The Florida Democratic Party (FDP) has issued an apology to party official Ruth R. Lynch over allegations that she may have mishandled a $1,500 check the party donated to its Black Caucus organization.
In a letter to Lynch, Scott Arceneaux, FDP executive director said the organization’s director of Party Affairs had sent out an email accusing her of “misappropriating” the donation that had been intended for the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida’s 2010 convention.
“These allegations were false and inappropriate. I truly regret that they were made and the resulting attention that this email has drawn to Mrs. Lynch and her family,” Arceneaux wrote in the letter.
“As Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party, I am writing to apologize to you on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party for false statements that emanated from this office,” Arceneaux wrote.
At the center of the controversy is an e-mail that was sent to Lynch from the party’s Tallahassee headquarters on May 25 by Mildred “Milli” Smith, director of party affairs. Among other things, Smith said the party had received a cease and desist letter from Lynch’s attorney. She also alleged that the $1,500 check had actually been deposited into Lynch’s personal bank account. Lynch denies those allegations.
Lynch, who had not responded previously to requests from the South Florida Times for comment, said in an e-mail, “I never handled the FDP check nor did it ever come to Broward County. I will no longer defend myself surrounding a lie intended to assassinate my character.”
Asked to provide more details on the issue and Smith’s claim that a cease and desist letter was sent, Lynch said she would not discuss the matter any further.
Arceneaux’s letter was followed by a statement from Dr. Bruce Miles, president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, who also offered an apology to Lynch. Miles said he deposited the check in question into the organization’s bank account.
Miles said the accusation made against Lynch had been intended to "assassinate" her character.
“Mrs. Lynch was accused of depositing the check in her personal account, which is a total lie,” Miles wrote.
Miles did not return several phone calls or respond to e-mails seeking further comment.
The Florida Democratic Party did not release copies of the $1,500 check so it could be determined who endorsed it and into what account it was deposited. Smith referred questions to party spokesman Eric Jotkoff. Asked what steps might be taken to avoid future miscommunication and if Smith would face disciplinary action over her e-mail, Jotkoff said those issues were being handled internally, but declined to elaborate.
Smith’s e-mail is part of an ongoing controversy surrounding the Black Caucus’ 2010 annual convention held in Plantation. Lynch co-chaired a committee that organized the event. Some members of the organization say they are still seeking an accounting of the donations and expenditures.
Alan Brown, the immediate past president of the Broward County chapter of the Black Caucus, filed a grievance against Lynch after being forwarded a copy of Smith’s e-mail. Lynch did not respond to the allegation. A grievance committee determined Brown’s complaint had merit and recommended Lynch’s removal from her vice president’s post. The Black Caucus executive board will deliberate the recommendation at a July 30 hearing scheduled to take place in Orlando.
Meanwhile, the letters of apology from party officials to Lynch are generating more turmoil within the organization.
“Neither Bruce Miles nor Scott Arceneaux has the authority to supersede a grievance that is already in the process of being [investigated],” said Daisy Black, who chairs the Black Caucus grievance committee in an e-mail. “They both abused their positions with their respective organizations by sending out letters absolving Ruth Lynch before it went to the executive committee and the Florida Democratic Party Judicial committee.”
Black said new information has come to light and the facts would be examined at the hearing, but did not indicate the nature of that information.
“I did the recommendations. There are still other charges that are not in this grievance that have surfaced since the grievance came up,” Black said. “I will not respond to the FDP letter, since I will be doing a letter to the Florida Democratic Party chair about Mr. Arceneaux's involvement in this matter.”
Brown, the former president who filed the grievance, agreed. He said the core issue of a detailed financial accounting still has not been addressed.
“This started because of concerns about the finances. The grievance is not only about the check; it is also about Lynch’s failure to give an accounting and this process should not be interfered with,” Brown said. “The outcome should be based on evidence, not insult-filled letters. We still have no accounting of the money, so we are trying to find out exactly what is going on with these apologies because nothing has been resolved.”
**Pictured Above, L/R, is Ruth Lynch, Daisy Black, Alan Brown and Scott Arceneaux