Top-Secret “Convention” Met At JoJo’s
by Thomas MacMillan | Jan 13, 2014 9:27 am
There were no floor nominations. No seconding of motions or rounding up of votes. Just a table for two at a coffee shop—and the selection of a candidate for public office.
That’s what happened at a “convention” to choose a Democratic candidate to fill an open seat for the Board of Alders from the Hill neighborhood.
It didn’t take place in the Hill. The people holding the convention didn’t tell anyone else about it, including their neighbors and fellow Democrats.
Then a last-minute document appeared in the City Clerk’s office claiming the convention had taken place at a Dunkin’ Donuts downtown at Chapel and York street, when in fact it had taken place at JoJo’s Coffee Roasters & Tea Merchants shop across the corner.
The Independent learned all this by speaking to absolutely everyone who attended the convention last week—all two of them.
The endorsement that emerged from their meeting may have been made in violation of the rules of the Democratic Town Committee, depending on your definition of “convention” and “delegates.”
It passed muster with the chair of the Democratic Town Committee, part of a team that took over the party two years ago promising greater transparency and democracy in local politics.
The two people who convened in Jojo’s were Kenneth Reveiz and JeQueena Foreman, the co-chairs of the Democratic committee for Ward 3. They said they met on Wednesday Jan. 8 in Jojo’s, the coffee shop at the corner of Chapel and Park streets, to discuss whom the ward committee should endorse in the race for the Board of Alders seat recently vacated by Jackie James. Reveiz and Foreman chose ... Foreman for the job.
James (who also chairs the Democratic Town Committee) won reelection to the seat in November. Then she resigned it days before the new term began, to take a City Hall job.
Reveiz and Foreman were the only members of the Ward 3 Democratic committee present at the “convention.” Reveiz said they didn’t have time to gather more committee members, because the endorsement filing deadline was only hours away. The announcement of the filing deadline was delayed due to a miscommunication between the state and city/town clerk’s office. (Click here to read a story about that by the Register’s Mary O’Leary.)
Later on Wednesday, moments before the filing deadline, someone other than Reveiz or Foreman submitted a form to the clerk’s office, which states that a “Democratic Convention” was held Jan. 8 at Dunkin’ Donuts and that “by a majority vote” JeQueena Foreman received the Democratic endorsement in the Ward 3 race.
The endorsement was due by 4 p.m. Wednesday. It was submitted at 3:52 p.m., according to the time stamp on the document. Reveiz said he didn’t know why the form said Dunkin’ Donuts. He and Foreman both said they met at Jojo’s (pictured). Gwen Mills, the party’s treasurer, submitted the form, which was signed by James and party treasurer Rosemary DeMatteo.
James, the chair of the DTC, and former Ward 3 Alder, did not return repeated calls for comment. She released this statement by email: “Pursuant to the Secretary of State notice received via the City Town Clerk’s office January 8th, the Ward 3 co-chairs met to recommend a candidate. The certification of party endorsement was then filed in accordance with state statute and accepted by the City Town Clerk’s office.”
James faced criticism during the mayor’s race when the DTC botched its mayoral and alder endorsements by missing a deadline.
Vinnie Mauro, DTC vice-chair, said the endorsement process went as it should have, given a tight timeframe.
Foreman’s is now the only name that will be on the ballot for Ward 3 alder. Other candidates can still mount write-in campaigns.
According to Article III Section 4 of the official Democratic Town Committee (DTC) rules, “the candidate for Alderman from each Ward shall be endorsed by a convention of delegates in each Ward.”
The rules do not define exactly what constitutes a “convention” or whether two co-chairs meeting without public notice or input from the rest of the ward committee might fit that definition.
Two people does make a convention, according to Reveiz (pictured).
“JeQueena and I met. That’s the language of the rules,” said Reveiz. “It’s not a citywide meeting of the Democratic Town Committee. It’s just the ward co-chairs.”
Asked why the rest of the ward committee wasn’t included, Reveiz said, “I don’t think we really had time to reach out to them.”
Asked how the rest of the ward committee was involved in the endorsement process, Foreman said, “I’m not too sure about that.”
“I think we did our best, based on we had three hours,” Reveiz said. He and Foreman had learned only on Wednesday that the deadline for ward alder endorsement was that same day, he said. The miscommunication between the state and the city clerk’s office delayed the notification of the deadline.
“We just wanted to make sure that we had a strong candidate.”
Reveiz said that in an ideal world, with more time for advance notice, he would have liked to convene the whole committee to choose whom to endorse. “It’s pretty clear that the more people who are involved in the process the better,” he said. “It’s just better for the neighborhood.”
