Wednesday, July 18, 2012

TOP STORY>>Black caucus feuding

Leader senior staff writer

The president of the Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus has prevented its secretary from providing meeting minutes to members since March and with her cohorts — Jacksonville lightning rod Rizelle Aaron chief among them — effectively barred her from running for reelection at its convention Saturday.

As chairman of the nominating committee, for three hours Aaron ran the meeting and gaveled away dissent over his decision that secretary Kristina Gulley was ineligible to run for reelection.

“They are in cahoots,” Gulley said of Aaron and the president, Kasey Summerville. “What he did on Saturday — he’s not a true Democrat.”

Gulley said Tuesday afternoon that she was filing a grievance with the Democratic Party of Arkansas.

Aaron said he followed Robert’s Rules of Order and that he was appointed election committee chairman by the executive committee. He denied that he was in cahoots with Summerville and said any e-mails, phone calls or text messages between them were caucus business — to which Gulley might respond, “That’s the problem.”


Both a phone call and an e-mail to Summerville on Tuesday afternoon went unanswered.

The nominating committee ruled that Gulley was not eligible for reelection to her position because she had not paid her dues in time. Gulley, who had with her what appeared to be a proper Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus receipt for those dues, dated Feb. 11, 2012, said that the minutes would also reflect that she had paid her dues on time.

Aaron, who was running the meeting, told her it was too late, that she had been disqualified.

“On an issue like this, if there is any question at all, you should allow it,” civil rights attorney and state Rep. John Walker said. “Over the years, this is the way we’ve been denied as a people. I want to have actual fairness and the appearance of fairness,” Walker added.

Aaron then said that “for the sake of the organization” that he would allow her on the ballot if two-thirds of eligible voters overruled him, claiming that was according to Roberts’ Rules of Order.


Gulley and the president, Summerville, have become estranged over the way finances are handled and over what Gulley describes as Summerville’s coverup attempts to censor or edit minutes from the monthly meetings.

Her troubles with Sum-merville began in November when treasurer Judy Green submitted her resignation, according to Gulley. At Green’s request — and apparently to Summerville’s consternation — she emailed a copy of the resignation letter to all members for whom she had an e-mail address, Gulley said.

She added that Summerville has refused to give her an updated membership roster.

Green’s resignation letter called the group’s fiscal practices into question, and Gulley says Summerville is trying to prevent caucus members from hearing problems such as the allegedly lost checkbook and two-signature checks signed only by the president and without documentation for purchases or expenses.

Gulley said forwarding that letter to membership was the beginning of her troubles with Summerville, who is also the Clark County assessor.


Green’s Nov. 12 resignation letter said that Summerville wouldn’t or couldn’t provide her with the group’s checkbook so that she could reconcile the books.

It was around that time that she also discovered that at least one official was using a caucus credit card, about which she had no knowledge.

“If there is ever an audit by IRS or the (Democratic Party of Arkansas), I do not want to be held accountable for keeping accurate records when checks and credit cards are being used and I have no receipts to document the expenses,” wrote Green, an accountant of 40 years.

“The president has done the treasurer’s reports each month, because she has information that I don’t have,” Green added.

“The treasurer’s only responsibility should be to write checks for bills and other expenses of the organization; receive monies from the secretary after the secretary records the income; keep accurate records of all income and expenses; and make monthly reports to the body,” Green wrote.


In May, the black caucus membership voted to ask the Democratic Party of Arkansas for an audit of its books, according to Gulley. She said she didn’t believe that Summerville had made that request to the party.

“I believe the only thing before us is a grievance by Kristina Gulley because (the president won’t give her) the (current) membership roster,” according to Candace Martin, communications director for the Democratic Party of Arkansas.

Both Martin and Demo-cratic chairman Will Bond said they weren’t aware of any audit request from the Black Caucus.


The Leader was the only news organization at the meeting, conducted at the state Capitol on Saturday and attended on a tip that Aaron — who is a candidate for the Jacksonville City Council — would be reprimanded by people who believe he is ambitious, self-aggrandizing and manipulative and using the NAACP and the Black Caucus to his own ends.

“I hope that I’m ambitious,” said Aaron on Tuesday, “but not manipulative.”

Aaron holds no elected position in government or in the caucus. His opponents feared that he would run the five-hour meeting with an iron fist.

Before the meeting, the critics worried that Aaron would overrule Walker’s contention that Gulley be allowed on the ballot and other decisions made as chairman of the nominating committee.

Aaron complained that the Jacksonville NAACP, of which he is legal-redress chairman, has been improperly excluded from decisions regarding the Pulaski County Special School District.

And that was before he won the first vice presidency over incumbent Reginald Fields, who is serving in Afghanistan.

Aaron said his nomination from the floor by Darrell Stephens came as a surprise. Stephens himself was nominated from the floor and beat current second vice president Erma Poindexter.

In the other races, Sum-merville beat Diane Curry.

With Gulley was declared ineligible to run, Pat Banks won the position of secretary without opposition, Lynette Vinson won assistant secretary, and Sharl Hill beat Janice Roberts for treasurer.