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Democrats differ over best means of compensation

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NASHVILLE – Expected discussion of financial matters was deferred at the regular monthly meeting of the Howard County Democrats Tuesday evening.
The group’s agenda for the meeting, which was not formalized, was expected to include discussion of filing fees for those running as Democrats for elected office within the county, and also discussion about the committee’s practice of giving honoraria to the group’s chair and secretary/treasurer.
During the meeting, committee chair LaJeana Jones said that filing fees would be discussed during the group’s July meeting. No dissent was heard at the meeting about that, though afterward a member stated, “We had people who came especially to talk about filing fees, not to talk about when we were going to talk about filing fees.”
Filing fees tend to make up the majority of the group’s income, reported committee secretary/treasurer Albert Motta, who also noted that the committee’s current funds are already committed for use through the next few months and that after expected expenses the group will have expended all their remaining money.
The practice of giving honoraria was mentioned in previous county meetings as being a topic for discussion in June, as well as something that state committee members had reported having been spoken to about by state party leadership. Proposals had previously been talked about in the group about instead allowing the committee chair and secretary/treasurer discretionary funds in the amount that the honorarium each receives.
Jones did not give a reason for not bringing up the issue during Tuesday’s meeting.
Speaking after the meeting, Democratic Party of Arkansas Treasurer Tyler Clark expressed frustration that the practice was not done away with, saying, “Honoraria are currently within the party rules, but I think the county parties can find better ways to build membership and promote leadership. The time for paying honoraria has past. We need to be more a much more nimble and accountable party, and spending should be clear and focused on candidate recruitment.”
DPA Secretary, and longtime certified public accountant, Karen Garcia also warned against continuing the practice of giving honoraria or other pay to officers, noting that IRS reporting requirements are rather strict when it comes to income from tax exempt organizations. She also stated that even when honoraria are used in the manner now adopted by the committee, to be used by the recipient to purchase goods and services for the committee, it can muddle reporting. She said she “can’t see a reason” to pay committee officers then have those officers make purchases rather than making purchases directly with discretionary funds.
Other items that were discussed during Tuesday’s meeting were largely restricted to scheduling of events for the remainder of the summer. Jones offered seats for up to eight committee members at the state party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, at which Hillary Clinton will be the keynote speaker, on July 18 – three days before the committee’s regular monthly meeting for July, where she said the group would definitely be discussing filing fees. She also noted voter registration drives to be hosted by the committee at the Stand Up for America event in Nashville on July 4 and at the Pine Tree Festival in Dierks on July 31 and August 1.
Motta made an offer of seats for five committee members at the Clinton Day dinner to be held in Arkadelphia on August 8, and reminded the group that he will be hosting a picnic at his house for members and any interested in the Democratic Party on August 9.

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