At Thursday night's 5th Ward DFL Credentials Committee meeting, a furious parliamentary battle was waged over challenges to Kenya McKnight delegates. The way it shook out; some "Kenya 8" delegates/alternates passed through the Credentials Committee seive despite opposition from the Don Samuels camp--which was outvoted by a slightly greater number of Kenya McKnight supporters--but McKnight "Mystery Delegate" Elliot (He Doesn't Live Here) Cooke didn't pass.
Two of the Kenya 8 are still having their credentials investigated, but the "investigation" appears to be in the hands of a McKnight supporter, Mike Fedor.
What happened at the committee meeting hardly ends the battle: apparently, credentials can be disputed on the floor during Saturday's convention, and it appears the Samuels and McKnight camps are prepared to scrap and slug it out over delegate credentials, particularly in light of a written DFL "investigation" which calls into question the integrity of either Kenya McKnight or Brian Bushay over who-did-what with 8 supposed "letters" about individuals wanting to be delegates.
I was the only media present at last night's meeting and here is my firsthand account...
It is an incomplete account based on notes. Many things were said; I am concentrating on what I perceived to be the important parts, but your committee highlights milage may vary.
This Is What Democracy Looks Like
The meeting took place at North Commons Park, in the park building. It was as grassy as grass roots gets: a fussy toddler made his presence known early in the meeting, at one point the meeting proceedings were interrupted by a loud verbal dispute among youth hanging out in the park building; a perpetual occurrence at North Minneapolis community meetings, which are often held in park buildings.
The committee warmed up with a discussion about Earnestine Brailsford-Walton, and the issue of whether she was a delegate or an alternate. This was apparently one of those things where somebody--out of politeness, a desire not to be TOO forward--was told something like "we're allowed 28 and we have 29" so Earnestine said, oh, I don't need to be a delegate. A successful motion was made to put Earnestine in the position of second alternate. (There was already a "first alternate" position)
Now the committee took a collective breath. Now came the warm-up appetizer of conflict--Elliot Cooke--who preceded the 8-course dinner of democratic dispute: the Kenya 8 investigation, the "missing" letters, the word of Brian Bushay against Kenya McKnight.
He Doesn't Live Here, But Mail Comes, Sometimes
The issue was Mr. Elliot Cooke, who had been called about whether he was a delegate, whether he had been at the meeting, but Cooke had not called back, had "made no overtures," and--as Jackie Cherryhomes pointed out--there was still the matter of the woman who lived at the address who said Cooke didn't live there, although, yes, she was known to get mail for him, sometimes.
He was at the caucus, Jerry Moore said, casually, as though this was obviously beyond dispute, not even really worth talking about.
"We aren't real sure," Cherryhomes said.
"He was there," Moore said, with a shrug.
Cherryhomes said, "bottom line," we don't know him and we can't say for sure. There is some notation by his name on the green sheet. There is a statement that he doesn't live in the house.
A motion was made by Dottie--a member of the Jordan Area Community Council, a blogger strongly aligned with the victorious "New Majority" faction which ousted Executive Director Jerry Moore, he who was even-at-that-moment co-chairing this credentials committee meeting--that Elliot Cooke's name be removed (from the list of delegates and alternates). The motion was seconded. Now the battle was finally at hand.
Mike Fedor--who appears aligned with the McKnight camp--said he was "rather curious about this one" and he wondered about the appropriateness of keeping Cooke on the delegate list and making a challenge at a later point. This, Mike said, "constitutes a form of fraud" if Cooke lied. Cherryhomes said if Cooke showed up, there would be an opportunity to deal with that, and preferred removing his name from the list.
Jerry Moore spoke up, opposing the motion. Moore said Cooke was "in the building" (once again, in that tone of things beyond beyond dispute because he, Moore, is saying these things) and Cooke should be a delegate, not excluded. If Cooke shows up, send him to the credentials committee.
