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10 January 2013

Georgia Democratic Party Chairman Urged Cancellation of Meeting Where Party Finances Were Discussed

A year ago this February, Atlanta Journal-Constitution Political Insider Jim Galloway reported, "The state Democratic party has problems."

Galloway told the world that Page Gleason, then-Executive Director of the Georgia Democratic Party, quit. Galloway also brought news of a special called meeting of the state Democratic executive committee, where the finances of the Democratic Party organization were discussed.

Georgia Politics Unfiltered has learned, through an email sent from Georgia Democratic Party chairman Mike Berlon to state Democratic executive committee members, that Berlon was highly critical of the special meeting held 22 February 2012 and even urged the meeting's cancellation.

Georgia Democratic Party rules say the state Democratic committee is the "highest authority" of the Democratic Party of Georgia. Party rules also say the state Democratic executive committee acts on behalf of the state committee between state committee meetings; and that special meetings of the executive committee may be called "by at least 1/4 of the membership of the Executive Committee upon receipt by all members of written notice 2 days prior to such meeting."

In his email to the executive committee, Berlon acknowledged receiving notice of a special called meeting from R.J. Hadley, a party vice-chair.

"This morning I received an email from Vice Chair RJ Hadley calling a special meeting of the Executive Committee this Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 6:30 PM," Berlon wrote to the executive committee. "In support of this demand, he indicated that he had concerns about (1) setting regular meetings of the Executive Committee, (2) planned on presenting a budget and (3) indicated that had the support of 14 members of the Executive Committee."

Georgia Democratic Party chairman Mike Berlon then went on to suggest, in several lengthy paragraphs, that Hadley had usurped the authority of the chairman; announced he would not attend the meeting; and urged Hadley to cancel the meeting.

"In my opinion, as well as that of General Counsel, this request or demand by Mr. Hadley is completely out of order," Berlon wrote. "This is primarily a volunteer organization. Not everyone can drop everything to attend a meeting on short notice. According to General Counsel, the provision for a called meeting was designed to be used in an emergency. There is no emergency.

"I encourage Mr. Hadley to cancel that meeting and at least pick up the phone and call me with his concerns," the Berlon email read.

According to Jim Galloway's report, the special state Democratic executive committee meeting was held as scheduled, despite Berlon's protestations; and it was revealed that Georgia's Democratic Party faced financial insolvency.

The minutes from the meeting state it was "generally agreed that the current financial approach" of the Democratic Party of Georgia was "unsustainable."

Below is the full email from Georgia Democratic Party chairman Mike Berlon to state Democratic executive committee members:

To the Members of the Executive Committee:

This morning I received an email from Vice Chair RJ Hadley calling a special meeting of the Executive Committee this Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 6:30 PM. In support of this demand, he indicated that he had concerns about (1) setting regular meetings of the Executive Committee, (2) planned on presenting a budget and (3) indicated that had the support of 14 members of the Executive Committee. In this e-mail he also indicated that he would be presiding over the meeting in his capacity as Vice Chair for Congressional Districts and County Parties. I will not be in attendance for the following reasons:

I have never been contacted by Mr. Hadley prior to receiving this email about his intentions to call a meeting. If he would have simply called and asked he would have realized that I planned to call one upon completion of the Legislative Session. Unfortunately, he never spoke with me about this at all prior to making this demand. I assume that the others involved in calling the meeting were not aware that he never spoke to me. In my opinion, as well as that of General Counsel, this request or demand by Mr. Hadley is completely out of order.

The second issue that is of great concern is that Mr. Hadley somehow believes that he has the authority to preside over such a meeting. Again, the By-Laws make it clear that that the Chair presides over any meetings of the Executive Committee. Furthermore, if the Chair is not available, the meeting is conducted by the First Vice Chair, Ms. Nikema Williams. There is no provision whatsoever for Mr. Hadley to act in that capacity. This has also been confirmed by General Counsel for the Party.

Issue three is that Mr. Hadley ostensibly intends to propose a budget through DPG Treasurer Russell Edwards. After careful consideration, I have completed a budget to be presented to the Executive Committee. It is in final draft form pending a few details. I have never spoken to Mr. Edwards about this budget and he has never asked me to review it. I think it's highly improper and inappropriate to attempt to create a budget or present one under these circumstances. In fact, the presentation of the budget to the Executive Committee is the Chair's function as well. Here's the situation. We have a PPP coming up that is significant. Much of what happens here with our budget depends on what decision the Presidential campaign makes about Georgia and will affect final budgeting for the Party. That's why I planned to schedule an Executive Committee meeting for this purpose at the end of March or early April. It's premature at this point.

This is primarily a volunteer organization. Not everyone can drop everything to attend a meeting on short notice. According to General Counsel, the provision for a called meeting was designed to be used in an emergency. There is no emergency. I have two civil jury trials that start next Monday and a criminal trial next Friday. I simply don't have the time to make this work this week. I also point out that Mr. Hadley has called this meeting on Ash Wednesday. I believe that all of you know that I'm Catholic. I'm astounded that Mr. Hadley didn't take this into consideration. Other members of the Executive Committee are also Catholic as well.

Since this has become a significant issue, at least to some members of the Executive Committee, I will call an Executive Committee meeting for the purpose of discussing the budget, on Saturday, March 31, 2012 at the DPG Headquarters at 763 Trabert Avenue beginning at Noon. It is my understanding that the Session will likely be concluded Friday, March 30th. A copy of the budget will be circulated to everyone by March 24 and a call-in number will be provided as well.

If anyone has any questions at any time you can pick up the phone and call me or we can schedule a time to meet in person if necessary. I've been doing my best to move this party forward and I think we have been very successful. I encourage Mr. Hadley to cancel that meeting and at least pick up the phone and call me with his concerns.

One last note: Please mark your calendars. The Jefferson-Jackson Dinner will be held on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at the Georgia World Congress Center. There will be a State Committee meeting that day and an Executive Committee meeting as well. Details will be made public later this week since the deal was just finalized. The keynote speaker is Governor Bill Richardson and we expect a significant crowd. Information will be coming out in the next week about other speakers as well. Pre-sales are already pretty brisk.

Thanks,

Mike Berlon
Chairman-Democratic Party of Georgia