The Democratic Party of Orange County has historically lived on a razor edge of financial security. Unlike Los Angeles County, which ended June 2011 with $172,726 in cash on hand after $167,625 in expenditures, Orange County’s Democratic Party (DPOC) closed the first half of the year with just $353 in the bank after $19,552 in expenditures. Putting the financial picture in an Orange County context, the OC GOP Central Committee closed with $15,057 on hand after $96,964 in expenditures.
The Orange County figures provided the back-drop to an impeachment vote targeting the DPOC Treasurer and party activist Reggie Mundekis. She survived the vote, but only by two votes 33-19.
The only member of the media to attend the meeting Monday night was the Voice of OC Editor in Chief Norberto Santana, Jr.
Mundekis was criticized, among other things, for telling Orange County Democratic clubs the true state of party finances in the wake of the federal indictment last Summer of prominent Democratic campaign treasurer Kindee Durkee, who also handled the local party finances.
“People are asking about the financial condition of the party,” Mundekis said in her defense speech. “We are perpetually out of money.”
She added: “When people ask us our financial condition, I should be able to give them an honest answer.”
Yet openly discussing those kinds of disclosures in public was clearly troubling to many party activists and officials Monday night as they struggled to balance the discretion required legally on personnel issues and the openness required of party finances and elections.
In the wake of the resignation of former Party Executive Director Gerrie Schipske and the Durkee scandal, the true picture of party finances became apparent to Democratic Central Committee members. At that point they started to look for someone to blame. Mundekis, who campaigned for the treasurer position on the theme of greater transparency found herself at odds with Party Chairman Frank Barbaro. He wanted to keep the news of the party finances within the family to prevent donors from being scared away. Party activists have told LiberalOC that Mundekis had been instructed by Barbaro to withhold financial reports from the Central Committee, and its Executive Board.
When the Durkee scandal broke, Barbaro decided to cut Mundekis out of the picture opening new bank accounts and withholding all information about Party finances. As the Party was struggling to conduct it’s annual Truman Award Dinner fundraising event, Mundekis was out of the loop.
Mundekis has a history of pissing people off. I’m even one of those she has pissed off over the years. But whatever her actions were, they do not excuse the violation of the party bylaws that seem to have occurred. The Treasurer is clearly responsible for the finances of the party, and the Chair and executive board do not have the authority to remove that control, that authority falls to the central committee as a whole.
So while there are a variety of reasons that motivated the discussion of impeachment last night, Mundekis was right to raise alarm bells and be transparent to local activists about the party’s financial position.
Given the results of last night’s vote and the clear lack of willingness of the party to order Chairman Barbaro to turn over the finances to her control, Mundekis should declare victory and resign. She cannot do her job if she is out of the loop and lacks sufficient support from the majority of members to gain any control. The party does not need to have this conflict continue into the 2012 election year. We have open primaries, newly redistricted legislative seats, and a presidential election to contend with. Inra-party squabbles need to be put to bed so that the focus can be on the 2012 election challenges.
Santana’s complete story can be found here.