About this race to become the next chair of the Florida Democratic Party ...
Sexual harassment allegations aside, there's more trouble in the Florida Democratic Party than a weasel in the chicken coop, and it's more about money -- or the lack of it -- than it is about insider factions who don't like each other very much.
That's the word from ranking Dems who wanted me to know but don't want to be caught talking to Sunshine State News. Here's what's out there:
The state party is broke.
Nobody knows that more than departed Chairman Stephen Bittel and his president, Sally Boynton Brown, both of whom resigned. Bittel, remember, was accused by several FDP staffers and consultants of inappropriate sexual comments and for creating a "creepy" and "unprofessional" work environment. And Boynton Brown was accused of witnessing and thus enabling it.
"The two were joined at the hip," one party leader told me. "Stephen sang, Sally danced."
But Sally apparently did more than dance. She had closer control of FDP's finances, knew more about where the money came from and where it went than anyone else.
So here we are: As I said, the party's broke.
The party doesn't even have enough money to make the second December payroll.
The owner of the building at 214 S. Bronough St., Tallahassee, the old FDP headquarters, died. And that was many months ago. "So, we weren't paying rent there for a long time," one of the party faithful told me. The building went up for sale and the party moved its headquarters to Bittel's Terranova building in Miami. Which was before Bittel quit. Will that change the charge for rent? Will the FDP have to fork over its back rent in Tally? Will Bittel still be charitable? Nobody seems to know yet and I was unable to reach the former chairman to ask.
Ditto, the party's $200,000 loan. Bittel put up the collateral for that loan earlier in the year. Is the party honorbound to pay him back, seeing as how he's out as chairman? The money is gone -- basically spent on two winning races, Kriseman's victory in the (nonpartisan) St. Petersburg mayor's race and Annette Taddeo's Senate District 40 win. The Democratic National Committee had said it would reimburse FDP, but it has money woes of its own and hasn't yet or won't ever.
And never mind that the cupboard is bare. According to FDP's federal report, through the third quarter of 2017 the party was still giving money to the Hillary Victory Fund.
And here's the rub:
We find out in an email sent last Sunday from Volusia County State Committeeman Jim Gangitano to party members that ex-president Boynton Brown "indicated she is willing to do whatever is asked of her for the good of the party, including reconsidering her decision."
Said Gangitano, "The new party chair has the authority to hire staff, including the president/executive director, but we will be making a non-binding motion at the State Executive Committee meeting next Saturday, asking the new party chair to ask Sally to stay."
If Sally Boynton Brown is joined at Bittel's hip, it's the right one. He's joined at his left hip by Terrie Rizzo, candidate to succeed Bittel, chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee and a DNC member.
On Tuesday Rizzo announced she has the endorsements of 51 of the 182 electors who will cast their ballots in Orlando in the four-way race Saturday. Rizzo pulled out all the stops, saying she's confident she'll take over the reins of the party because she has 70 percent of the weighted votes needed to win.
If Rizzo wins, Boynton Brown is in like Flynn. The two are good buds. A Rizzo-Boynton Brown team represents party status quo, the entrenched against the rest.
If Boynton Brown comes back, the money mysteries stay mysteries. Skeletons are safe in the closet. Democratic insiders tell me Bittel and Boynton Brown would rather have a few foggy charges of sexual harassment on their record than the discovery of The Great Depression at FDP.
Not that FDP Senior Caucus Secretary Jimmy Deininger's plea to county chairs, caucus presidents, and chair candidates is unimportant.
In an email Thursday, Deininger, from Duval County, fired back at Gangitano, making a case that rehiring Boynton Brown would be tantamount to the party shrugging off sexual harassment. It would be an act of hypocrisy.
"I hope we can all stand strong together in unity against this resolution (that Gangitano wants) and any attempt by the future FDP chair to rehire Sally Boynton Brown. In my view, this is a major step in showing our party's commitment to seriously addressing issues surrounding a hostile work environment and sexual harassment."
Said one committeeman, "We vote for Rizzo, we get Boynton Brown, sexual harassment and broken party finances be damned."
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith