NOTE: Over the next week or two, I will be doing some research on Stephen Bittel. I have already started looking at hacked DNC emails, but I will be looking further into his activities, as well as Mr. Berlin’s activities. Stay tuned.
For many of us who follow the activities of the Florida Democratic Party, we have been suspicious of those running the party for some time. Shady deals seem to always be in the works, such as questionable proxy votes in the last race for FDP Chair, which gave us Allison Tant. However, the recent events in Miami-Dade County should be something that is seriously investigated.
As many of you may know, Brett Berlin resigned as the Miami-Dade State Committeeman to, one assumes, make way for Stephen Bittel to become the next Florida Democratic Party Chair. Bittel, who is (or was) Chairman of Terranova Corporation, a firm that has ties to Chinese investment firms and hedge fund managers, as well as others who seek to make money off of the Florida Democratic Party, will continue to move the Florida Democratic Party down the road that has led it to defeat after defeat with each passing election. The Observer also wrote a bit about Bittel as well, which is a must-read regarding the possible future chair.
Over the past few days, Stacey Patel, new chair of the Brevard County DEC, has made an extremely valid point. In her petition to the FDP, she states that Brett Berlin was not eligible to hold the position of State Committeeman. In her petition, she states the following:
Miami-Dade’s bylaws state that “Elected Membership shall be composed of one (1) man and one (1) woman who shall be elected from each of the election precincts at the first Primary election in a Presidential election year. Should the Democratic registration of any precinct total more than one-thousand (1,000) as of January 1 of a year in which qualifying for election to the County Executive Committee occurs, an additional one (1) man and one (1) woman are entitled to be elected to represent all such precincts.” In addition, the bylaws state that “the officers shall be elected from the Elected Membership at the Organization meeting.”
As of January 4, 2016, according to the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections website, the number of registered Democratic voters in precinct 579, where Berlin ran for precinct committeeman, was 896. According to both Miami-Dade DEC bylaws, and FDP bylaws, this would mean only one (1) Elected Member should be eligible to be elected from the precinct. According again to the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections website, Antonio Javier Diaz got the most votes in precinct 579, with a total of 84 votes, while Berlin came in second with 80 votes.
If, in fact, only one Elected Member should have been allocated to precinct 579, as seems to be the case based on SOE records, Bret Berlin was not eligible to run for State Committeeman according to Miami-Dade’s own bylaws which state that “the officers shall be elected from Elected Membership.” In this case, we believe the most equitable resolution would be to repeat the election with candidates Dwight Bullard and Manuel Gutierrez, who originally challenged Berlin for the position from the floor, by an election of only those voters who would have been eligible at the commencement of the original organizational meeting.
If Berlin was not eligible to be a precinct committeeman, thus making his position of State Committeeman illegitimate, any actions taken by Berlin at the DEC reorganization meeting would be null and void, including any motions that he put forward at the meeting.
As of now, it does not seem like the Florida Democratic Party is going to be looking into the matter. If the FDP does not look into this matter, others need to finally step up and say that enough is enough!
This move by the Miami-Dade DEC to allow Brett Berlin to sit on the DEC, and then allowing him to run for State Committeeman appears nothing more than a collusive effort to hand over the Florida Democratic Party to an individual who did not qualify for the position in the first place. Furthermore, DEC Chair Juan Cuba either was unaware of Berlin’s ineligibility, which makes one wonder if he is capable of being the chair, or was involved with the collusion.
The actions by the Miami-Dade DEC can be seen as corruption. I do not mean that in a figurative sense, but in a technical and legal sense (though I am not a lawyer). The inaction by the Florida Democratic Party in investigating the Miami-Dade issue shows that there might be further collusion between Miami-Dade Democrats and the state party to favor a candidate that should not be eligible to hold any position in the party. Either way, the only way to move forward is for there to be legal action against the Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee.
Unfortunately, legal action against the Miami-Dade Democrats (not a petition) is the only way to stop Mr. Bittel. The only way that we can determine that Mr. Bittel is eligible to run for any Democratic Party position is by having a court of law determine whether he is eligible to hold the office. In addition, other Democrats in the state need to file cease and desist orders to stop the Miami-Dade DEC from conducting any business until questions about both Berlin’s and Bittel’s legitimacy on that board have been clearly defined by a court of law (though again, I am not a lawyer). Yes, any legal battle might mean that the votes for Miami-Dade State committeeman might not be counted when it is time to elect a new Florida Democratic Party chair, but that is the price that needs to be paid to beat out corruption in the party.