Don't blame us. That was the response Friday – minus some legal jargon – from Democrats over a lawsuit that takes the Mecklenburg County commissioners to task for blocking the appointment of a new member.
Democratic Party officials chose George Dunlap this week to succeed the late Valerie Woodard, an outspoken commissioner who died this month from a rare blood disorder.
Dunlap was picked to finish Woodard's term, but Tuesday Republican commissioners blocked his appointment. The Democratic Party sued county commissioners Wednesday.
On Friday, the board's Democrats responded with a legal opinion on the validity of the case, asking the court to resolve it quickly. The Democrats also requested they not be charged with taxes and fees incurred as a result of the Republicans' actions.
“The main thing we wanted to do was state our position, so that the judge has all the needed information to rule on the case,” said Jennifer Roberts, board chairman.
Also Friday, the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg asked the board to immediately appoint Dunlap. Chairman Dwayne Collins said his organization has deep concerns about the matter.
“I feel the denial is rooted in politics as opposed to being guided by principles,” he said.
The Republican commissioners responded late Friday with their own release, detailing why they moved to block Dunlap's appointment. The statement, signed by three of the board's four Republican members, outlined 16 questions about Dunlap's qualifications, including whether he was qualified under state law and whether a background check had been done.
The Republicans pointed to questions surrounding the party's election of Nick Mackey as sheriff in December. Commissioners did not confirm Mackey after questions were raised about the legitimacy of the election. A state party panel later overturned the sheriff's election because of irregularities, and commissioners went on to name Mackey's opponent, Chipp Bailey, as sheriff.
The statement said the three board members would be ready to move forward with Dunlap's appointment, once questions were answered. And Ramirez has said he would resign as commissioner if a judge forced his vote.
Commissioner Dan Bishop did not sign the letter. He has called Dunlap a “remarkably divisive, racist member of the board of education” and has already determined that he will not support his appointment.
The Democratic Party picked Dunlap to serve as the District 3 commissioner until 2010, including a two-year term Woodard was seeking.
Dunlap, who currently sits on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, will be sworn in as commissioner in December once the Democratic Party submits his name as Woodard's replacement. But commissioners have to approve Dunlap to fill the rest of Woodard's current term, which ends Nov. 30.
The Democratic Party wants commissioners to confirm Dunlap now. Noell Tin, one of the local Democratic Party's lawyers, said he hopes a hearing will be held by early next week.