A profile in courage it is not.
Gov. Bev Perdue was a day late and a dollar short expressing concern about sexual harassment allegations at N.C. Democratic Party headquarters.
Make that four months late, and party leaders would rather not mention dollars.
The scandal that cost party Executive Director Jay Parmley his job Sunday took an even more distressing turn when Perdue finally broke her inappropriate silence late Tuesday and revealed that she had known about the allegations since December. Later Tuesday she called for party Chairman David Parker to resign the same chairman who served with Perdues blessing since he briefed her about the whole affair last year.
Some quick background: According to internal party emails and news reports, a state Democratic Party employee was fired in November after alleging that Parmley sexually harassed him. Party leaders crafted a financial settlement and a non-disclosure agreement to make the whole thing go away. Parmley, though, kept his job.
The public knew nothing about it until internal party emails (fretting about the fallout if the episode ever became public) were leaked to the Daily Caller and the (Raleigh) News & Observer. Only then did any Democrats ethics needle budge. Parmley resigned under pressure and just about every top elected Democrat called for Parker to follow him out the door. Wednesday night, Parker vowed to stay.
Perdues involvement, though, takes it to another level. When reporters asked the governor the leading Democrat in the state about it Tuesday, she repeated this is an internal personnel matter four times and refused to say when she first learned of the incident. When pressed, she told a reporter to get over it.
It appears Perdue got over it a little too easily and would have let Parmley and Parker stay on indefinitely if those pesky emails hadnt leaked.
The public may never know if Parmley was guilty of sexually harassing an employee. He says he did nothing wrong. If he did, though, Parker and Perdue acted disgracefully by covering it up and allowing him to keep his job.
Its possible that the party conducted a thorough internal investigation, determined the allegation had no merit, and settled with the employee rather than fight him in an embarrassing public court battle. Parker said Wednesday night the matter was handled ethically and professionally by the partys attorney. That explanation, if true, might have allowed the whole thing to blow over.
But if that were the case, why didnt Parmley, or Parker, or Perdue say so when reporters started asking about it and party activists across the state expressed concern? And if that were the case, why is Perdue now calling for Parkers head? Instead, party leaders stonewalled and misled. Voters still dont know whether these serious accusations are true or even whether they were thoroughly investigated.
Perdue and Parker hurt their own party by not taking decisive action months ago. Now, as early voting for the May 8 primary starts today, Democrats are in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
November is a long way off, and this all may be old news by then. Voters then will care more about jobs and education than they do about this scandal, and appropriately so. But this chapter and the way it was handled doesnt speak well of the character of any of those involved.