Thursday, March 3, 2011

Brockton Dems At Odds Over Republican Support

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Three members of the Brockton Democratic City Committee—including City Councilor Jass Stewart and School Committee member Timothy Sullivan—are expected to fight a demand they resign or face removal from the local committee after being charged with actively and publicly supporting Republican candidates in the November election.
“I’m going to fight it. I will not resign, ” Councilor-at-large Stewart said. “I’m comfortable with what I’m doing. I think it’s unfortunate with all of the things going on in the city they concentrate on this issue,” he said.
Stewart, School Committee member Timothy Sullivan—both who represent Ward 7--and Sullivan’s girlfriend Debbie Dineen have not resigned from their elected positions on the Brockton Democratic City Committee, an arm of the Democratic Party that reaches into nearly every city and town in the state.
Stewart said until November when he took heat for posting his picks for the election on his website, he didn’t know there was a rule against supporting Republican candidates.
“If I knew about it I might have done things differently and if I broke the rules, I apologize, but I don’t think I did anything anyone else isn't doing,” Stewart said.
Steve Foote, chairman of the Brockton Democratic City Committee, said because none of the three have resigned the next step is to plead their case before the City Committee membership at the next meeting—expected by the end of March.
Foote said all the members of the committee were warned via letter in October that Democratic State Committee officials would be cracking down on Democrats who openly and actively support Republicans in the November election—an advisory political observers believe stemmed from Scott Brown’s unexpected victory over Democrat Martha Coakley in the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s vacant U.S. Senate seat.
Open and public support usually extends to all statewide races and exempts races for city and town boards such as city council, conservation commission and selectmen because candidates for those elections are not direct nominees of the Democratic Party.
Foote said it is generally OK for Democrats at, say a non-campaign party or at lunch with friends, on the golf course or in the barroom to support a non-Democrat candidate, but it is a different thing to voice it on a website or in the press.
If removed, Stewart, Sullivan and Dineen would still be members of the Democratic Party, but would not reap the benefits of being members of the City Committee, including money for mailings and other campaign materials and exclusion from being a delegate during the party’s state convention when delegates vote for state-wide candidates such as governor.
Sullivan said he was surprised by the undated letter demanding his resignation or face removal—which he received about 3 weeks to a month ago--because he wasn’t sure what he did. He said Dineen’s letter was identical to his except her name was on the top instead of his.
Sullivan said he does not believe Dineen—a sometimes Independent and sometimes unenrolled voter who ran for the City Committee seat at Sullivan’s behest-- should be part of the situation because he is the one who brought her into the Democratic Party and the current situation.
He said she did not do anything wrong and is upset by the whole matter.
Sullivan said he now second-guesses if bringing her into the party was a wise move—despite the party’s assertion it wants new people.
“I’ve been on the committee for more than 10 years. I’ve been a ward vice-chairman. I’ve never given money to any candidate other than a Democrat and now they do this? Doesn’t seem like a Democratic process does it,” Sullivan said. “I’m hurt by this letter,” he said and is unsure if he will defend himself at the meeting.
Sullivan said until this reporter contacted him about the upcoming removal meeting and 2/3 vote, he thought he had already been expelled from the City Committee.
“They took us all off the website,” Sullivan said. “I was there, Jass was there and Debbie was there---funny how we’re all in Ward 7--and now we’re gone,” he said.
With the first week of March nearly over, Sullivan wondered when he would be contacted about the meeting.
“I hope they weren’t going to wait until a day before the meeting to let me know there was a hearing,” Sullivan said.
He said the letter said nothing about a removal meeting or vote or any appeal process to the State Committee.
Foote said the bylaws clearly state what the process is and if Sullivan wanted to know the process he could have looked up the bylaws which are on the Brockton and State committee’s websites.
Until the hearing and if there is a 2/3 vote, the trio are still members of the committee, Foote said.
Foote said each will be notified by regular mail about the as-yet scheduled meeting when they will have their chance to appeal to the entire City Committee.
Foote said he plans to have the meeting in March and each will receive a letter about the meeting and a separate one noting the meeting will also include a hearing and vote on their removal.
Bylaws require at least five days written notice before a regular meeting and for a special meeting. Foote said technically the removal vote would be part of the agenda of a regular meeting.
Foote said there has to be a 2/3 majority vote in order for the three to be removed. He said the bylaws require a quorum of 25 for the meeting to be held.
Foote said about 50 members usually attend the regular meetings, but more might show for the removal vote.
If the vote is against the three, there is an appeal within 30 days to the Democratic State Committee’s Judicial Council.
“No one has been removed yet,” Foote said, but added he believes the evidence against the three that they actively and publicly supported Republicans in the election—in his opinion-- is pretty cut and dry.
“It was on Jass’ website and in the media,” Foote said. “He wants to be a maverick. He says so on his website,” Foote said, referring to Stewart.
