Factional Funny Business at the Democratic Central Committee Engineers a Do-Over Endorsement in the Mayor's Race
The following incident description was filed with the California Democratic Party September 1 to challenge the actions of a faction on the Solano County Democratic Central Committee. The strong-arm maneuvering resulted in an endorsement of Hakeem Brown in the Vallejo mayor's race along with a $3,000 expenditure to print the Solano County endorsements (including Hakeem's) on the official CDP door hangers. Local political wisdom holds that endorsements and glossy mailers line the path to public office in Vallejo, where few residents have the time or inclination to pay close attention to local politics.
Any remedy from the State party will come too late to stop those glossy hangers touting the Central Committee endorsement, but the incident gives the public a revealing look at the workings of the established local political network. They think Vallejo voters are too lazy and apathetic to look beneath the surface to see all the gamesmanship that goes on behind the scenes. Let's prove them wrong again.
Challenge: Illegitimate endorsement vote of the Solano County Democratic Central Committee
The undersigned Proponents challenge the procedures and the outcome of the August 26, 2020 Solano County Democratic Central Committee monthly meeting. Specifically, we assert:
1) An unauthorized “consent calendar” procedure was sanctioned by SCDCC Parliamentarian (and CDP District 2 Director) Lynette Henley to reverse the results of the legitimate endorsement votes taken at the SCDCC special endorsement meeting held August 22; and
2) Ms. Henley promoted and fostered a hostile environment at the August 26 meeting, in violation of CDP’s Code of Conduct.
Standing, Jurisdiction, & Exhaustion of Remedies.
The Proponents have standing to bring this challenge as they are elected and appointed members of the SCDCC whose participation in an authorized, official, noticed meeting was subverted by the machinations of a faction of the SCDCC who did not like the outcome of that meeting.
The Compliance Review Commission has jurisdiction to hear and act on this challenge since the CDP bylaws and Code of Conduct were violated by the actions described herein (See CDP Bylaws VIII Section 4(c)(3)). Since the faction of the SCDCC that pursued this illegitimate end currently holds a majority of seats on the SCDCC, appeal to that body would be futile. In addition, time is of the essence since absentee ballots for the November 3 election will drop soon, the CDP’s doorhangers will be received shortly, and the unjust outcome that forms the basis of this appeal should not be allowed to be printed on those doorhangers.
Statement of Facts.
The SCDCC held a special meeting on August 22 via Zoom to interview and endorse Democrats running for elective office in Solano County. (See Document #1.) The August 22 endorsement meeting was discussed at some length at the July 22 general meeting at which all but two members attended. (See Document #2.)
The meeting started at 9 a.m. and, with a few breaks, ran until approximately 4:15 p.m. Endorsement Committee Chair, Karen Sims, made clear at the SCDCC’s monthly meeting on July 22 that members would not be allowed to vote unless they attended the entire meeting (See SCDCC Bylaws 9.07 and Document #2.) No one would be allowed to simply show up and vote. Because wild fires were raging in parts of Solano County at the time, Ms. Sims also notified all candidates and SCDCC members via email prior to the August 22 meeting that any who were affected by the fires should contact her for accommodations. (See Document #3.) One scheduled candidate failed to appear for her interview, and one SCDCC member contacted Ms. Sims before the August 22 meeting, but only expressed concern about whether his presence was needed to establish a quorum. This was not an issue since many SCDCC members attended the endorsement meeting. (See SCDCC Bylaws 6.10, Document #3.)
The meeting was live-streamed and many members of the public watched the interviews.
At the end of the candidate interviews, the live-stream was stopped and non-voting members (like alternates) were asked to leave the meeting so voting on the candidates could begin. Results were available immediately. In the two races at issue here, Steve Young received 75% of the vote and thus the endorsement in his bid for Benicia mayor; Hakeem Brown received 50% of the votes (14 of 28 votes cast) in the Vallejo mayor’s race. Since the SCDCC bylaws require a majority of the votes cast to receive the endorsement, no endorsement was given in the Vallejo mayor’s race. (See SCDCC Bylaw 9.07). Robert McConnell, the other main candidate in that race, got 10 votes; the other four votes went to peripheral candidates and no preference.
The August 26 Meeting
The general monthly meeting on August 26 was also held via Zoom and members of the public attended (Gluttons for punishment can watch the entire video here. . . See some pertinent time stamps in the following letter text.) The agenda is attached as Document 4. Nowhere on this agenda is any mention of a “consent calendar” or a “re-vote” of the endorsement vote taken on August 22.
