Was the Ben Franklin Democratic Club 11th City Council Forum Biased For One Candidate?
By Robert Press
There were questions about last week's candidates forum by the Ben Franklin Democratic Club, as to why there was no media invited to observe the online 11th City Council forum. There were seventy-five of the hundreds of members of the Ben Franklin Democratic Club including all currently announced of the seven candidates, two of whom are members of the club.
The seven candidates went in this order. First was Abigail Martin, then Jessica Haller, Dan Padernacht, Marcos Sierra, Mino Lora, Eric Dinowitz, and Carlton Berkley. Each candidate was given a total of five minutes to speak, including answering questions.
After the forum was completed the club president went into club business. He said that the Executive Committee voted to give the President the power to, in consultation with those deemed necessary to devise a substitute procedure of election of club officers, members at large of the executive committee, endorsement of candidates for public office, and party caucus. It will include candidate nominations, candidate presentations, securing ballots, casting ballots, and counting ballots. This is being done due to COVID-19 to insure personal safety, encourage participation, provide transparency and fairness, protect ballot secrecy, and be affordable to the organization.
In viewing the campaign financial statements we have found the following we must call into question. There are contributions from Bruce Feld on 8/29/2018 and 7/18/2019, and contributions from Ben Franklin Club President Mike Heller and his wife on 9/2/2018 and on 7/9/2019 to 11th City Council candidate Eric Dinowitz. Eric Dinowitz was a participant in the Ben Franklin Club 11th City Council forum moderated by Mike Heller and the timekeeper was Bruce Feld. There was no announcement of such contributions to one of the candidates during the forum, and the next filing is not due until mid January for the July 2020 - January 2021 contributions. Mr. Heller and Mr. Feld should recuse themselves from any matters involving the 11th City Council election be it special election or a regular primary.
The contributions of Ben Franklin Club President Mike Heller and his wife to the campaign of Eric Dinowitz for City Council 2021