Embattled Democratic County Chair Who  Resigned Because the Party is 'Cancerous' Was Actually Facing Removal

Embattled Democratic County Chair Who Resigned Because the Party is 'Cancerous' Was Actually Facing Removal

Weeks after Democratic county chairwoman Mindy Koch was found guilty of violating party laws she resigned and cited cancerous elements in the party

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
May 3, 2024

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL—An embattled Democratic county chairwoman stepped down, seemingly voluntarily, from her post after claiming “cancerous” elements within her party. The truth? She was found guilty of violating a slew of party laws and ignoring a settlement order. 

The result? Resign or be removed.

Chairwoman of Palm Beach County’s Democratic Executive Committee, Mindy Koch, found herself in hot water in January 2024, a year after being elected in December 2022, when a committee member alleged that Koch had entered into unauthorized contracts and spent committee money without approval.

A committee document obtained by The Floridian revealed that in 2023, Koch signed three separate contracts spending at least $36,975 of committee funds. These contracts were not proposed to, discussed by, or approved by the committee membership, as is required under the bylaws. 

The amount that is allowed without member approval? $400 toward individual payees ($100 per quarter) and $2,000 toward party business ($500 per quarter). 

At her January Pre-Hearing Conference, Koch was ordered to produce a budget by a February 1st meeting, find an auditor for the committee’s financial statements, exit her unauthorized contracts, and stop spending money not pertaining to staff, utilities, or office charges.

She agreed. How did she show her compliance?

First, she canceled the February 1st meeting and did not turn in a budget until April 4th, three weeks before she resigned, which would be the first—and only—budget she would produce as Chair.

Then, she spent another $21,197 of committee funds as she renewed one contract, went to a fundraising dinner, and paid another former contractor $2,000.

And finally, she did not file the auditing paperwork until her resignation day on May 1st.

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried subsequently suspended Koch on March 4th, along with Franklin County Chair Carol Barfield and Miami-Dade County Chair Robert Dempster.

Dempster was accused of holding outdated membership lists, not reaching quorum, and failing to follow protocol in endorsing local candidates. Barfield’s transgression? Failing to turn in a membership list.

The issue of poor race relations broke out within the party after the committee voted to remove Barfield and Dempster—who are both black—and keep Koch in office. She’s white.

So, committee member and precinct leader Leslie Wimes—who has clashed with Koch in the past—decided to try another route: going through the committee’s Judicial Council.

“A Subversive, Cancerous Element”

On April 16th, the Judicial Council found Koch guilty of breaching her January settlement order and multiple violations of the committee’s bylaws.

They voted 18-1 to recommend that Fried do “everything in her power, up to and including suspension” to deal with Koch, which would have been the county chair’s second suspension in one month.

However, on May 1st, the Sun Sentinel broke the story that the “unsinkable” Mindy Koch had resigned, with no mention of her impending suspension and removal had she not stepped down. 

Why did Koch resign? Because she says the party is too “cancerous” to lead.

“My hope is that in doing this I can expose this subversive, cancerous element…trying so hard to destroy the party from within,” Koch wrote in her resignation letter. “The ongoing vicious personal attacks and harassment directed toward me and my leadership team from a small minority of members of the Palm Beach County (Democratic Executive Committee) are destructive and unprecedented.”

Truthfully, she also said that she was left with “no choice but to resign”.

Wimes, who led the charge to oust Koch, called out the former chair, telling The Floridian, ”She went to the media and said this ‘cancerous’ faction is trying to destroy the party from within when she's the one who has been doing things that destroy the party!”

Florida Republicans currently enjoy over 900,000 more registered voters than Democrats, a reddening trend reflected even in traditionally blue counties like Palm Beach, which voted for Republican Ron DeSantis over Democrat Charlie Crist in the 2022 gubernatorial election, despite Palm Beach having over 100,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans at the time.

Now, less than two years later, Palm Beach has just 55,440 more Democrats than Republicans.

“Palm Beach County Democrats spent just $4,700 on voter outreach under Mindy—and we wonder why the Republicans have such a voter registration edge on us,” Wimes said. “County-wise, we're losing our edge, we keep losing, and it's because of stuff like that.” 

“Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned”

Carol Barfield, the ousted chair from Franklin County, questioned Koch’s “cancerous” comments, wondering why—if she felt the party’s environment was so toxic—she didn’t resign when Barfield and Dempster were sent to the chopping block?

“Apparently it wasn't cancerous when she was able to retain her seat. But now that the Judicial Committee found her guilty, it's cancerous,” Barfield told The Floridian. “If it was so cancerous, why didn't you resign last month when you were suspended?”

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Maria Cole, a State Committeewoman in the Palm Beach Democratic Executive Committee, agreed, excoriating the divisiveness that Koch’s comments can cause amongst a party attempting to take back Florida.

“To characterize members working towards the same goal as ‘cancerous’ is harmful, and that just goes to show you the state of affairs that we're in here in Palm Beach County where we have lost easily winnable Democratic-leaning offices to Republicans,” Cole, who lost the chairwoman position to Koch in 2022 by one vote, told The Floridian.

“People don't want to engage in a party that exudes that kind of attitude…I certainly don't think that that's a message that you should deliver to nearly 400,000 registered Democrats in Palm Beach County,” she added. 

Cole then depicted a scene at Koch’s Judicial Council hearing in which Koch was asked why Palm Beach County went red in 2022 under her leadership as county chair.

“Her answer was 'because they didn't listen to me'. Between that and the cancer comment, that is not the kind of person that is going to be reflective or that has any desire to be accountable,” Cole said, explaining that she hadn't wanted Koch to resign—she just wanted her to be receptive, responsible, and aware of what her job was. 

“We have a responsibility to show our members competence over chaos at all times.”

Neither Koch nor Fried could be reached for comment. 

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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