“If he wants to be a maverick, let him, but he can’t have it both ways. He wants the benefits of being a Democrat, but he wants to support who he wants. Let him quit and become and independent...He’s a carpetbagger from Dallas, or wherever he’s from, who fancies himself as the next Obama or Deval Patrick,” Foote said.
Foote said “everyone knows” and the “scuttlebutt” is Stewart is eyeing a run for State Rep. Geraldine Creedon’s seat which includes parts of Brockton and Easton because she may not run for reelection.
“That’s why he went on the Danroy 'DJ' Henry thing,” Foote said. “He wants the Easton votes,” he said.
Foote said an 8-0 vote of the City Committee’s nine-member Executive Committee in January—one member was absent--led to the resignation letters and that the whole matter was initiated following complaints about Stewart, Sullivan and Dineen supporting Cruz and McDonald over Democrats.
He said he suggested a suspension of a couple of months, but Executive Committee members noted the bylaws do not allow for a suspension.
Foote said the unanimous vote shows he is not the only one annoyed by Stewart and Sullivan’s actions.
The City Committee’s website does not outline a members’ removal, however, the State Committee bylaws list three reasons to be removed from membership, including, “public support for, or financial contribution to an opponent of a nominee of the Democratic party.”
Stewart and Sullivan said they supported Republicans Plymouth County Sheriff Joe McDonald and Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz for reelection to their seats.
However, Stewart and Sullivan said there are valid reasons for that support, including the sudden departure of Democratic candidate for Sheriff Rick Pond after receiving the party’s nomination.
Sullivan said he held a coffee hour for the two Republican candidates at his house because Cruz is his brother-in-law from a prior marriage.
Chairman Foote said it was not the coffee hour that has Sullivan in trouble, it was his comments in The Enterprise in October that quoted Sullivan supporting Charlie Baker over Deval Patrick in a rally at Brockton City Hall before the November election for governor.
Sullivan said he recalls telling the reporter he attended the rally and he and Dineen only said they were there to listen. Sullivan said he did not read The Enterprise story, and still hasn’t.
Subsequently, he said he did not call or ask for a retraction or correction. He said he now believes it’s too late.
He said he learned of the quotes from the letter sent by the City Committee asking for his resignation.
“They said I was quoted saying that, but no one asked me if I actually said it,” Sullivan said.
In November, on his website and in media interviews, including, Councilor-at-large Stewart said he supported Republican candidate for Sheriff Joseph McDonald and District Attorney Timothy Cruz to be reelected to his seat.
Stewart said he did support the two candidates.
McDonald in part because Pond resigned under a cloud and because he believed Tim Cruz as DA had done a good job and saw no reason to support Democrat John Shea to fill the seat. Cruz won by more than 35,000 votes.
“It’s irresponsible to pretend our Sheriff and DA haven’t done a good job,” Stewart said.
Stewart said he did not receive the resignation letter and was taken aback when he arrived at the City Committee’s caucus in February and was barred from entering because he had been censured.
“I didn’t receive that letter,” Stewart said. “They barred me from entering and I was the only one from Ward 7 willing and able to attend,” he said.
Stewart said he had not heard Foote called him a carpetbagger from Dallas and inferred Stewart was setting himself up for a run for Creedon’s seat and it was the reason why Stewart has supported the Henry family in its battle for an independent investigation into Easton resident and Pace University student Danroy “DJ” Henry’s shooting death by a police officer in Mount Auburn, N.Y.
“Ever since I met him he has had something against me,” Stewart said of Foote.
Stewart said he did not think it was a race or gay thing—Stewart is the city’s first black and openly gay city councilor. He couldn’t say what it is.
“They’re all playing political games,” Stewart said.
Stewart said he is a personal friend of DJ Henry’s grandmother who lives in Brockton and “an injustice anywhere is an injustice” and because of redistricting Creedon’s seat might not include Easton.
Besides, Stewart said, if he wants to run for Creedon’s seat he will—whether the old boy network likes it or not.
“They can call it ambition, or whatever they want,” Stewart said, “why is it wrong to improve your career or strive to improve your career. Why is that a bad thing. I want to elect candidates who do things. Maybe we need to do things differently because the old ways aren’t working,” he said.
Foote said he disbelieves Stewart’s assertion he did not receive the resignation letter. “It’s like the dog eating his homework,” Foote said.
Stewart said he thought Foote was being hypocritical because in 2005, after losing a primary for a seat as councilor in Ward 6 against Michelle DuBois, Foote supported her Republican opponent in the general election.
State Committee bylaws do not include local elections because candidates do not necessarily represent the party.
“It’s a whole different thing,” Foote said.
Stewart said another reason he thinks the whole thing is odd is because State Committee members such as Chairman John Walsh have said they disagree with the removal rule for non-Democratic candidate support.
However, Foote said while Walsh has said he doesn’t agree with the rule, city and town committee chairmen were told at a meeting they still must enforce the rule.
Walsh could not be reached for comment.
Foote said he doesn’t have a problem with Stewart, except what he perceives as Stewart’s drive toward higher office without having had been through the political slog on his way up.
“He has a job—city councilor. Why can’t he do the job he’s got,” Foote said. “If he wants to be in the Democratic Party he and everyone else has to play by the rules,” he said.

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