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Demand the Florida Democratic Party Investigate Miami-Dade Reorganizational Meeting

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Based on recent reports in Politico and the Miami Herald, and first-hand accounts from members of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee, we believe there is reason to suspect rules violations that may inhibit our Party’s ability to fairly elect a Florida Democratic Party (FDP) Chair who truly represents the people of Florida, and may instead lead to the backdoor ascendancy of a big-money candidate for the office. For this reason, the officers of the Democratic Executive Committee of Brevard County are requesting that the Florida Democratic Party launch an immediate, full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) reorganizational meeting held on Tuesday, December 6, 2016.  The details of the situation are documented in our letter below to outgoing Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant.  

As Florida is so critical to national elections, and because our Party has been plagued by accusations of elitism and corruption, we strongly believe that even the perceived rigging of our own officer elections to favor a wealthy donor will have widespread negative impact, not only for Democrats in Florida, but for people across our country. For this reason, we are inviting Democrats across the US to join us in requesting immediate investigation and remediation of this situation.

Please, therefore add your name to this request for the Florida Democratic Party to launch a full investigation by signing this petition.  If you are a member of the Florida Democratic Party, a DNC member or a member of any state Democratic Party, please make sure to include your LOCATION & POSITION in the "This is important because..." field.  Thank you!! 

Full details are available in the letter below.

__________________________________________________________________

Dear Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant,

As newly elected officers of the Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee, and as citizens dedicated to the principles of economic, social, racial, and environmental justice for which our Party stands, we are deeply committed to building voters’ trust in the Democratic Party.  We profoundly believe that elitism, dark money, backroom deals, and disregard for our own rules compromise our Party’s credibility with voters, and jeopardize our ability to elect candidates who truly represent and serve the people. 

We, therefore, respectfully request an immediate, full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) reorganizational meeting held on Tuesday, December 6, 2016. Based on reports in Politico and the Miami Herald, and first-hand accounts from fellow Party members in Miami-Dade, we believe there is reason to suspect rules violations that may inhibit our Party’s ability to fairly elect a Florida Democratic Party (FDP) Chair who truly represents the people of Florida, and may instead lead to the backdoor ascendancy of a big-money candidate for the office.   

As Florida is so critical to national elections, and because our Party has been plagued by accusations of elitism and corruption, we strongly believe that even the perceived rigging of our own officer elections to favor a wealthy donor will have widespread negative impact, not only for Democrats in Florida, but for people across our country.  For this reason, we are inviting Democrats across the US to join us in requesting immediate investigation and remediation of this situation. 

We are particularly interested in resolving the following questions:

(1) Did the motion made by Bret Berlin at the end of the Miami-Dade reorganizational meeting violate the FDP’s 2016 DEC Reorganization Meeting Guidelines & Procedures and bylaws?

According to multiple reports, after all scheduled officer elections had been completed, State Committeeman Bret Berlin introduced a motion to suspend a rule in the 2016 DEC Reorganization Meeting Guidelines & Procedures published by outgoing Florida Democratic Party (FDP) Chair Allison Tant in October. These guidelines strictly delineate that the agenda specified in FDP bylaws is the “only” business that may be conducted at county reorganizational meetings, and that "prior to or during the Reorganizational meeting, a DEC may not elect additional precinct or at-large committee members."  These guidelines accurately reflect current FDP bylaws [Bylaws, Art. V., Sec. 3.2.1] which state that “the order of business shall be as follows,” and specifically outline a precise agenda for county organizational meetings that leaves no room for new business aside from officer elections. 

However, according to meeting minutes, Berlin made the "motion to suspend the rules and accept the new membership applications received up-to [the day of the meeting] and all members who lost their elections in August and elect them as elected precinct members (if vacant) or at-large committee members of the Democratic Executive Committee."  The motion passed by a unanimous vote of those present.  

The minutes seem to be prima facie evidence that this motion was made in violation of the FDP’s bylaws and the 2016 DEC Reorganization Meeting Guidelines & Procedures.  Therefore, we would respectfully request that the motion be nullified, and that admission of the 138 members be postponed until after any special election is held to replace Bret Berlin.

(2) Was a quorum present during Berlin’s motion? 

It appears very unlikely that a required quorum of 40% of 192 members was present to validate this vote.  While the minutes reflect that the final vote of the night included 134 voters, members were permitted to vote early and depart the meeting, and the notes do not reflect how many members were actually present at the time of the vote.  The minutes also questionably omit the results of the final vote that was actually conducted with only real-time participants, a runoff election that was held near the end of the meeting for Outreach Vice Chair in which only a total of 51 votes were cast (33 for Erika Grohoski Peralta, and 18 for her opponent Alex Flores).  If only 51 members were present out of 192 at the time of Berlin's motion, that reflects less than 26% of members, far fewer than the required 40% quorum required to legitimize such a vote.  Video of the motion also seems to indicate a fairly empty room.  Given that only 51 participated in a late-night runoff, it appears that the Chair should have known quorum had been lost, and, according to Robert’s Rules, it was therefore incumbent upon him to call the question. 

If only 51 participated in the final runoff of the evening, we believe that is likely the best count we have for the number of members in the room at the time of the motion.  Since that represents only 26% of members, again, we would respectfully request that the motion be nullified, and that admission of the 138 members be postponed until after any special election is held to replace Bret Berlin.  