Kip Browne--chair of the victorious "New Majority" JACC faction which ousted Jerry Moore--spoke up at that point. Later in the night, I heard there were daggers going back and forth between the eyes of Moore and Browne, though it wasn't apparent from where I was sitting. Browne said evidence was taken, Cooke was given an opportunity to come forward and provide the evidence, and Kip thought it was highly relevant that Cooke DIDN'T come forward and say, "hey, I want to be a delegate."
This, Browne said, is EVIDENCE. If he himself were challenged, he would at least CALL BACK. Cooke doesn't live there, Browne said, and should not be seated.
Another committee member spoke up and said there is enough evidence and--in the EXTREMELY UNLIKELY event Mr. Cooke would show his face at the convention--he can challenge the ruling.
Mike Fedor responded that "every year, we try to avoid unpleasant scenes in the hallways" when "somebody thinks they are a delegate and shows up, but they are NOT a delegate" and said it can "create an ugly scene."
Another committee member--I knew her face, knew her to be among the McKnight supporters on the committee--said, "He do WE know that HE knows he is being challenged?" Kip Browne responded that we don't need to "go into his mind to know what he thinks," we have evidence that we can consider. Mike Fedor said we have nothing but the "dead ends" that our investigation has led us to.
Jerry Moore speculated that a "transposed number" could be at the root of this. Another committee member pointed out, well, that doesn't account for how mail is coming to the residence where Cooke DOESN'T LIVE. Dottie pointed out when the phone picks up, it says "This is Elliot Cooke."
(JNS note: I've called the phone number. It actually says, "This is Elliot.")
The question was called--though there was no vote on whether to call the question, like you would with real, undiluted, full-strength parlimentiary procedure--and the vote was taken. The motion to remove Cooke carried on a voice vote. There were some votes against the motion, but the voice vote was clear enough, from where I was sitting. No roll call was taken.
Who You Gunna Believe, Me Or Your Lyin' Eyes?
Next came the "Kenya Eight" challenges. Co-Chair Jackie Cherryhomes said she had copies for "everybody" of "what was sent by the DFL," which is to say, the written summary of the DFL investigation into allegations made by 5th Ward Candidate Kenya McKnight that she "hand delivered" 8 absentee delegate letters to Brian Bushay, which Bushay emphatically says NEVER HAPPENED and he would remember if it did. Bushay was seated there, in front of me. (See photo above, white-haired man in blue shirt)
He looked, I thought, like somebody who decided against becoming a pastor...because there was just too much emphasis on getting money from the flock. He looked pained. He was very quiet, but seemed to be trying to suppress an agonized look, like somebody was making him sit on hot coals.
As the stack of DFL investigation documents passed by, "a copy took itself to me," as they would say in some of the romance languages.
Jackie Cherryhomes spoke up amid the silence, the reading of the document, and said there was a particularly clear instance of one person who might be "handled separately." Kip Browne asked for a few minutes for everybody to read over the document, which consisted of a single page email to from DFL member David Weinlick to Jackie Cherryhomes, cc'ed to Nick Wallace and Amanda Tempel, bearing the subject line "credentials questions in Ward 5." The email was sent at 10:33 a.m., Monday, March 23.
Here, word for word, is what the email said:
Based on our conversation last week, I have tried to gather information regarding the eight people named in the letter from Kenya McKnight. As of this time, I have still been unable to reach half the households involved. I have left messages at the Jones and Howard households, but have not received any response. I was able to reach the Howard household by phone on one occasion, but when I mentioned that I was calling about the DFL precinct caucuses, the line went dead.
As a result, I have no further information to corroborate the claim stated in Kenya's letter that those individuals submitted letters. I do not have evidence to contradict that claim either.
I have gathered additional information in conversations with Brian Bushay and Kenya McKnight, but no clear answers have emerged. Kenya did explain that three of the individuals--Kizzy Washington, Kashanti Johnson, and Charlotte Onsoti--were actually at caucuses, but had to leave early. Kneya explained that they had to leave early, so the letters were submitted so they could be considered for delegate positions. Kenya stated that they had registered using the organge cards at caucus night. No registration cards were found for any of these three, which directly contradicts Kenya's explanation of events.
When I reached Kizzy Washington, she had no knowledge of any letter pertaining to caucus night, which does not fit with the explanation given by Kenya. Although it is possible that Kizzy was confused about the issue because she didn't send a letter before caucuses, she offered no information about her attendance on caucus night to corroborate Kenya's explanation.
When I reached Kashanti Johnson, he had no knowledge of any letter pertaining to caucus night, which does not fit with the explanation given by Kenya. Although it is possible that he was confused about the issue because he didn't send a letter before caucuses, he offered no information about his attendance on caucus night to corroborate Kenya's explanation.
When I reached Lorraine Smaller, she corrobarated Kenya's story that she had submitted a letter regarding precinct caucuses. When she became sick and was unable to attend caucuses, Kenya came to her house to pick up a letter to deliver to caucuses.
Kenya states very clearly that she handed all eight letters to Brian Bushay, who was helping to run the site on the night of precinct caucuses. She did not explain why she gave them to Brian rather than delivering them to the precinct caucus meetings. Brian asserts that he never received anything from Kenya on precinct caucus night, although he was stationed at a table near the spot where Kenya was getting attendees.
I have found no evidence to support Kenya's claim that Brian received the letters, although I have found nothing that can disprove it either. Nobody has provided any evidence that suggests that letters for the eight individuals in question ever arrived at their precinct caucuses.
At this time, I can find no firm evidence to either affirm or deny the claim that letters were ever submitted by Bonnie Jones, Grover Jones, Cyreta Howard, or Lois Howard. The only thing that is clear is that those letters are not found in the material gathered at the Ward 5 precinct caucuses. Lorraine Smaller has confirmed that she gave a letter to Kenya, but it does not appear to have been delivered to the precinct caucus, and nobody has claimed that it did get delivered.
I cannot find any evidence to confirm the attendance of Kizzy, Kashanti and Charlotte at their precinct caucuses, and the registration cards that Kenya claims they completed are not included among the other registration cards from Ward 5.
The convention will need to consider whether it wants to override the election of delegates at the precinct caucus and seat these people, or whether it will accept the rosters of delegates as they were elected on precinct caucus night.
During the long, silent reading of the letter, an individual in a black beret entered the room and set next to Jerry Moore. I've never seen a beret worn at such an angle; it practically covered the left side of his face and created a Mohawk-like effect on his head. I wondered how he keeps the beret from falling off.
One of the McKnight supporters spoke up and said--despite what the investigative document said--there is evidence that Kizzy and Kishanti were there. Kip Browne spoke and said now we have gone outside the cody (presumably the committee) to collect evidence, so this is the evidence that we have. Cherryhomes AGAIN pointed out that the Lorraine Smaller issue is more clear, and perhaps THAT can be addressed FIRST?
A Chaotic Fight Over Caucus Chaos
I thought I could perceive relief on the committee. Yes, indeed, deal with the Smaller issue first, before somebody rings the bell for Wrestle-Mania.
Meanwhile, Beret Dude was jumping into the meeting--I learned his name was Antwon, spelling unknown--and said Cyreta Howard and Lois Howard are his cousins, perhaps he could call them and resolve matters. He jumped up to go to the hallway and make the call. Cherryhomes or somebody else on the committee stopped him, saying, "We are not at that point."
Kip Browne made a motion to "accept the investigation." The motion was seconded by Nicole Doran, pictured above with her child, Clifton Doran III, known as "Tre."
A "substitute motion" was brought forth to deal with Lorraine Smaller, this motion was opposed by Nicole Doran and Kip Browne, but made its way to the table. There was momentary confusion--voiced by Doran--about which motion was on the table. Meanwhile, Jerry Moore was moving in and out of the room and--I strongly suspected--making cell phone calls to round up committee members, evidence, etc.
