrats had some serious momentum to build upon. And then came Saturday’s meeting. It got off on the wrong foot to begin with, but the beginning would turn out to be better than the ending.
The meeting was called for members of the local executive committee to vote on a replacement for Betty Murphy, who resigned her position on the North Carolina Democratic Party’s executive committee. As a gathering of the county party’s executive committee, Saturday’s meeting should have attracted at least the chairmen and vice chairmen of 18 precincts, not counting elected officials such as Sheriff Alan Jordan and the Democratic commissioners.
When the “meeting” convened, eight people were present. That number would ultimately swell to 10, but would not include any elected officials. For nearly the first half-hour, the folks would meet on the steps of the Beaufort County Courthouse, being locked out of the building itself. Perhaps that should have been taken as an omen to end this ill-fated voyage.
The people present talked about appointing the energetic Billie Mann to Murphy’s vacant seat. Without a quorum present, all they could do was talk. But when a group holds a political meeting on a Saturday morning an hour before the kickoff of an East Carolina University football game, one has to wonder if they can reasonably expect to have enough attendees to make decisions.
Just as the meeting was about to adjourn, a man showed up to unlock the courthouse door. Around that same time, John Murphy, treasurer of the county party and husband to Betty Murphy, showed up to give a financial report. It would take only around 20 minutes, he said.
Everett should have stepped in at this point and told Murphy to hold his peace. Maybe Everett did tell him that in private, but if so, he should have made that message a public one. There’s a diplomatic way to do that. Everett knew better than to let Murphy begin that financial report. By the same token, Murphy knew better than to give that report.
It makes no sense to report on the financial welfare of the entire Beaufort County Democratic Party when one is addressing just nine people. The number of people listening would dwindle as low as five at one point, between people taking bathroom breaks and just plain leaving. Yet, Murphy trudged on. He would trudge until 12:30 p.m., a half-hour after Everett said the meeting was to be adjourned. Even one of the precinct leaders could stand it no longer and left to watch the ECU game.
Why on earth would Murphy do such a thing? Why would he be allowed to do it?
The error is particularly egregious because part of his presentation was about the $1,000 or so the group might have to forfeit because it was collected by “passing the hat,” as Murphy put it. Isn’t that important enough to tell it to a room that’s at least half full?
We think so. Murphy even acknowledged he’d have to make the presentation again because Saturday’s attendance was so poor.
Yet, he made the decision to keep going. And he was allowed to do so. That, friends, is nothing short of dysfunctional.