The Letter by the Six Candidates

December 21, 2020

Six City Council Candidates Withdraw From The

Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club’s

City Council Endorsement Process

Bronx, New York – Today, six of seven City Council candidates withdrew from the endorsement process of the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club for the expected 11th City Council District special election in March 2021.

In recent weeks, it was revealed that the club’s Executive Committee had authorized club President Michael Heller to change the club’s election procedures for endorsements and for club elections without first seeking input or agreement from club members. Following pushback, the procedure was changed in a rushed vote, violating the club’s own bylaws.

Under the system advanced by the Club President, Ben Franklin Club members wishing to vote on endorsements for the upcoming presumed special election are required to request a ballot and then mail their vote to the Club Secretary with the sender’s information on the outside of the ballot. It is unknown who will have access to the ballots or who will count the ballots.

Inconsistently, BFRDC leadership simultaneously advanced the postponement of its own leadership elections indefinitely, claiming that it could not safely hold an election for its officers and executive committee members.

Both measures violated the Club’s by-laws.

The City Council candidates sent a letter of withdrawal today to Michael Heller, the Club’s President. The withdrawal signals that they do not condone the undemocratic methods used to establish an unfounded and insecure voting process to produce an endorsement in a special election. The candidates urged the club to restore its commitment to democracy by abolishing the special election endorsement for the New York City Council in the 11th District and focusing its energy on its own transition of power.

The six candidates who are announcing their withdrawal for consideration of the endorsement today are: Carlton Berkley, Jessica Haller, Mino Lora, Abigail Martin, Dan Padernacht and Marcos Sierra. These candidates have been actively participating in the Benjamin Franklin Club’s endorsement process before these revelations came to light, including taking part in a candidates’ forum held by the club on November 24th.

At the time of this release, Eric Dinowitz has not confirmed his participation in the joint statement.

We don’t choose if and when we are going to abide by the rules of a democratic process. It’s important to shine a light on the improper actions of groups that have an impact on the electoral process in our community.” – Dan Padernacht

“These actions raise serious concerns regarding the integrity of the Ben Franklin Club’s Executive Committee, who has abandoned the democratic process to make decisions on behalf of its members. The actions by the Ben Franklin club make it clear that our community needs new leadership.” -Abigail Martin

“The President of the club said that this situation is like ‘fixing the engine while flying the plane.” I’ve been in those situations, this is not that. This is more like ignoring red-engine light until the night before you need the car. I refuse to participate in a sham process and find it both ironic and unfortunate that the ‘Reformed Democratic’ club fails to recognize that its own absurd rules are in dire need of democratic reforms, and the community in dire need of new voices.” -Jessica Haller

“It is disappointing that in a democratic society, especially in today’s environment, there seem to be elements in this race that are intent on swaying the outcome of this process. I stand in solidarity with my fellow candidates to speak out against changes that are not supported by the full BFDRC membership.” -Marcos Sierra

“I support the BFRDC members who object to the executive committee’s unauthorized suspension of their bylaws. As these actions are in direct conflict with my progressive values, I am not seeking BFRDC’s endorsement under these circumstances.”- Mino Lora

Candidate Carlton Berkley gave no comment.

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