A complaint against a high-ranking Duval County Democrat for making profane and racist-tinged remarks in a Jacksonville restaurant Jan. 22 probably is a long way from resolution. If anything, the atmosphere looks to be heating up, not cooling down.
The complaint against Duval County Democratic State Committeeman John Parker is suddenly all the more volatile because the wider community has come to realize Parker is married to Lisa King.
King is chairwoman of the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee.
Two of the county's most powerful Democrats.
And, like James Morton and other members of the Duval Democratic Black Caucus, King was in the restaurant with her husband when he referred to “coloreds” and “sh*t being f**ked up after integration.” She heard him say it.
That was two months ago and she's only now talking about the complaint out loud -- or in any transparent way.
Facebook is awash in outraged comment: Black Caucus members no longer want just Parker's head, they want King's too.
And they should have it.
"It took Lisa until March 27, until after the story about the first complaint came out in the press, to say anything about it," Bradford Hall told Sunshine State News on Thursday. "How was she not appalled? She wrote her email to the party a few hours after her husband wrote a letter of apology to Duval Democrats."
The first complaint was filed by Morton; Hall, an elected member of the Duval DEC and District 9 chairperson, since has filed a complaint of his own.
Hall's complaint written to King finishes with this: "I ask for an immediate investigation. I also ask for an independent third party to lead this effort. It is widely known you and Mr. Parker are married and that you refused to even acknowledge his ignorant remarks through a complaint of your own. During this time, you and Mr. Parker should rethink your leadership positions in the party. We deserve responsible leadership."
It's hard to argue with Hall's point of view.
Fifty-five percent of the Democrats in Duval County are black. Why wouldn't their leaders, no matter what color they are, understand that if they want to represent the entire, diverse party, they have to show everybody respect?
In an email to the state party, King cited office shorthandedness for dragging her feet on the grievance/complaint: "As an FYI -- our vice chair recently resigned as he has become a candidate for public office, and our treasurer has resigned to serve as his campaign treasurer. Our secretary was also present when the incident that has triggered this grievance [took place] as well. Therefore, I am unable to 'pass the gavel' to another officer to preside or appoint a committee. Also as an FYI, we have a special election scheduled to elect a new vice chair, state committeewoman and treasurer at our next business meeting scheduled for May 21, 2018."
As for Parker's apology letter, written to Lydia Hudson, president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida: He called his remarks in the restaurant "a serious misunderstanding."
His excuse seemed to be, he was just born at the wrong time, stuck in a pre-integration time warp and those bad words were in his mouth but not in his heart.
"My poor language choice was pointed out to me by younger members of our discussion group and I was embarrassed for my error but am glad to have had that important, personal teachable moment. ..."
What baloney, says Hall in a separate email to Nicholas Pellito, director of party affairs at the Florida Democratic Party. "If these people not alive during the 1960s knew it was wrong, is it safe to say Mr. Parker knew better? Is it safe to assume he was revealing his true character?"
In his letter to Pellito, Hall made it plain: "I will not serve the DCDEC as long as (Parker) is allowed to serve in leadership. I think we need to reconsider party leadership in its totality at the local level, too."
By "totality," I think it's pretty clear he was talking about Lisa King. Ask around. Parker and King are a package deal not only at home, but in the party.
The point is, both have lost credibility and the trust of the majority of Duval Democrats. Both should go.
Diallo-Sekou Seabrooks, candidate for District 8 City Council in Jacksonville, was at the restaurant Jan. 22 and bore witness to Parker's remarks.
"It was a consolidation conversation we were having," Seabrooks told me. "That's how it got started. What John Parker was saying was, he didn't want another Atlanta, an all-black city. He 'didn't want a bunch of coloreds downtown.'"
Seabrooks admitted he isn't as bothered about King as he is about Parker. "The words came from his lips, not hers," he said.
He said what he can't understand is the tolerance people show for racial slurs. "Imagine if Parker called a gay person a faggot. All hell would break loose. Gays would be allowed to be outraged and indignant and they would have plenty of support from the straight community.
"But we seem to gather so much resistance whenever we point out an offensive and hurtful putdown of black people," Seabrooks said. "I don't know why this is, but this time it has to be unacceptable.
"As for the apology, I don't want to hear it because I don't believe it," he said, addressing Parker as if the two were face to face. "I heard what you said in the restaurant, I know you meant it."
The Duval DEC, in the meantime, has made a move to calm the waters. They've called a special meeting of the Central Committee for 6 p.m. Thursday, April 5 in the IBEW board room to discuss one item and one item only: developing a procedure to process grievances ("The bylaws of the DCDEC are silent on grievances," King told the FDP's Pellito earlier in the week).
It very well could be a stormy meeting. Followed by a long and lumbering process of approvals before anything is adopted. Followed by more community fracturing. Followed by a distracted and de-energized electorate and then ... the election.
But the process doesn't have to be so contentious and drawn out. Only John Parker and Lisa King, who squandered the public trust, can speed it up and cool tempers within the DCDEC. It's in their hands. All they have to do is both resign.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: NancyLBSmith