(3) Was Berlin qualified to run for State Committeeman? 

Miami-Dade’s bylaws state that “Elected Membership shall be composed of one (1) man and one (1) woman who shall be elected from each of the election precincts at the first Primary election in a Presidential election year.  Should the Democratic registration of any precinct total more than one-thousand (1,000) as of January 1 of a year in which qualifying for election to the County Executive Committee occurs, an additional one (1) man and one (1) woman are entitled to be elected to represent all such precincts.” In addition, the bylaws state that “the officers shall be elected from the Elected Membership at the Organization meeting.”

As of January 4, 2016, according to the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections website, the number of registered Democratic voters in precinct 579, where Berlin ran for precinct committeeman, was 896.  According to both Miami-Dade DEC bylaws, and FDP bylaws, this would mean only one (1) Elected Member should be eligible to be elected from the precinct. According again to the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections website, Antonio Javier Diaz got the most votes in precinct 579, with a total of 84 votes, while Berlin came in second with 80 votes.

If, in fact, only one Elected Member should have been allocated to precinct 579, as seems to be the case based on SOE records, Bret Berlin was not eligible to run for State Committeeman according to Miami-Dade’s own bylaws which state that “the officers shall be elected from Elected Membership.”  In this case, we believe the most equitable resolution would be to repeat the election with candidates Dwight Bullard and Manuel Gutierrez, who originally challenged Berlin for the position from the floor, by an election of only those voters who would have been eligible at the commencement of the original organizational meeting.

These open questions, when taken with:

  • The sudden acceptance of 138 new members, many of whom may be Bittel allies should he come up for election;
  • Berlin’s sudden resignation reported in the Miami Herald only a few days following his election and subsequent appointment as “Vice Chairman of Strategy” by Chairman Cuba, as well as his presumed future appointment as permanent proxy for the FDP Chair;
  • Chairman Cuba’s decision to schedule a special election to fill his position before FDP elections; and 
  • Chairman Cuba’s willingness to offer voting rights to new members in advance of the special election

seem to indicate a pattern of blatant violations of established FDP bylaws and procedures, as well as purposeful maneuvering around the rules in order to pave the way for a wealthy donor to take control of the Florida Democratic Party.

To summarize, if the Florida Democratic Party finds that Berlin’s motion was made (1) in violation of FDP procedures and bylaws and/or (2) without a quorum present and/or (3) at a time when Berlin was not an Elected Member, we would respectfully request, prior to any further meetings, that the FDP nullify the motion and restore the organization to its state before the motion was made, without the acceptance of any new members.  In addition, if Berlin was not a legitimate Elected Member at the time of the reorganizational meeting, in order to restore the conditions of the original election as closely as possible, we would request that the special election be held with only the remaining nominees at the time of the original election, Dwight Bullard and Manuel Gutierrez, and only the Elected Members who qualified at the time of the commencement of the original reorganizational meeting.  

Finally, because Berlin stepped down so suddenly as to give the appearance of purposeful manipulation of the process, we would respectfully request in any case that the FDP restore as nearly as possible the conditions of the original election for Miami-Dade State Committeeman by allowing participation by only the original nominees, Dwight Bullard and Manuel Gutierrez, and that no members be added to the Miami-Dade DEC before the January FDP elections in order to avoid any further suspicion of impropriety.

Since this situation has spawned a special election scheduled for December 20, we strongly believe that this matter must be fully investigated and remediated prior to that date.  In addition, because Chairman Juan Cuba has opened the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee to new members until noon this Thursday, December 15, we believe that decision, too, should be revisited on the basis of your investigation.

As Senate Democrats’ new Outreach Chair Bernie Sanders has said, “One of the things I’m trying to do is to figure out a way to radically transform the Democratic Party from a party led by a liberal elite to a party led by working people and young people and people who really want to transform society.”

We do not radically transform our Party, nor establish trust with working people, by rigging our Party elections in violation of our own rules.  We have already sadly lost a pivotal presidential election due, in no small part, to the perception of elitism and corruption within our Party. 

We, the elected officers of the Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee, stand with countless Democrats across Florida and across our country who aim to ensure that never happens again. We have been notified that if the FDP refuses to fully investigate in a timely manner, legal action will be pursued which will only further damage public perception of our Party. Please help us ensure the integrity of the process for the good of the Party.

Sincerely,

Stacey Patel | Chair, Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee

Angie Ciammaichella Matos | State Committeewoman, Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee

Sanjay Patel | State Committeeman, Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee

Oscar Rivera | Vice Chair, Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee

Catherine Martinez | Secretary, Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee

Benjamin Landes | Treasurer, Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee

 

Cc:

Scott Arceneaux | Executive Director, Florida Democratic Party

Alan Clendenin | First Vice Chair, Florida Democratic Party

Nicholas Pellito | Director of Party Affairs, Florida Democratic Party

Dave Dew | Chair, Judicial Committee, Florida Democratic Party

Rick Boylan | Co-Chair, Rules Committee, Florida Democratic Party

T. Wayne Bailey |  Co-Chair, Rules Committee, Florida Democratic Party

Nancy Jacobson | Vice Chair, Rules Committee, Florida Democratic Party

Juan Cuba | Chair, Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee



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