Jackie Cherryhomes--a Samuels supporter--had suggested putting the easier-to-resolve Smalls matter before the committee first, even over the opposition of Kip Browne, another Samuels supporter. Yes, this seemed like the easier, conflict-avoiding-for-the-moment kind of path to take.
However, in my observation, it was a grave tactical error. The meeting dragged on and some McKnight supporters came pouring in late, taking seats at the table, one bringing a baby along. The slim margin the Samuels camp had enjoyed earlier in the meeting (during the Elliot Cooke vote) ebbed away.
Nicole Doran--a Samuels supporter--spoke up in favor of Smaller, who was very likely a McKnight supporter. Doran said she had a "comfort level" with Smaller, because Smaller had been a delegate before." Doran said she was willing to accept Smaller's statement that a letter was given, but by voting to accept Smaller Doran wanted to make the record, here: she was NOT agreeing the letter was ever DELIVERED.
Jerry Moore abstained from the motion with Smaller, otherwise Smaller was unanimously elected.
Now Black Beret Cell Phone Guy's pressing issue returned to the forefront: could he please call his cousins? Browne pointed out the Smalls motion had been dispensed with, and his motion was now on the floor, the motion to accept the results of the DFL investigation.
Jackie Cherryhomes says perhaps what is being put forward is a SUBSTITUTE MOTION to send Antwon out in the hallway to call his cousins.
At this point in the meeting, by my rough count, late arrivals had tipped the potential votes in the room to McKnight.
Things got messy and hard to follow. I think the committee may have voted on whether to send Antwon out in the hall, with Browne opposed and insisting on formal procedure. Antwon ended up in the hallway, making his calls. Discussion turned to whether cards were filled out by Kissy and Kishanti; did they fill out the yellow card? (Sorry, I'm unable to figure out why there was talk of a "yellow" card in the committee, and an "orange" card in the investigaton document. This point wasn't raised)
Doran said she didn't see any evidence of the body voting to make Kissy and Kishanti delegates. Bushay tried to speak up--he was told to wait his turn. Browne spoke and tried to insist on formal procedure. Browne said he was willing to withdraw his motion and make another motion. He moved that Kissy Washington NOT BE SEATED.
At some point discussion turned to a Mr. Ford, and what the instance of Mr. Ford proves about that night, and who did what. Bushay managed to get his turn to speak and said "my behavior is being called into question" and on that basis he should be able to speak, to defend his integrity. Yes, Bushay said, Mr. Ford filled out a card BUT HIS ADDRESS WAS NOT WITHIN THE PRECINCT, so that was a different matter entirley though, yes, Ford had been in the caucus and filled out a card. But as for the other people he--Bushay--was ALLEGED to have taken a card from, Bushay said, "That didn't happen."
Bushay said he went through the cards, one by one, and asked, "Did anybody else want to be a delegate who didn't give me their cards? Bushay said nobody said they did. Sure, several others came in, but they said "No" in regard to being a delegate.
Suddenly, there was a loud and angry argument OUTSIDE the room, among the youth milling around in the park building. Kip stood up and closed the door to the room, but the argument came right through the door, anyway. Doran--whose child, Tre, was outside the room being watched by Megan Goodmundson--said she wanted to get up from the committee meeting, she wanted to "go get Megan and the baby."
Doran came back a moment later. Things had calmed down outside. Nobody came to blows.
In the meeting, there was talk of "chaos" at the caucus, during the process. Were they there? Did they fill out a card? Were they voted in as delegates? Somebody started to raise a point making a comparison to a "Michael Guest." At that point, Black Beret Cell Phone Guy walked in, and said loudly, "She wrote the letter and she gave it to Kenya!"
Discussion about the motion to deny the challenge of Kissy was laid aside. Jerry Moore grabbed the phone to confirm what was said. One of the committee members--a female voice--piped up, rather quietly, saying BOTH the committee chairs might want to talk to the person on the phone, after all...
