Hart tendered his resignation to CAA President Tee Pruitt on Wednesday afternoon to join the campaign for candidate Reid Chaney. "I didn't make a whole lot of friends with this move today," Hart said Wednesday. "But out of the candidates, I sincerely think (Chaney) will do the best job. ... I worry that (candidate) Michael Songer is going to ruin this organization."
Hart's decision is the first public acknowledgement of internal tension that has plagued the CAA Cabinet this year.
Conflict reared its head in September, when the CAA nearly cut the number of Carolina Fever basketball seats in half. In The Daily Tar Heel, Songer criticized Fever's point system, which awards tickets for basketball games, for encouraging insincerity among fans.
Hart, Pruitt and Songer admit that tension has negatively impacted the organization since then. And Hart charges that Songer's dishonesty and willingness to openly criticize the CAA was the source. "He was doing things to undermine (the CAA). It was ripping the Cabinet apart."
But Songer, who was dismissed as special projects coordinator two weeks ago, said it was not he who splintered the Cabinet but a pervasive dishonesty in the CAA's leadership. "(Pruitt and Hart) wanted to manipulate the public image of CAA. In my mind this caused the most tension -- they didn't want honesty all the time."
Songer said discussion within the Cabinet is important but that honest communication with the media also is critical and that he regularly cleared his comments with CAA Press Secretary Tiffany Black. "Being honest with the public will have the organization much more respected in the long run," Songer said.
Hart said he could no longer stay quiet and "toe the company line."
"A lot of people won't understand. ... They might see it as a political move at what could be seen as an inopportune time. I just want what's best for the organization."
Pruitt said he respected Hart's decision to leave the CAA Cabinet. "I understand that if you are very passionate about a cause, you've got to do what you feel is in your best interest or the best interest of your cause."
Pruitt said a lack of trust afflicted the Cabinet this year because deceitful members hampered the internal process of CAA. "I think there were a lot of trust issues that ran very rampant and deep within the internal framework of the group, and when you eliminate the foundation of trust within a group, the whole thing is going to crumble," he said. "I never once, to this day, felt like I could cut the lights out (in a Cabinet meeting) and feel totally comfortable."
Songer said there was a lack of trust because problems were handled inappropriately. Cabinet meetings were "bitch sessions," he said, during which people were encouraged to yell at each other. "It got contentious at times, and I think that, more than anything, contributed to the tension in CAA."
He says he would deal with problems on an individual level to alleviate tensions within the group. "As president, I'd want to sit down (to address problems), not in an open forum in Cabinet where people accuse each other of different things. I don't think that's constructive."
CAA president candidate Reid Chaney said he has tried to distance himself from the issue. "I'm an outsider looking in," he said. "I hope that that can be something separate from me."
Kerry Slatkoff, director of ticket distribution, said she fears that no matter who wins, the race's politics could keep a valuable member -- Songer or Hart -- out of next year's Cabinet. "For the future of the organization, I'm worried about what this is going to cause."
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