Coleman's Backing of Board's Neighborhood Schools Policy Just One of Many Concerns
By Cash Michaels
Editor’s note - In recent months, members of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association have raised serious questions about the direction of the esteemed civic organization, and the leadership of its president. In this week’s Part 1 of The Carolinian’s examination, we look at those questions, including if the RWCA is being crippled as an effective community organ for progress.
To hear Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association President Daniel Coleman tell it, he has “…boldly taken the first steps in leading the organization to new levels of awareness and involvement in the civic, economic and political arenas.”
“The president, past and present, has always executed the duties of his office with diligence, honor and integrity,” Coleman wrote in a published letter to the editor of The Carolinian newspaper last week, though he mistakenly dated his missive “March 25, 2011.”
“Our organization has moved forward over the last five years under the leadership of our current president,” Pres. Coleman, referring to himself, later continued, “and has embraced change.”
To several of the RWCA’s veteran members, however, Coleman’s “change” is not only misrepresenting the proud 79-year-old Southeast Raleigh community group, but holding it hostage to his personal and political agenda.
They point to Section III of the organization’s constitution which states, “All power herein granted is founded upon and derived from the will of the membership of the Association.”
Traditionally, the RWCA has proven to be the most potent political arm of black power in Wake County for decades. An endorsement from its political action committee (PAC) has elected many a mayor, governor and even US senator.
But with both the crucial 2011 Wake School Board elections just four months away, and the critical 2012 presidential elections just over a year down the road, disgruntled members today say the RWCA is already seriously behind the curve in needed planning and preparation that is not being done.
“[Pres. Coleman] has not given the membership an opportunity to have a voice,” veteran RWCA member Doris Burke, told The Carolinian. “He’s doing things, and hiding behind the executive committee.”
“I think the major dilemma is the membership has put forth a platform in terms of its recommendations, and those recommendations are not being carried out by the president,” adds member Michael Leach.
When asked why that is, Leach said of Coleman and the RWCA membership, “ I think we have different political and philosophical views.” The result, Leach adds, “... is a great deal of discomfort and mistrust.”
The complaints don’t stop there. Members say beyond Coleman as president, there is no vice president that they know of; they have no idea what funds the organization has from their membership dues because they haven’t gotten a treasurer’s report, nor political action committee report on contributions, in months; and they also have little idea who serves on the executive committee.
Apparently the organization’s website, which Coleman personally maintained, www.raleighwakecitizensassociation.org, no longer exists either. Key in the website address, and a page comes up saying the domain name “is for sale,” giving further information on where to go to purchase it.
Last September, Coleman was directing people to go to that RWCA web address for the latest data from the Wake County School System.
And to top it all off, Coleman has canceled every monthly meeting for the past three months. The RWCA meets every third Thursday of the month. Technically, its next meeting should be the 23rd of June. But, as of press time early Wednesday, Coleman has yet to advise his membership if it is meeting, and what the agenda will be.
“What kind of organization can go three months without having a meeting?” Ms. Mary E. Perry, another veteran RWCA member, asked rhetorically. “The RWCA is too old, and too viable to the community, to allow Danny to do what he’s doing!”
“Danny thinks he is RWCA,” Perry added.
“It has been a one-man show ever since he’s been there [as president],” Ms. Burke concurred. “If he doesn’t want something to happen, it don’t get on the floor.”
Last week, after speaking with various disgruntled RWCA members on and off the record for months, The Carolinian emailed Coleman requesting an interview, either by phone or submitted written questions, about the allegations to balance the record.
Rejecting both options, Coleman instead sent a misdated letter to The Carolinian that didn’t address why he’s held no meeting in the previous 90 days (which was specifically asked in the interview request), but instead, touted his leadership of the organization in a new direction.
Coleman has refused to answer questions posed about his RWCA leadership before.
In June 2009, The Carolinian exclusively reported how Coleman’s handpicked RWCA political action committee canceled a special call meeting to choose a candidate for the open state House District 33 seat when he did not like the person who won the organization’s straw poll. That meeting was delayed two days so another candidate could be nominated.
Coleman, in response to a member’s emailed complaint, said the bylaws prohibited a special call meeting on two days notice, even though that’s literally what the RWCA did not once, but at least twice before to nominate candidates, as documented by The Carolinian then.
Realizing that the RWCA president wasn’t telling the truth, the member wrote Coleman, “Personally and unequivocally I find that to be a dishonorable way of treating our friendship...”
An angry Coleman warned the RWCA member, “If I were u I would be careful about attacking the few friends u do have, especially me.”
Coleman refused to explain his actions then, instead writing another of his letters.
In his off-the-subject letter to The Carolinian last week, Coleman touted the RWCA’s “new era” under his leadership.
“We have sought to increase the negotiating power of this organization by becoming more active in discussions with organizations and individuals of power across the board,” the RWCA president wrote, noting that at his invitation, people like Ron Margiotta, the Republican chairman of the GOP-led Wake School Board; Republican Wake School Board member John Tedesco; and former Wake Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope, among others, have come before the RWCA to speak.
Coleman continued, “The new era of the RWCA is unfolding with a new paradigm in place, the foundation of which has been laid by the leadership of all past presidents, the current president and the unflinching loyalty and dedication of the members of the RWCA.”
Apparently the “unflinching loyalty and dedication” of the RWCA membership has its limits.
Members accuse Coleman of taking public positions on issues in the name of RWCA, like the Wake School Board’s neighborhood schools policy, contrary to the long held, well-known membership support for the old student socioeconomic diversity policy, which the GOP-led board dismantled last year.
That was clearly evident last September when outraged RWCA members angrily tore into Coleman in front of school board member John Tedesco, whom Coleman personally invited to speak, and the press, for writing letters to the editor published by The News and Observer clearly in support of neighborhood schools and the Republican board majority.
One RWCA member, Bruce Lightner, even called for a vote of no-confidence in Coleman on the floor, but the audience was so angry, they forgot to follow-up.
“Articles that Danny Coleman writes, come from Danny Coleman,” Ms. Burke said. “They don’t come from the organization.”
Members tell The Carolinian that they want to vote Coleman out now, and, as Ms. Burke said, “Move on.”
She and others add that Coleman knows that, which is why, they say, he’s been canceling monthly meetings, and sidestepping the confrontation.
By his own admission, Coleman has been president for the past five years. The RWCA Constitution provides that all RWCA officers, including the president, “…shall be for two (2) years and until their successors are duly elected and installed.”
The RWCA Constitution adds that, “Officers shall be elected at the first regular meeting in November of every off numbered year…”
No one The Carolinian has spoken with remembers an RWCA election for president in 2009, but they all say they badly want one now.