June 26, 2013 10:45:44 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Oktibbeha County Democratic Party Executive Committee members Dorothy Isaac and Kennedy Neal were removed from the board in separate votes Tuesday after they were found in violation of the state party's constitution and bylaws by their peers.
The two executive committee members, along with three aldermen-elects -- Roy A. Perkins, Henry Vaughn and Lisa Wynn -- were linked to a May Republican fund-raiser for former mayoral candidate Dan Moreland
Article 4 of the Mississippi Democratic Party bylaws allows executive committee members to be removed by a two-thirds vote of peers if "it is brought to the attention of the committee that a committee member has publicly, actively or financially supported the candidacy of any person not running as a Democrat, except in non-partisan elections."
Executive committee members also agreed to write letters to the three aldermen expressing disappointment over their action. Party officials hinted at not certifying the candidates in the next municipal election if they choose to run, but no official action was taken beyond the letters.
Isaac's removal from the board was approved by all 14 executive committee members in attendance at the county courthouse Tuesday, while 13 members voted for Neal's dismissal.
Local party chairman Chris Taylor will notify Isaac and Neal in writing of the board's decision. Isaac and Neal have 30 days to appeal.
Photos emerged on social media last month showing three Democratic aldermen-elects and Isaac in attendance at the May 29 fund-raiser. A second photo also showed Elzena Neal, the wife of Kennedy Neal, at the same event.
Prior to the votes, executive committee member Patti Drapala said she was very disappointed in the three aldermen's and two soon-to-be-former members' actions. Besides attending the fund-raiser, she said Isaac also rebuffed supporting Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and Democratic mayoral candidate Mary Lee Beal in the May 7 primary. Witnesses also told Drapala that Isaac was in attendance at Moreland's campaign kick-off event earlier in the election cycle, she said. As for Neal, Drapala said he also attended to the Moreland fund-raiser. Drapala also took the former executive committee member to a state election strategy meeting prior to the fund-raiser.
Taylor said unanswered legal questions prevented the party from taking any official action against the three aldermen in question. Previously, Moreland released a statement after the election saying the aldermen were invited to the fund-raiser, which featured Gov. Phil Bryant, "because in their duties they will be tasked with working with our statewide elected officials."
Republican aldermen-elects were also in attendance at the fund-raiser, but Jason Walker, the winner of the Ward 4 Democratic Primary, previously said he was not invited like his fellow party members.
"I hate to say it, but this is the time to stand behind (the three aldermen). You know what Republicans are doing," said Taylor making reference to the opposing party's attempt to poach Democratic votes.
"They already got them," a party member quickly snapped back.
Executive party members went back and forth on the language of the letter before settling on wording which asks the three aldermen to "publicly and actively" support fellow party members in partisan races.
The executive committee voted 12-0, with two abstentions, to issue the letter.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch