A Kings County Supreme Court judge reversed the controversial appointment of some 2,400 low-level members of the Brooklyn Democratic Party by its executive ranks in a ruling Thursday, saying the move violated state Election Law.
Justice Edgar Walker ruled that the filling of thousands of County Committee vacancies by the party’s 42-member Executive Committee was null and void, citing Election Law that only permits the full body of the party to elect its fellow rank-and-file membership at its biannual organizational meeting.
The ruling followed a lawsuit by 12 County Committee members on Dec. 3 requesting the court undo a contentious amendment shifting the power to fill those seats from County Committee to the Executive Committee as part of a move to ostensibly allow gender non-binary Democrats to run for the hyper-local seats that were previously restricted to men and women.
The controversial clause was part of a Nov. 29 rule change allowing for gender non-binary Democrats to run for 84 new gender-neutral seats of the party’s County Committee — the lowest rung of elected office, representing a couple of blocks — whose roughly 5,400 seats currently have to be equally split among male and female Democrats, based on a 1930s state law aimed at bringing more women into politics.
Party officials claimed the changes to its rules were meant to bring more members into the body politic as quickly as possible to ensure that they can fully participate by the next full organizational meeting, which Brooklyn Democrats are supposed to hold by Dec. 11, according to an Oct. 27 judge’s order, but which the party has rescheduled for Dec. 16.
Both today’s order and that last ruling followed suits by election attorney Ali Najmi, who called on party bigwigs to stop breaking the law and undermining democracy.
“The Brooklyn Democratic Party has been abusing its power, undermining democracy, and violating the Election Law. It’s time for this to stop,” Najmi said in a statement.
🚨🚨We won again🚨🚨 The 2400 individuals appointed to the County Committee by Brooklyn's District Leaders has been declared a violation of EL 2-118 and is null and void. These appointed members cannot participate in the upcoming County Committee meeting. pic.twitter.com/pDeZx7WDOK
— Ali Najmi (@Ali_Najmi) December 10, 2020
Several progressive and reform-oriented pols accused the party of using the non-binary enfranchisement as a “pink-washed” ruse for a power grab, allowing leaders to pack the larger membership with party loyalists.
The most recent suit cited an infamous moment during a marathon Executive Committee session on Dec. 2, in which former party boss and current Canarsie District Leader Frank Seddio confirmed those accusations, saying: “We need all the County Committee [members] we can get to overcome these f—— progressives when we have the meeting.”
On Dec. 7, Seddio issued a lengthy statement saying his outburst was prompted by Park Slope District Leader and local Council candidate Doug Schneider for allegedly bullying other members during the meeting.
“That night, he aimed his bullying and abuse at senior citizens on the committee, who have worked for progressive causes before many of the critics were even born, and at a member who is disabled,” Seddio wrote. “I will never stand for that. We all need to stand together and respect each other’s views, even when we feel strongly about our views and those we disagree with. I have apologized. Will Doug Schneider?”
When reached for comment by Brooklyn Paper Thursday evening, George Arzt, a spokesman for the party said, “We just received the decision and we’re in the midst of analyzing it.”
Schneider issued a response denouncing Seddio’s behavior, saying that the former party honcho was no longer in tune with Brooklyn Democrats.
“The only bully at that meeting was Frank, who is used to getting his way. Those days are over,” Schneider said in a statement. “His views on transparency, reform and gender identity are out of step with the members of the party he used to run. I won’t apologize for fighting for [transgender and gender non-conforming non-binary] rights and to bring change to the largest local Democratic organization in the country.”
Update (Monday, Dec. 14, 9:35 am): This story has been updated to include a response from Doug Schneider.