“In some wards, they will take the entire vote to the entire ward committee but legally the only two people who can pick an aldermanic candidate are the two co-chairs,” said Vice-Chair Mauro. “If you had enough time you probably would have a full ward committee meeting.”
Asked about Article III Sect. 4, which requires that a convention be held, Mauro said special elections follow a different process: The ward co-chairs pick the candidate to endorse. “This is generally how it’s always been done.”
The fact that the city clerk’s office accepted the endorsement form is a validation that the process was done correctly, Mauro said.
Reveiz said he hasn’t heard complaints from other ward committee members about how he and Foreman handled the endorsement process.
The endorsement was accompanied by an undated letter recommending Foreman for Ward 3 alder, with her and Reveiz’s signature at the bottom. Foreman said she didn’t write the letter.
“In our capacity as Ward 3 co-chairs for the Democratic Town Committee, we are excited to recommend JeQueena Foreman for the position of Alderwoman of New Haven’s Third Ward,” the letter states.
Foreman (pictured), who’s 41 and grew up in West Haven, said she has lived in Ward 3 for 14 years and is a full-time foster parent.
“I take in sick children here into my home,” she said. “In 17 years, I’ve cared for 42 children.”
She said she approached James about becoming Ward 3 alder when she heard James would be pursuing newly elected Mayor Toni Harp’s vacant Senate seat. (James later decided not to run, but left the Board of Alders anyway, to become the city’s deputy community services chief.)
Foreman said she met with James, Mills, West River Alder Tyisha Walker, and Rev. Scott Marks on Tuesday Jan. 7, to discuss her candidacy. They asked Foreman why she wanted to be an alder, Foreman said.
“I’m looking to make a big impact,” Foreman said. She said she wants to help people get jobs, do more with youth groups, and have more black business owners in the ward. She said she would push for more policing, and for landlords to take care of their properties.
“She’s really great. She’s been super active,” Reveiz said of Foreman. “Lots of people know here and like her. I’ve always been really impressed by her spirit and energy in terms of engaging new voters. She’s done a lot of great work with young women of color in particular.”
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Though the rules may have been technically followed, this entire situation reeks of opportunistic people who took advantage of ambiguity. In this time of instant communication via text, Skype, smart phones, email, Google hangout, Faceboook, etc there’s absolutely no excuse for these 2 chairs to not reach out to the committee. Even with 3 hours the committee could have been notified.
Paul I hope that you will reach out to the other members of the committee and get their view on this. And I hope someone in the Ward will mount a write in campaign.
posted by: Greg-Morehead on January 13, 2014 10:47am
Smh@ Foreman met with James, Mills, Tyisha Walker, and Scott Marks….
same ol politics. I don’t know Ms Foreman and she seems like a nice woman from this article, but why do the candidates have to meet with the people from the unions when they are thinking about running? And the saga continues…. Gwen Mills, Scott Marks, 4real?
I understand Ms Foreman meeting with the current Alderwoman, but, give me a break…
How long has Reveiz lived in Ward 3 and served as co-chair? He’s not even listed on the DTC website. Are they trying to pull another ‘Ella Wood’ here? LMAO!
Everyone should understand that in a large number of our wards, their are no Democratic committees, with the ward “committees” consisting of only the two ward chairs.
Yes, ward committee lists are supposed to be filed with the City Clerk in the spring of every odd number year. But quite often that never happens, and the ward committees don’t exist, or are only created, on an ad hoc basis, when needed for an endorsement vote.
Of course when discussing Ward 3, it’s important to point out that this is the home ward of Jackie James, the former alder person and current Democratic Town Committee chair. So if it turned out procedures weren’t followed correctly, it could be grounds for a call to resign her post.
And the person who should be interviewed for this story is Gwen Mills, as it feels as if she orchestrated this whole thing, in conjunction with James.
It’s all just so tiresome and sad. For the last few years the people of New Haven have been offered time and time-again to buy into a more inclusive, responsible, representative governance of our City - all championed by the team of union folk, Harp loyalists, anti-DeStefano operatives that now seem to be in control. And yet . . . every day that passes The Independent brings us a new piece that details some breaking example of how far from inclusive this coalition is: [Mike Smart’s seemingly illegal procedures in the City Clerk’s Office; Mayor Harp’s need for TWO NH police officers to ferry her about town; the inability to successfully appoint a political operative to a City Hall patronage job (although it may not be a patronage job, who knows?), and now this].
Is this gang incompetent? Reckless? Corrupted by power? Or just plain amateurs? Yeah, we’re two weeks into this and its looks like its gonna’ be a long couple of years - and in the end we will all suffer for it. It’s tiresome and sad - and utterly unnecessary.
