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Democratic Club Loses Charter for Stance on Recall

September 10, 1987|JEFFREY MILLER | Times Staff Writer

The United Democratic Club of Monterey Park waged a campaign for its life Tuesday night and lost in a landslide.

At an appeal hearing in downtown Los Angeles, the executive committee of the county Democratic Party's Central Committee voted, 17 to 5, not to renew the club's charter on the grounds that it had supported a Republican candidate in a June recall election and had permitted Republicans to join.

The vote upheld a decision by the 59th Assembly District Democratic Committee, which voted in July not to renew the United Democratic Club's charter after the group joined with the Monterey Park Republican Club to oppose the recall of City Council members Patricia Reichenberger, a Democrat, and Barry L. Hatch, a Republican.

Reasons Detailed

But after refusing to renew the club's charter Tuesday, the executive committee passed a conciliatory resolution calling on the county central committee to try to resolve its differences with the club and permit those who had been in the club to reapply for a charter in 90 days.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 13, 1987 Home Edition San Gabriel Valley Part 9 Page 2 Column 1 Zones Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
In a photo caption accompanying a story Thursday on the decision not to renew the United Democratic Club of Monterey Park's charter, Irving Willner was described as arguing in favor of renewal. Willner was opposed to renewal of the club's charter.

In pleading their case to the committee, members of the club argued that they had opposed the recall on the principle that elected officials should not be removed from office without just cause. Hence, they had not actually endorsed a Republican candidate.

"We felt that this was an abuse of the electoral system," group member Joseph Rubin told the executive committee. "If supporting the electoral system is wrong just because it elects Republicans once in a while, then I'm afraid we're going to plead guilty to that."

However, the majority of the executive committee sided with representatives of the 59th Assembly District Democratic Committee, who said the matter was a cut-and-dried violation of the county Democratic Central Committee's bylaws.

Bylaw Section Quoted

Craig Athon, chairman of the 59th Assembly District Democratic Caucus Committee, quoted the section of the bylaws stating that among the offenses for which Democratic clubs can lose their charters is "the endorsement of a non-Democrat for elective office." He added, "It doesn't give any exceptions whatsoever."

Another of the club's principal accusers was Irving Willner, president of the rival Monterey Park Democratic Club, who charged the group with "trying to subvert the electorate."

Willner was particularly riled by a newspaper ad placed jointly by the United Democratic Club and the Monterey Park Republican Club which proclaimed, "Democrats and Republicans agree" to oppose the recall. The Monterey Park Democratic Club remained neutral in the recall effort.

"By purporting to speak for all Monterey Park Democrats, this ad is a model of dishonesty and deception," Willner said. "The only people who agreed 'no' on recall were a handful of Democrats and the arch-conservative Republican club."

Rubin responded that the recall was opposed by 62% of Monterey Park voters.

The executive committee also agreed that the group had violated the section of the bylaws which requires clubs to have at least 20 members, none of whom may be Republicans. Of the 20 names submitted with the club's application for charter, Athon said, two were Republicans.

Club members said they had assumed both applicants were Democrats. One of the Republicans listed was Reichenberger, who--after being a Republican for three months--changed her registration in March. The other was Gary Gee, whom club members said never paid dues or participated actively in the group.

Valid Signatures Cited

To this assertion, Athon replied, "The United Democrats say, 'Well, he was never a member of our club.' Well, if you can count you'll notice that doesn't give them 20 signatures. . . . So they did not submit a valid application."

After the hearing, Terry De Wolfe, a member and former president of the club, expressed his disappointment.

"I'm one of those naive souls who go around believing there's justice," he said. "I guess I'm not pragmatic enough to know how these political things work . . . It seemed that the outcome was predisposed, but they didn't want to confront the substantive issue, so they came up with a technical violation."

De Wolfe said his group was the victim of political machinations by former club officers John R. Gerlach and Marilyn Houseman, who quit the United Democratic Club a few months ago in protest of its position on the recall. Gerlach and Houseman initiated the complaints that led the 59th Assembly District committee to take action against the club, he said.

After the vote opposing renewal of the club's charter was tallied from a show of hands, some club members vented their anger at the executive committee, branding the proceedings "a witch hunt."

'Attempt to Dump Us'

"This in an inquisition," Rubin said. " . . . It's an attempt to dump us."

Rubin's charge was rebuffed by executive committee member Richard Santell.

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