Jerry more said a few things into the phone, briefly. I heard Jerry say, "She's at church?" Then he took the phone away from his ear and in the same motion pressed the power button to terminate the call.
Moore then asserted the Howards were indeed bona fide, for he had talked to somebody on the phone. Moore started speechifying, saying, "This is a cumbersome process to people who aren't used to it." Moore said some people might hang up, thinking, after all, it is a bill collector on the phone.
Kip Browne spoke up and said part of the problem is the coordinator (apparently Moore?) didn't pass out copies of the call during the caucus. This statement raised yells from the McKnight corner of the room. "No personal attacks!" somebody yelled.
Kip Browne said he does not see clear and convincing evidence that a letter was tendered and on that basis Kissy Washington should not be seated. Dottie spoke up and said it is of concern that we should be NEUTRAL, we should look at evidence. It is not a matter of somebody not UNDERSTANDING. Dottie said we should "stop second guessing, be evidence based, instead of getting off into the emotional."
Call The...What's It Called, Again?
Moore called the question. There was no vote on calling the question. All in favor of rejecting Kissy Washington? The motion failed. By my count, it was 4 to 6, but it may have been 4 to 7.
Jerry Moore made a motion that Kissy Washington be an alternate. Motion seconded. Moore added that Kissy should be LAST ALTERNATE in that precinct.
Browne said the issue is not whether she was there, or whether she filled out a card, the issue was whether there was A LETTER. So how do you not know about a letter you say you wrote and gave to Kenya?
Mike Fedor said maybe the confusion comes from the interpretation of "letter." Maybe they filled out some kind of FORM, and they didn't think of that as a LETTER.
Doran asked, "When the letters were SUPPOSEDLY handed to Bushay, was it all at once? One at a time?" Moore shook his head tiredly and said, "I don't know."
A woman in a khaki hat with a rhinestone peace sign spoke, saying we should seat people who WANT to be delegates, and MAKE THAT CLEAR. The question was called, Kissy was seated as a "last alternate" despite the fact she "offered no information about her attendance on caucus night."
Now a motion was put forward to seat Kashanti Johnson as "last alternate."
Kip--now reduced to "making the record" because the vote count was obvious even before the votes were taken--said "the question is not their intent but whether they did the things they have to do to be there."
Jerry said, "THIS IS BACK IN OUR HANDS" and "we have to make some kind of decision." Cell Phone Guy Antwon now had his turn on the speaking order and said he wanted to do...OK, that thing that you do? Call the...how is it?
"CALL THE QUESTION!" yelled one of the McKnight supporters, helpfully. Attorney At Law Kip Browne had a look on his face like he'd crashed on Tatooine and Jawas were fighting over the shiny, high-tech components of his X-wing fighter.
"Call the question!" said Antwon. Admittedly, there was little point in having a vote as per correct parliamentary procedure.
Kishanti--who "had no knowledge of any letter pertaining to caucus night" and who "offered no information about his attendance on caucus night to corroborate Kenya (McKnight's) explanation" was seated as "last alternate" in Precinct 5-5 on a voice vote by a committee voting strictly along favored candidate lines.
Now there was a motion to seat Charlotte Onsoti. Moore said, in a resigned tone, "She did not run, she was not elected." Onsoti did not indicate she wanted to be a delegate, Moore said. Kip Browne moved to reject the challenge, i.e, to reject Onsoti being seated. Kip Browne started to say something like, "It sounds like she was THERE but it doesn't sound like she had the intent to be a DELEGATE."
Jerry Moore said, "I will save you some time, can we just make her a caucus attendee?"
The McKnight "challenge" over the issue of Charlotte Onsoti was unanimously rejected. Then Jerry made a motion to have Onsoti be an "attendee" and Kip Browne seconded Jerry's motion. At that moment, world peace broke out and, yes, we really could all get along.
Now Nicole Doran (trying to be helpful, but she really should have left the motions to Kip Browne who, unfortunately, had made it look all-too-easy) made a motion to reflect that Bonnie and Grover Jones "attended their caucus."