To all who keep saying union control.Wake up It is the machine that is in control.How come the same deals were being cut before the union got in.In fact most of the BOA who are in office now was doing the same thing.So get off this union control.
First, the entire process sounds like a total joke. Second, she sounds like an admirable candidate, except when she says….“she wants to…..have more black business owners in the ward.” What exactly does this mean, and why does it matter if they are black, or white, or hispanic or asian or middle-eastern or jewish business owners? Could you imagine the uproar if someone from another ward said they wanted more white business owners? She ought to be asked to clarify her comments.
Isn’t it the job of Ward committee co-chairs to empower their neighbors by building committee membership, ultimately reaching ~50 members from each ward? It may not be a requirement to achieve this number, but in the interest of ‘democracy’ and ‘transparency’ (i.e. favorite buzzwords of the UNITE machine) a ward committee should desire full participation. Why haven’t these two co-chairs gathered residents of Ward 3 and why haven’t they attempted to build a full committee? Why has the ‘new’ DTC not encouraged more participation in Ward Committees since their takeover?
This all comes across as another UNITE-DTC power-grab.
This gang is too lazy to even stack the Ward with partisans as was done in Ward 9.This did NOT follow Democratic Party rules which require aggressively publicized recruitment of committee members, prior notice of meetings, and quorums for voting; BTW, local rules are subordinate to state rules which are subordinate to national rules. I could quote national, state and local rules ad nauseum but below is just a taste. If the Ward Chairs put minimal effort into creating a Ward committee and there’s only two of them, the vote is fruit of the poisoned tree.
CHARTER OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES
Section 11. Participation in All Party Affairs.
(b) (i) The National, State, and Local Democratic Party organizations shall undertake
affirmative action programs designed to encourage the fullest participation of all Democrats in all Party
(c) (i) Each state or territorial Party shall require each unit of the Party which holds such
meetings to publicize effectively and in a timely fashion the dates, times, and places of all such meetings,
and the name or names of the person responsible for such meetings.
(ii) Notice of meetings shall be published as required in this Section prior to the
meeting. Such notice may appear as legal notice, paid advertisement, news item, direct mail, radio or
television announcement, or in such other form as may reasonably be designed to notify Democrats of the
meeting provided no state, territorial, or county Party is required to purchase paid advertising;
RULES TO GOVERN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF THE CITY OF NEW HAVEN
Section 3. Each Ward shall have a Ward Committee of no more than 50 enrolled members of the Democratic Party residing
in that … The Co-Chairpersons of each Ward shall select said members of the Ward Committee from those who apply for membership on the Ward Committee…. The Co-Chairpersons of each Ward shall make every effort to contact all registered
Democrats In their Ward concerning said procedure….
Section 4. The Candidate for Alderman from each Ward shall be endorsed by a convention of delegates in each Ward
within the time provided by state statutes. The delegates to each such convention shall be the members of the Ward
Committee. The person with a majority of those present and voting at said convention shall be the endorsed aldermanic
candidate from that Ward.
I don’t see how this can be a “power grab” if there are literally no other people mentioned who are interested in running.
Grab from *who*, exactly?
This is a consequence of having 30 Wards in New Haven. When you have such small districts, it’s going to be difficult to have real “conventions” for each one. Get real.
From one commenter:
“Is this gang incompetent? Reckless? Corrupted by power? Or just plain amateurs?”
We’re talking about a special election for alderman in New Haven. There’s no reckless corruption and abuse of power by “this gang”—there’s hardly enough people in the ward who are interested enough in politics to make this a competitive election.
Getting and keeping citizens interested is the political process the exact job description of the Ward Chairs. The NHI can ask them some simple follow-up questions;
1) What means did you use to recruit ward committee members?
2) How many did you recruit?
3) How many times has the committee met?
4) What is your normal means of meeting notification?
I suspect the answers are none, none, once and none.
Why don’t you educate us on who Gwen Mills is? This woman has surfaced in the past couple of years to exert a tremendous amount of influence over the Board of Alderman—starting with Jorge Perez—and lately she seems to be in the middle of all the dubious things going on in the Democratic party. Wasn’t she part of the fiasco that made Harp have to petition onto the ballot? Didn’t she supposedly strong-armed some Aldermen by telling them they have to vote with whatever the “coalition” decides—in the process ignoring their constituents? Now, she’s in the middle of this two-person “convention”. This lady seems to be wielding a lot of power—help us understand what she’s doing and whose strings she is pulling.
noun: committee; plural noun: committees
1. a group of people appointed for a specific function, typically consisting of members of a larger group.
two is not a committee it is a twosome, couple, duet, pair, duo but not a committee.
It is the job of the co-chairs to form a committee. Other wards chairs do it because it because that is the job of a co chair.