[UPDATE: Due to a scheduling conflict at the John A. Wilson Building, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club announced Dec. 19 that its “special meeting” to discuss the Dec. 3 executive board election results has been relocated to One Judiciary Square. The 7 p.m. meeting will be held on the 11th floor of the building, located at 441 4th St. NW.]
In the wake of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s Dec. 3 executive board elections, members of the newly elected slate are alleging that adhering to the legal advice given to the club’s incumbent executive board regarding the validity of the results would violate the club’s bylaws.
Initially, advice requested by the incumbent executive board of Donald R. Dinan – counsel for the DC Democratic State Party, an organization of which the Stein Club is an affiliate – suggested that the inability to confirm the addresses and incomes of several members who joined in the week preceding the elections disqualified those people from voting. Because the margin of victory was smaller than the number of contested voters, Dinan recommended invalidating the election results and holding a new set of elections for the office of president, vice president for legislative and political affairs and vice president for administration.
But in a letter sent Monday to Jerome Hunt, Stein’s current vice president for administration, attorney Joseph E. Sandler of Sandler, Reiff, Young and Lamb P.C., who is representing newly elected officers Martin Garcia, Angela Peoples and Vincent Villano, told Hunt that a suggestion to invalidate the election results has ”no legal basis whatsoever.”
According to Sandler’s letter, the bylaws of the Stein Club, D.C.’s largest LGBT political club, provide that ”membership shall be open to all people who are interested in furthering LGBT involvement in the political process.” Sandler also reasoned that the bylaws allow people to purchase membership at any point, effective immediately.
”Nothing in the Dinan memorandum suggests in any way that any of the 17 new members whose votes are being questioned failed to pay dues for the current calendar year or is not interested in furthering LGBT involvement in the political process,” Sandler wrote. He further stated, as other Stein members have pointed out in recent days, that there is no requirement for a member to reside within the District.
Sandler also took issue to a suggestion of attempts to confirm ages, educational backgrounds or income status of six particular members who are alleged to have taken advantage of discounted memberships offered to students, senior citizens and low-income people, pointing out there is nothing in the club’s bylaws defining ”limited income.”
Sandler concluded, ”… [I]t is important for the executive board and the membership to recognize that the Stein Club is not free to ignore its own bylaws, or to make up new rules not found in the bylaws, to the detriment of certain members, whenever it seems convenient to do so.” He furthered that legal precedent would find that the bylaws of an organization constitute a contractual agreement, and that his clients’ position is that invalidating the election results would ”be a flagrant violation by the Stein Club of its own bylaws.”
Sandler also requested Hunt provide club members with copies of his letter prior to a ”special meeting” scheduled to take place Wednesday, Dec. 19, to discuss the election results.
Hunt has confirmed receipt the letter and says it will be distributed to club members through Tuesday.
Sandler’s letter was delivered to Hunt one day after incumbent Stein President Lateefah Williams announced she was removing her name from consideration for re-election in order to allow the club to unify and move forward. She said she would defer to members at the Dec. 19 meeting as to whether the results of the executive elections should be invalidated. That meeting will be held in Room 120 of the John Wilson Building, at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, at 7 p.m.
In a follow-up interview with Metro Weekly, Garcia and his fellow slate members restated their position that invalidating the results would ”fly in the face of the values and principles of the Stein Club” and expressed hope that Wednesday’s meeting will not be a contentious affair.
Peoples said the incoming executive officers do not want to institute sweeping or restrictive changes that might frustrate new members from joining and participating. “We want everyone to feel welcome at Stein,” she said, “whether they’ve been there three hours or 30 years.”
[Editor's note: As originally posted, this story misattributed the final quote to Garcia, rather than Peoples.]