Nearly two weeks after the Carnes controversy compromised Occupy Boston's morale and reputation — the movement's financial irresponsibility and lackadaisical vetting of Carnes were noted by a number of news sources, including this one — it appears that accountability has been somewhat restored. Following several meetings with a legal mediator, Carnes and Sherell handed the DBA and bank account over to FAWG, and were in turn permitted to remain at Occupy Boston (until the GA banned them outright last Thursday). It was a cheap lesson; though Carnes denies embezzling funds, many with direct knowledge of the situation say that he misappropriated no more than $500, and perhaps also allegedly pocketed about that much from cash donations.
It's inherently fascinating that a movement spawned from outrage over greed was tainted by thievery. That's certainly the irony that most media has focused on in reporting fiscal improprieties at Occupy Wall Street and elsewhere. What's as noteworthy, though, are the infrastructural inadequacies that make so many occupations vulnerable. In Dewey Square, Carnes was able to charm his way into a de facto CFO role — that despite his bizarre history as an unhinged viral Web antagonist who once clashed with, then claimed to be the leader of, the faceless hacktivist collective Anonymous (he's not — they have no leader, nor did they ever). Had occupiers done their homework — i.e., googled him — they'd have thought sooner to keep extra eyeballs on the sharp dresser with the charming drawl.
Since his childhood, Carnes has been crusading for one cause or another. He grew up in Dothan, Alabama — a city of 65,000, wedged between Georgia and the Florida panhandle, that calls itself the "Peanut Capital of the World." There, a young Carnes was active with the Ridgecrest Southern Baptist Church, and as a teenager participated in a program that brought him up and down the East Coast pitching gospel door to door. On one of those trips, he told a reporter with a Baptist newspaper that traveling allowed him to meet the kinds of people who he couldn't find in Dothan.
Years later, after studying business and theater at Chipola College in northern Florida, Carnes returned home with a left-leaning agenda, joining the Alabama Democratic State Executive Committee in 2006. He also grew active in his local LGBT community, and that year was named the southeast coordinator for the equal-rights group Equality Alabama. A skilled fundraiser, Carnes helped Birmingham state representative Patricia Todd become the first ever openly gay pol to win office in Alabama. An employee of the that state's Democratic party, who declined to speak on the record, says he remembers Carnes as a hard worker and ambitious campaigner.
Despite a promising career in local party politics, Carnes was determined to make his mark beyond the Peanut Capital. In a low-budget Web reality show that he developed three years ago called Your Reality, Carnes says, straight-faced, that "Alabama is ready to compete with Hollywood, we're ready to compete with New York, we're ready to compete with London, we're ready to compete with anybody out there." Wearing a blue blazer and gray Dockers, sipping a blood-red cocktail out of a trashy-chic martini glass with a busty blonde beside him, Carnes invites the world to watch, boasting lower Alabama as the premier place where hot young people "need to be."