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Zellner Chairmanship Challenged

A show cause order was filed today in State Supreme Court, questioning the recent election of Jeremy Zellner as chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee. The lawsuit is being brought by Frank C. Max, Jr. (Chairman of the Town of Cheektowaga Democratic Committee; Daniel S. McParlane (Chairman of the Town of West Seneca Democratic Committee); and John F. Fracos (City of Buffalo Democratic Zone Chairman Zone 21).

Respondents include Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner and Secretary of the Erie County Democratic Committee Dennis E. Ward; Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr; former Erie County Democratic Chair Leonard Lenihan; The Erie County Democratic Committee; “purported” Chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee Jeremy Zellner; and David A. Rivera, Betty Jean Grant, James Connolly, Robert E. Brown, Molly McLaughlin, Gayle Syposs, Dennis Ward, and Ivory L. Payne, Jr.—in their official capacities as officers of the Erie County Democratic Committee.

A court date has been set for Thursday, October 11, at 9:30am, with Hon. M. William Boller, J.S.C., presiding. Correction: Hon. Diane Y. Devlin is scheduled to hear the case.

The show cause order calls for a new election, among other things, claiming an unlawful redistricting process that created “two classes of committee members, those whose districts were altered and those whose districts were not altered.” It boils down to the issue of weighted votes.

Click here to read the court papers. Check out Exhibit B, which illustrates under-represented voters throughout the county. Cheektowaga is under-represented by 43%; West Seneca by 71%. In the city of Buffalo, the South district is under-represented by 54%.

And check out Exhibit E, which is simply this Artvoice story.



  • trobbflo

    I’ve followed these events closely and I believe there are only a few small matters to be added to the thread of your commentary and the allegations made in the filing. The abberations in election district boundaries within the City of Buffalo are direct and foreseeable consequences of the redistricting scheme adopted by the Buffalo Common Council and Erie County Board of Elections (BOE) in 2011. It was apparent that the adopted scheme was designed to lead to further mischief apart from the immediate disenfranchisement of a sizable number of voters and/or potential candidates. A series of subsequent amendments to city election districts were made without: publication of the changes made, maps of the purported districts, registration changes required by law and/or compliance with appropriate statutes. The Board of Elections employee tasked with making these changes was selected as Chairman of the City of Buffalo Zone Association (City Chair) in an election of the Erie County Democratic Committee (ECDC) Executive Committee that was not based on ‘weighted vote’. In fact, a number of the rules adopted in the confusion following last Saturday’s disputed vote for ECDC Chairman dispense with the requirement for a ‘weighted vote’ in the Executive Committee’s proceedings. This raises an interesting point; since the party’s rules do not explicitly provide for a ‘weighted vote’ for the Chairman position, but merely for a “majority of the votes cast”. It may be argued that the ‘weighted vote’ requirement is implicit in Election Law 2-104 but there are a number of instances where the party rules dictate outcomes based on the majority of those present voting, and, indeed that is the requirement for foregoing the secret ballot process at the reorganization meeting. Where ‘weighted voting’ is called for within the party rules, there is explicit directive as to what the ‘weight’ should be. Notwithstanding the merit of the charges made in the subject lawsuit, the entire process is subject to abuse and undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process. The judiciary, in particular, are vulnerable to perceptions of political influence where the process of their selection is dependent upon the integrity of the party political process. The election district is the most fundamental unit of  the electoral process in N.Y. state. The 2 committee persons elected within that district are integral (yup)  to the integrity of that system. Where, as here, a person that is an employee of the BOE and an employee of the ECDC files petitions on behalf of over 500 persons with the BOE, one has to question the ability of the BOE to remain above partisan manipulation of the system. This may seem a little complex or the terms a little technical but really it is not a complex matter. People need to be aware of when they are being ‘gamed’ and when they are not – the stakes are way too high for citizens to continue to ignore their civic responsibilities. We can change these systems and their outcomes. This argument isn’t about personalities or factions, its about process and how to keep personalities or factions from becoming entrenched unfairly in our most fundamental political processes.

    • Can’t you just boil this down into a simple sound bite?     Us po’ white folk don’ understand all these big words.

      • trobbflo

        Stated briefly:
        1. The manipulation of Election District [ED]boundaries and votes within the city was the inevitable outcome of the gerrymandered Common Council redistricting process.
        2. The rules of the Erie County Democratic Committee [ECDC] do not explicitly authorize and/or require ‘weighted vote’ for the vote for Chairman – the outcome is to be determined by ‘the majority of the votes cast’
        3. Where ECDC rules call for a ‘weighted vote’ they detail the source and the ‘weight’ of the vote
        4. Argument can be made that ‘weighted vote’ is required by Election Law 2-104, however many internal votes of ECDC are made by a majority vote of those present – indeed, rule changes enacted Saturday 9/30/12 eliminated ‘weighted vote’ for Executive Committee and other votes
        5. Staff of the Erie County Board of Elections (BOE) that hold high office within their respective political parties and/or are employees of their parties were engaged in activities that may compromise the perception of the BOE as objective and non-partisan, i.e. the drawing of Election District boundaries, the filing of petitions on behalf of hundreds of committee-person candidates and the certification (or non-certification) of committee election results prior to balloting.
        6. If white folks are po’ and they control the jobs and patronage of these esteemed public agencies [check the record son] then what hope is there for the rest of us trickle down folks

  • Can anyone remember when the last time was that I rigged an election?      This must be part of the new ECDC youth movement.     I guess I’m just too old for prime time.

  • This must be what Frank Max’s promised “unity” looks like. 

  • TrueDem

    anyone with a law license and a book and $350 can tie up the courts, nice

    • Good point. What have Frank Max and those in his corner done recently to promote Brian Higgins’ campaign against tea party activist Madigan, or Kathy Hochul’s race where she’s tied with the horrible Chris Collins? Hey! Let’s bring a lawsuit over picayune inside baseball shit! That’ll help Kathy!

      The whole thing underscores that the rejection of Max was objectively good.

      • TrueDem

        I have to start checking gmail more often . just saw this and thanks for the response. Hear Max and McPharlane are going to have a GOTV rally. In the meatime, court case is adjourned to Dec per Makowski request. Guess when he got response and saw some real law he needed time to figure it out.

  • TrueDem

    In the meantime Zellner is there working his a—- off to elect Democrats. Such a good point about what it shows. What do you think, has this action gotten the Gov’s blessing since Frank was so close to them have to assume he isn’t doing this without their approval,
    Oh I forgot, the Gov wants Grisanti

  • Geoff Kelly

    A note: The comments left on this post by Jason for some reason were caught up in our spam filter; I just happened upon them and have approved them for posting. So, Jason, FYI: They were not deleted. No idea how or why they wound up in spam.