Following a raucous Kings County Democratic Party Committee meeting last night, party boss Frank Seddio was unanimously re-elected as chair of the party’s executive committee.
Seddio’s selection came following a heated discussion around proposed reform amendments that 50th Assembly District Leader Nick Rizzo put forth with the support of a vocal contingent of party reformers including Robert “Bobby Carroll, the party’s nominee for the vacant 44th State Assembly District seat, and members of the New Kings Democrats political club.
The reform amendments to the party bylaws centered around more transparency and the proposals included, “No one person can hold more proxy votes than the number of county committee members currently serving in his or her assembly district,” and that executive committee meetings for the purpose of selecting judicial candidates must be held in a public session.
The reformers wanted an up or down vote on the amendments among all county committee members, which packed the auditorium at St. Francis College in Downtown Brooklyn, but a motion to move the amendments to the executive committee for further study superseded the motion to approve the amendments.
Following the approval to move the amendments to the executive committee for further study, Committee Member Raul Rothblatt made a motion that committee members would be able to attend the portion of the executive committee meeting where the amendments would be discussed.
Much to the surprise of many, Seddio seconded this motion, which was approved. Then, after Seddio was re-elected as chair of the executive committee, he said he would appoint a committee to study the amendments and perhaps come up with revisions or decide to approve or not approve them as is.
“I consider these changes important in many ways. Transparency is important, but it also must be done with common sense and good judgement,” said Seddio, adding that he always is open to listening to ideas that will make the party more inclusive.
Seddio noted that the executive committee’s choosing which judicial candidates would be recommended to the party’s judicial screening delegates for the party’s nod to get on the ballot in the general election was a matter of personnel, which is almost always done in executive session to guard the privacy of the potential candidates.
But Rizzo argued that U.S. Supreme Court nominees are vetted in public before Congress, and that it wasn’t fair that executive committee members could use proxies to gain leverage in any voting for judges.
Seddio, and others pointed out that Rizzo failed to put any judicial screening delegates on his petitions when he was running for district leader – which is considered one of the main roles of a district leader – and that made his argument against the use of proxies to pick candidates for the judicial bench seem contrary to his actions.
Kings County Democratic Party Attorney Frank Carone noted that there are 1,500 county committee members and most have jobs and outside lives that make it hard to attend county committee meetings, and thus the use of proxies is necessary.
“Most of the rules (amendments) have merit and need further refinement. However my belief that an amendment curtailing vote by proxy may be illegal as it violates first amendment rights of association and free speech,” said Carone.
Seddio said after he appoints committee members to study the amendments, he hopes to have their recommendations on possible approval before the county committee at their January meeting.