Before the meeting began, Parliamentarian Henley stated that the ratification of the August 22 endorsement votes would take place via consent calendar (See Video at 10:22-10:52.). The meeting was then called to order and the agenda was approved without amendment. (See Video 12:26-12:42, 14:48-16:15). Throughout the meeting, many members objected that no such procedure was authorized, noticed, or on the agenda, but Ms. Henley, in violation of SCDCC Bylaws, summarily dismissed these concerns and asserted it was proper. (See Video at 37:56 - 38:23, 38:50-39:25, 46:09-47:21, 58:12-59:38, 1:18-1:28, 1:30-1:31) (SCDCC Bylaws 6.05, 6.09).
The Vallejo and Benicia mayoral races were then pulled from the “consent calendar” for a “re-vote” that was not authorized, noticed, or on the agenda (Video 35:05-35:08. Again, members tried to object to the procedure, but were summarily shut down by Ms. Henley. When SCDCC Chair Margie Olson tried to maintain control over the meeting and questioned the process, she was ruled out of order by the Parliamentarian (See Video 1:21-1:28). Only limited discussion was allowed, and Roberts Rules of Order were clearly not followed.
SCDCC members who were not present at the August 22 endorsement meeting were allowed to vote, despite not having attended the August 22 interviews, nor did they claim that they had watched the video of the August 22 interviews. (See SCDCC Bylaws 9.07). Mr. Brown attended the August 26 meeting from the beginning, and Steve Young arrived later, but no other candidates in the two mayoral races attended or were apparently aware that such a “re-vote” would occur. (See Document 5, CDP Article VIII, Section 4(c)(3); SCDCC Bylaws 9.06, 9.07.)
Several times throughout the discussion, members in favor of this roughshod process stated that the August 22 meeting was merely an Endorsement Committee meeting and the vote taken was simply a recommendation on endorsements that the larger SCDCC could accept or reject. (See Video 1:10-1:11, 1:34-1:35, 1:49-1:50) This is patently not true. The August 22 endorsement interview meeting was a noticed, authorized, special meeting of the SCDCC, with the sole purpose of deciding which candidates, if any, the SCDCC would endorse.
Steve Young maintained his endorsement (See Video 1:42-1:57). Not surprisingly, Hakeem Brown got more than 50% of the votes and thus gained the endorsement in this illegitimate process that appeared to be clearly orchestrated to obtain that result. (See Video 1:10-1:41) Later in the meeting, the subject of printing the local endorsements for inclusion on the CDP doorhangers was discussed, at an approximate cost of $3,000. A motion was made and seconded to hold off that expense until the challenge to the Vallejo mayor’s race could be heard. Again, not surprisingly, that motion failed. (See Video at 2:08-2:23)
Many members of the public attended the August 26 meeting, and many more have viewed that meeting on YouTube. The public’s outrage is palpable that a faction of the Solano County Democratic Central Committee would pursue such an undemocratic process to obtain the result they wanted that they had not legitimately achieved at the actual endorsement meeting. Their actions at the August 26 meeting have brought dishonor and ridicule to both the Solano County Democratic Central Committee and the California Democratic Party, and this issue has become a huge distraction for the local party when we need to be focused on bigger issues. Ms. Henley’s actions were particularly offensive since she is the one charged with helping the central committee and the district follow the rules.
We ask that you:
1. Invalidate the motions and votes taken on August 26 and restore the vote that took place at the official, legitimate endorsement meeting on August 22;
2. Publicly censure Parliamentarian and District 2 Regional Director Lynette Henley for fostering and promoting a hostile environment at the August 26 meeting and apply appropriate measures as described in CDP Bylaws Article XII Section 3(c); and,
3. Direct the SCDCC to exclude any endorsement in the Vallejo mayor’s race from inclusion on the CDP doorhangers.
Thank you for your consideration of this challenge.
Brenda Crawford, District 14
Paula Bauer, Kari Birdseye, Susan George, Kathy Kerridge, Karen Sims, Path Toth-Smith, Steve Young,
Michelle Pellegrin, contact to Commission
List of Links and Documents
Email on August 20, 2020 from DCC Information Officer, Tom Bilbo, with information on how to Pre-Register for the August 22 endorsement meeting, stream information for public access, and message from Endorsement Committee Chair, Karen Sims on rules of engagement, speaking format.
Minutes from July 22, 2020 meeting
Recap of Endorsement meeting by Endorsement Committee Chair, Karen Sims
Agenda for the August 26, 2020 regular meeting of the SCDCC
Testimony: Steve Young
Testimony: Brenda Crawford