The normally routine re-charter process broke down last week after BYD refused to turn over membership information to Kings County Democratic Party Committee (KCDC) Chair Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn (AD-42).
The breakdown follows a year of public disputes between KCDC and the 10-year-old youth arm.
The biennial renewal of the youth arm’s charter is normally uneventful, requiring a page-long party-signed certification be sent to New York State Young Democrats. But unlike previous years, KCDC requested BYD provide extensive information on governance.
Bichotte Hermelyn wanted to see more information on BYD’s membership, finances and other details before signing off on recertification of the party’s official youth wing, citing “complaints about their leadership and operations.” BYD said it had provided adequate information in a 120-page long document, but it would not give out membership details citing confidentiality.
Both sides told BK Reader there had been no new discussions to resolve the standoff.
“There is a process set out and we are following it,” BYD spokesman Abe Silberstein told BK Reader.
What’s behind the dispute?
NYSYD officially recharters all young Democratic organizations in the state every two years. It’s a two-step process that involves the local youth clubs providing the proper paperwork and the county chair signing off on recertification.
On March 19, Bichotte Hermelyn announced in a statement that she moved to de-charter BYD for refusing to provide the proper paperwork and would no longer recognize the club as its official young Democratic chapter.
“In accordance with the recertification rules, they are barred from continued representation of the party. We cannot charter an organization that has not shared with us their membership, rules, finances or policies,” the party chair said.
“Their refusal to comply with an open inspection is a major concern for the Democratic Party which has already received complaints about their leadership and operations.”
According to the Democratic youth club, KCDC wanted documentation on BYD’s club structure, board members, endorsement history, membership, club rules, public finance disclosure reports – more information than previous county chairs requested.
BYD’s Executive Board said it submitted a 120-page document, saying it had “gone above and beyond” to comply with the county party’s demand for information.
However, BYD declined to reveal its membership’s personal information, such as addresses and phone numbers because it considered those details confidential and unnecessary for recertification.
In a public statement on the dispute, BYD said: “Despite conflicts that have arisen in the past year, BYD expressed our willingness to put such issues behind us and embark on a cooperative and productive relationship with the county party.”
The statement continued: “Instead of living up to its commitment to be inclusive of all voices across the Democratic Party, and continuing our dialogue in good faith, KCDC has sought to leverage our charter paperwork in order to obtain member information that is confidential and private.”
A difficult relationship
Critics of BYD say there’s a “nepotism and patronage” problem in the youth arm, pointing to news reports in December 2020 about BYD’s endorsement of Doug Schneider for City Council in the 39th District, which placed him in a strong position to win the upcoming Democratic primary.
But the issue goes both ways, with Bichotte Hermelyn recently endorsing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for mayor, while her husband consults on his campaign.
Some of the dispute is also personal. In April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, Das and John Wasserman, the former BYD president, alleged that the Brooklyn Democratic Party removed their names from the June 2020 ballot for judicial delegates in retaliation for pushing back against a party leader who demanded they collect more ballot signatures.
Unlike its parent party, BYD leans sharply toward electing “progressive candidates” in the growing divide between old school Democrats and party reformers. BYD says it is working to help build a local party that is inclusive and transparent, and it has received support from some outside political players, including mayoral candidate and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Make a Donation
BK Reader is brought to you for free daily. Please consider supporting independent local news by making a donation here. Whether it is $1 or $100, no donation is too big or too small!