Officials with the Florida Democratic Party last week upheld a ruling handed down by the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida on May 30. The ruling effectively voids the February 27 election of officers for the Broward Democratic Black Caucus, and orders new elections.
Freda Stevens, who was later appointed as corresponding secretary, has also been stripped of her position.
The former officers did not respond to requests for comment.
The ruling also affirms Alan Brown of Lauderhill as the legitimate president of the Broward County chapter, despite February results indicating that Josh Brown was elected to that post. The ruling follows a grievance filed by Alan Brown.
Members of the unchartered group represented themselves as the Broward chapter of the organization and created literature, opened a bank account, and solicited funds in the name of the Black Caucus. It is unclear how much money the group has raised.
The Democratic Black Caucus of Florida was established in 1983 to increase the political power of black Democrats. It conducts voter registration drives and supports candidates approved by the group’s membership, according to its website.
Some members of the officially sanctioned Broward Democratic Black Caucus are asking if the unsanctioned group broke any laws. They are also seeking information about what happened to the funds the illegitimate group collected in the name of the organization.
“How they opened a bank account in our organization’s name is beyond me, and it is a concern, but a separate issue,” said Alan Brown. “Some members are asking questions about this and they want to see the financial records, so there could end up being an investigation.”
Alan Brown continued: “The grievance process was fair. It showed the bylaws were violated and the entire process was illegitimate. Everything they did was improper, and again, another ruling has demonstrated this.”
Dr. T. Wayne Bailey, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party’s Rules Committee, wrote in a June 16 finding, “The Democratic Black Caucus of Florida’s Grievance Committee has made a recommendation that the February 27 Elections of Broward Democratic Black Caucus election be rescinded due to election irregularities. You are to notify all members of the Broward Black Caucus within the next ten days and call for new elections immediately.”
Daisy Black is the chairperson of the Florida Democratic Black Caucus’ Grievance Committee. She wrote in a June 17 letter that, “It is the recommendation of this Grievance Committee that Josh
Brown immediately Cease and Desist having meetings under the name of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida.”
Even though the ruling from the state party was issued last week, Josh Brown’s voice mail greeting on his cell phone continues to inform callers he is president of the local Black Caucus chapter.
On political blogs and links posted on the Broward Democratic Party’s website, the decommissioned officers remain listed as current officers of the organization.
The Florida Democratic Party has issued a directive forbidding members of the Black Caucus from speaking to the media without prior approval. The members did not respond to phone messages or emails from the South Florida Times seeking comment.
“Before you speak to any members of the press about the recent actives [sic] of the Black Caucus, please clear it through me,” Florida Democratic Party communications director Eric Jotkoff wrote in a May 27 email to Florida Democratic Black Caucus president Lizzie Jenkins.
Since that advisory was issued, many of the organization’s members around the state have stopped responding to questions. In an automated response, Jotkoff’s email system stated that due to an illness, he was out of the office.
The issues first began unfolding when, according to grievances filed, several members of the local Black Caucus chapter, led by Josh Brown, went to the home of a fellow member and conducted an unsanctioned election, without authorization or the required 10-day notice.
Over the next several days, group members began issuing press releases declaring themselves the newly elected officers of the Broward County chapter. Several media outlets published articles about the election.
Since that time, they have operated as the officially chartered Broward Democratic Black Caucus, even though several challenges were pending over the legitimacy of the election itself.
The state party’s ruling mandates new elections must be immediately held.
“I’m not running for reelection,” Alan Brown said. “My challenge to the process was based on principle. I will continue as an active member, and I intend to serve as chair of the grievance committee of the local chapter, because I would like to see new people come in and serve in a functional chapter.”
Photo: Alan Brown