Political cub rejects olive branch and resumes fighting

This year’s Downtown Independent Democrats election is starting to look a lot like last year’s — complete with shouting matches, political maneuvering and allegations of packing the club.

Some of the characters have changed in the past year — with the extension of term limits, it’s now City Councilmember Alan Gerson who some are accusing of trying to control the club, rather than former Council hopeful Julie Menin — but the level of infighting looked about the same when D.I.D. met last Sunday night to nominate officers for an upcoming club election. Before the nominations even started, the club spent half an hour arguing over whether president Sean Sweeney had given enough notice of the meeting and whether an e-mail counts as written notice.

Finally, the club voted to do the nominations and started with the office of president, according to several attendees. No one nominated an opponent for Sweeney, so the club moved on to nominating its vice presidents. But in the midst of that, someone called out, “Zella Jones for president!”

A heated discussion ensued over whether it was too late to accept additional nominations for president. The club ultimately voted not to reopen the floor, leaving Sweeney to run unopposed. Not dissuaded, Jones’s supporters nominated her for one of the vice president positions, where she will face current veeps Marc Ameruso and Jim Stratton, along with new candidate Bill Love.

Sweeney, a sharp critic of Gerson, thinks Jones tried to unseat him because she supports Gerson, who faces re-election in the fall. Jones said her last-minute thought of running had nothing to do with Gerson. She said she’s concerned about the club’s lack of openness and wanted Sweeney to have an opponent. Gerson did not return a call seeking comment.

The rest of the nominations finished without incident. Treasurer Jeanne Wilcke will run unopposed, and current secretary Diane Stein will face a challenge from Community Board 1’s Noel Jefferson.

A final tense moment at the meeting came when Sweeney refused to accept an overture from Maria Passanante Derr, the former Community Board 2 chairperson who is challenging Council Speaker Christine Quinn for her seat this fall. Derr extended an olive branch to Sweeney and the rest of the club — literally, though Sweeney said it looked more like forsythia — but Sweeney rejected it, citing a feud that dates back several years to the aftermath of a C.B. 2 election. Still, District Leader Jean Grillo accepted the branch, which Derr got from a local florist, and some applauded Derr’s efforts at reconciliation.

— Julie Shapiro