Democratic Party chair won't run for re-election

David Parker speaks to reporters

April 19, 2012 7:33:10 PM PDT
After withstanding days of calls for his resignation, Chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party David Parker said Thursday he will call for an early election of party officers in May and will not run for re-election.

He made the announcement at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Click here for the raw video of the news conference

Parker has been under fire since the executive director of the party - Jay Parmley - resigned Sunday after emails began circulating in the media last week linking him to allegations of harassment.

Parmley has vehemently denied harassing any party worker, and Parker maintained Thursday there was no cover-up and that the incident was handled properly and professionally.

Parker said he acted on the advice of the party's lawyer John Wallace who he said told him there were no grounds to fire Parmley.

Parker went item-by-item through a list of allegations against Parmley in a sworn EEOC complaint filed by former Democratic Party staffer Adriadn Ortega - who was fired in November.

According to Parker, the allegations included unwanted shoulder rubs, clothing comments, pretend punches, and discussions of private life.

The sworn allegations did not include more salacious accusations made in a letter from Ortega to Parmley sent December 8 that was detailed Wednesday by the Raleigh News and Observer.

Parker pointed out the EEOC complaint was made under oath, while the Dec. 8 letter was not.

Parker said he observed some of the shoulder rubs detailed in the complaint and "did not see anything sexual or unwanted in it."

He also spoke of an incident on a drive back to Raleigh from Charlotte when Ortega said Parmley touched his leg. Parker said there were witnesses in the vehicle who reported Parmley slapped Ortega on the leg to wake him up after he fell asleep.

Parker said after the allegations came to his attention, he once again checked Parmley's employment history. Parmley took over as executive director last year after serving three years in the same post in South Carolina. Before that, he served in the same position in Oklahoma - his native state.

Parker said no one who has worked with Parmley in the past said he ever acted inappropriately. Some did say he has an unusual sense of people's personal space.

"He's what folks call a close talker," said Parker - an apparent reference to an episode of the Seinfeld television show.

Parker said he could not talk about the reason Ortega was fired, but that he said the Dec. 8 letter was part of a counter offer as the two sides tried to reach a settlement on a severance agreement.

"Quite frankly, to me, the letter smacked of extortion," Parker offered.

ABC11 has attempted to reach Ortega for comment, but he has not responded. His Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint says he believes he was fired because he complained about Parmley.

Parker said for the good of the party, he will move up the state election for Democratic Party officers originally set for June 17 and will not run again for the chairmanship - an unpaid part-time position.

He said he was giving 14-day notice and hoped to hold elections around the middle of May.

"We will have an orderly transition," he offered.

Parker spoke to the firestorm that has surrounded him since Parmley's resignation which he characterized as a "hasty resignation which made the situation worse," because he said the public assumption was that Parmley's stepping down somehow proved his guilt.

Parker said he did not want to settle the harassment case but that he followed the advice of the party lawyer. Parker called it good legal advice, but not necessarily good political advice.

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