Add another wrinkle to the controversy over the recent Gertrude Stein Democratic Club elections.
With a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 19, where members of the city’s largest LGBT political organization are expected to vote whether to invalidate the executive board elections held Dec. 3, the group’s incumbent president, Lateefah Williams, announced Sunday she was ending her re-election bid by removing her name from consideration.
In a letter emailed to Stein Club members and posted on the group’s Facebook page, Williams said she was grateful for the support she received in her bid for re-election, but also expressed concern about the future of the club and the need for members to move forward as a unified organization that will work on behalf of the District’s LGBT community.
”While the decision to hold the special meeting and to possibly invalidate the election results is, and always has been, a different matter than my candidacy, I want to state my intentions unequivocally, so that it’s clear that any decision that is made by the membership at the special meeting should be made independent of me,” Williams wrote.
The results of the executive board elections – which saw Williams and two other members of her slate, Jon Mandel and Hassan Naveed, lose to a rival slate consisting of President-elect Martin Garcia, Angela Peoples and Vincent Villano – have been challenged by several Stein Club members who questioned the eligibility of at least 17 individuals, out of a total of 46 newer members, all of whom joined the club a few days ahead of the Dec. 3 elections.
The challenge to the election results is largely based on the inability of the club to confirm that the voter rolls were accurate prior to the elections. Some contesting the results took issue with the inability of the club to confirm the addresses of 11 individuals who recently joined. Challengers also questioned whether six individuals who purchased a lower-rate ”special membership” were eligible for such a discount when paying club dues.
Following the challenges, members of the executive board sought legal advice from Donald R. Dinan of Roetzel & Anderss, a lawyer who serves as counsel for the D.C. Democratic State Committee, of which the Stein Club is an affiliate.
Dinan opined that any members who misrepresented their income status or provided an incorrect address would be disqualified, and recommended that the election results be invalidated. Other incumbent officers called for the Dec. 19 meeting to have club members vote on whether the Dec. 3 results should be invalidated.
But several Stein members, including members of the newly elected executive board, counter that Dinan’s opinion is not based on the group’s bylaws, which neither provide criteria for determining what is ”low-income” nor require members provide the club a current address. Still others contended that the Dec. 19 meeting violates the group’s bylaws, because it was not announced at least two weeks in advance.
In addressing several of these contentions, Williams wrote, ”The Executive Board is trying its very best to be fair and responsive in addressing member challenges, while ensuring that anyone who may be impacted is allowed due process. It is a difficult matter, as contested elections and challenges have not been contemplated by the Stein Club in the past, so the bylaws offer no guidance for appropriate procedure.”
Williams also sought to clarify the ambiguity of the bylaws regarding a special meeting, saying that the executive board reads the bylaws to say that there is no required two-week waiting period prior to a special meeting if notice of the meeting is sent out by mail or email, but that such a time period does exist if the special meeting is announced at a regularly scheduled club meeting. Williams said previous executive officers for the club confirmed that this understanding was the case.
”… [T]he executive board decided to give one (1) week notice in an attempt to provide reasonable notice, yet not to have the meeting in the week after Christmas when participation may be more limited,” Williams wrote. ”It was always the executive board’s objective to conduct this process in accordance with the bylaws and the spirit of their intention.”
Williams wrote that regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting, she hopes that the club will unify and focus on advocating effectively on behalf of the District’s LGBT community.
The special meeting to uphold or overturn the Dec. 3 election results will be held Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. in Room 120 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.