Jerry Moore spoke up and said, well, they had not, in fact, attended the caucus. Doran withdrew her motion. Ouch. Parliamentary faux pas.
Jerry Moore made a motion--which was seconded--to seat the Howards. The motion passed. As for the Joneses, Moore made a motion to "continue the investigation" into the Joneses. Mike Fedor said he had "nothing better to do tomorrow" and offered to do his best to get ahold of them. Kip Browne said he wanted to find out about THE LETTER vis-a-vis the Joneses, not their INTENT. Somebody said it was a "key question" to ask, "Did you fill out a letter or a form that you wanted to be a delegate."
A "Goofy Deal" With The Challenges, Pleas For Divine Intervention
Doran said "This whole thing wasn't properly approached from the get-go, and in addition to that, "we're seating people who said they NEVER WROTE IT." (A letter) Doran said, "This whole thing is convoluted."
Cherryhomes said, "I've been doing this since I was 17, and I've never seen as goofy a deal as this with the challenges." Cherryhomes said "we really need to make some recommendations about PROCESS."
Jerry Moore said somebody at the DFL--and he specifically said "DFL"--was "too Chicken Little" (sic) to deal with this, and so they have "pushed it back on us" and said "we didn't get what we wanted out of the report." Moore said the problem is "people don't know the process."
Doran replied, "The problem is people can TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT (people not knowing the process) and push people into things."
"We're avoiding the issue, here, people," Jerry said.
Cherryhomes said, "We all have to work with each other Saturday (at the convention) and on."
Kip said, "We don't need to go into a lot of rhetoric and side agendas to find out if Michael goes out and asks these questions." (Which was the motion on the floor at that moment)
Kip Browne called the question; let Mike Fedor go out and collect evidence. All agreed, and loudly.
A discussion took place about how, even with this committee meeting, there isn't enough order and process. For example, there is NO SIGN IN SHEET? Where, exactly, is the sign-in sheet?
There was talk about how the information should have been handled DIFFERENTLY, and how one person--I didn't catch who was saying this, but it was a female--had BEGGED for the information to be handled differently. It wasn't clear what she was saying, because it wasn't being said directly. Was it something to do with WHO handled the info? Angry yelling broke out. Somebody said, "Well, if we're going to PUT SOMETHING OUT THERE!!!!" Yelling. Notes and memory don't capture it all.
A McKnight supporter was granted the floor and said this committee needed "divine intervention," because of all the "direspecting each other," all the "talking over each other." A yellow sign-in sheet started to unobtrusively circulated. Well, THAT problem got solved.
The agenda--for this committee still had one--provided an opportunity to step away from the hurt feelings. Arguably, the McKnight people had carried the day, but had they? The messy, ugly details--the inability to get to the bottom of whether 8 letters, all originals, no copies made--had REALLY been "hand delivered" to Brian Bushay, like Kenya McKnight said--was unresolved.
Furthermore, floor challenges during the convention itself still potentially loomed, and that would play out in front of a much bigger audience.
Really BIG Sign In Sheets. All In Favor?
The committee voted to have REALLY BIG SIGN-IN SHEETS. The committee voted on floor passes, and accepted an idea from Kip Browne to make the floor passes pink in recognition of breast cancer awareness.
There was a discussion about issuing "press passes" to kids from the Kwanzaa church, but it was decided not to call these "press passes," because press isn't allowed on the convention floor and members of the press--like the blogger listening intently in the corner at that moment, though this wasn't SAID--would be wanting some, too. So it was agreed that the passes would be called "Kwanzaa church youth passes."
Thus the credentials committee--which had seen the messy results of a chaotic caucus colliding with raw partisanship--voted to allow a whole bunch of young children to be on the convention floor during the process.
Well, the DFL is the party of inclusiveness, after all.
The committee adjourned, and just about everybody sat down to the task of making convention badges, side-by-side, like they were student government buddies or something.