Media-related rep special election called off after membership bucks board decision

Vanessa Williams, from the Washington Post, asks questions during the business meeting on Friday, August 3, 2018, at the NABJ convention in Detroit. MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE/NABJ Monitor

By MAYA KING
NABJ Monitor

DETROIT —NABJ members acted swiftly Friday, reversing course on an earlier decision by the board of directors to hold a special election for the media-related representative’s race. 

Plans for the special election were called off, and the NABJ media-related members who had not yet cast a vote were instructed to vote for their representative by 5 p.m. Friday. Via Twitter, NABJ declared a tie between Terry Allen and Tanzi West Barbour, stating: “All eligible voters will be notified of next steps.”

Those steps were not made available as of press time.

The media-related representative serves as a liaison between the board and the members of NABJ who work in public relations and other media-adjacent professions.

During Friday’s business meeting, the move to call off the special election for that position came after some heated discussion.

NABJ members and board membersーparticularly those who did not attend Monday’s board of directors meetingーraised questions about the rationale for the special election, which had been set for Aug. 13-20.

Board members had decided to hold a special election after Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown, a mentor with the 2018 Student Projects public relations team, pulled out of the race.

Sharpe-Brown ended her campaign on July 10 after being informed that the sponsorship she received from the student projectーwhich covers travel, food and lodging for students and mentorsーcould represent a conflict of interest.

Despite Sharpe-Brown’s withdrawal, her name was left on the ballot and her resignation wasn’t noted on the online ballot for 17 days. That left some board members concerned about votes cast for her while she was no longer an official candidate.

Sharpe-Brown remained on the ballot through the election with a stipulation outlining her withdrawal from the race. Terry Allen and Tanzi West Barbour also remained on the ballot. West is the CEO of 1016 Media and a senior account executive for FedEx Services. Barbour is the chief communications officer of Wayfinder Foundation.

On Friday, former NABJ President Vanessa Williams introduced the motion to rescind the board’s decision to hold a special election. Founder Sheila Brooks seconded the motion and it passed with a vote of 22-10.

“In elections, people do drop out, but they don’t scrap the whole election and start all over,” Williams said. “To change the rules in the middle of an election is just bad practice.”

The hastiness of the vote offended some members who said allowing a small group to make major decisions on the final day of the election could cause confusion or result in lower voter turnout.

“I am not in favor of the membership being able to rescind a board vote,” said former NABJ President Herbert Lowe. “Twenty-two people saying that they’re speaking for a membership of 3,000ーthat’s not representative of [the entire body].”

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