RULES For the Governance of the Democratic Party of Columbia County, New York
Adopted by the County Committee March 21 2006
Article I: General Provisions
/. Official Organization The Columbia County Democratic Committee (hereinafter "County Committee") is the official organization of the Democratic Party in Columbia County (the "County") pursuant to Article 2 of the New York State Election Law ("Election Law"). Except as limited by law or by these rules, the affairs of the Democratic Party in Columbia County shall be vested in the County Committee.
2. Mission of County Committee
The mission of the County Committee, for which these rules are drawn, is to promote and establish Democratic principles and programs in the County, the State of New York, and the United States, and to provide the best possible government for the people of the County, the State of New York, and the United States.
3. Purpose of Rules
In furtherance of the County Committee's mission, the purpose of these rules is to inspire and encourage leadership of the Democratic Party in Columbia County; to recruit the greatest number of Democrats to participate in the affairs of the Democratic Party in Columbia County; to ensure the continuing success of the Democratic Party in Columbia County, New York State and the United States; and to provide an orderly and democratic way to carry on the business of the party.
The County Committee shall not discriminate on the basis of age, color, creed, disability, ethnic identification, national origin, race, religion, gender or gender preference.
Article II: The Columbia County Democratic Committee
The County Committee shall be constituted by the election in each election district of the County of two members, each of whom shall be an enrolled member of the Democratic Party residing within the assembly district in which the election district he or she represents is located. Committee members shall be elected biennially for terms of two years at the primary election in odd-numbered years, each such term beginning at the commencement of the biennial organization meeting immediately following said primary election and ending immediately before the next biennial organization meeting, unless sooner terminated pursuant to these rules. The Secretary shall give all new County Committee members an orientation package promptly after their election, which shall include, but not be limited to, a copy of these rules.
2. Responsibilities of Members
The responsibilities of a member of the County Committee include the following:
a. Attend County Committee meetings;
b. Serve on at least one standing committee or task force;
c. Carry designating petitions and campaign for candidates in general elections;
d. Help organize Democrats in one's town or city—including registering voters, finding and training volunteers, raising funds, recruiting candidates, and supporting those candidates' campaigns for office.
e. Serve as a liaison between the County Committee and one's town or city committee.
3. Removal from Office
Pursuant to Section 2-116 of the Election Law, a County Committee member may be removed from office for disloyalty to the party or corruption in office after notice is given and a hearing upon written charges has been held. This hearing shall be held by the County Committee or a subcommittee thereof appointed for such purpose, which shall report its findings to the full committee.
4. Filling of Vacancies
a. The resignation of any member will be accepted by the Chair of the County Committee (and promptly communicated to the Town Chair) only if it is unconditional and in writing (including email). Any resignation will be deemed effective upon receipt by the Chair, unless a later date is specified in the resignation, not to exceed thirty days from the date of its communication. Resignation of a member elected in a primary election cannot be accepted until after election of the officers at the biennial organization meeting immediately following that primary election. Vacancies on the County Committee shall be filled by the County Committee in accordance with the written recommendation of a majority of the County Committee members from the town or city in which the vacancy exists, provided that such members act within ninety days of the seat becoming vacant. After ninety days, the County Committee may, after providing ten days written notice to the town or city committee, elect to fill the vacancy with an enrolled member of the Democratic Party in accordance with applicable residency requirements. Members appointed to fill vacancies shall serve for the remainder of the replaced member's term.
b. In the event that the boundaries of election districts change or a new district is created within an existing district, the County Committee members from that town or city shall by majority vote determine which members shall represent which new or reconfigured districts and which districts shall have vacancies filled by County Committee appointments as described above.
5. Regular Meetings
By January 1 of each year, the Executive Committee shall determine and distribute by first-class mail to each County Committee member the dates and times of the regular County Committee meetings for that year. These regular meetings shall be held at least six times per year, beginning each year with an annual operating meeting in January (see Section 10) and including in odd-numbered years a biennial organizational meeting within twenty days alter the party primary election (see Section 9). Any change in the date or time of a regular meeting must be communicated to each County Committee member by first-class mail sent at least one week prior to the new date of the meeting.
The Chair or the Executive Committee by majority vote may call special meetings of the County Committee. Additionally, special meetings may be called by County Committee members when at least twenty members sign a petition calling for such a meeting. In such cases, the Secretary shall call the meeting for the time and place designated in the petition, and the members of the County Committee who are present at such meeting shall select a chair for the meeting. The date location and agenda of any special meeting must be communicated by the Secretary to each County Committee member by first-class mail sent at least two weeks prior to the meeting.
The quorum for the transaction of business of the County Committee shall be the presence at the meeting of one-third of the members of the County Committee. No business of the County Committee shall be transacted in the absence of a quorum.
8. Manner of Acting
a. Unless otherwise specified herein, the County Committee shall act according to the majority weighted vote of its members, provided that only members in attendance may vote and that a quorum is present. In deciding all questions, each County Committee member attending the meeting shall cast a number of votes equal to one half of the total number of votes recorded in his or her election district for the Democratic candidate for governor on the Democratic line in the most recent gubernatorial election.
b. In the event that the boundaries of an election district are changed or a new election district is created, and until the certification of votes of the next gubernatorial election, the number of votes to be cast by each County Committee member from a new or altered election district shall be determined by reallocating the total votes recorded for the Democratic candidate on the Democratic line in the most recent gubernatorial election within the group of contiguous affected election districts in a town or city. Each such reallocation to new or altered election districts shall be in proportion to the number of enrolled members of the Democratic Party in each such election district as of the date of the precipitating change in election districts. Each member from such election districts may cast a vote equivalent to one half of the gubernatorial vote reallocated to that member's election district.
9. Biennial Organizational Meeting
Within twenty days of the party primary election in which its members are elected, the County Committee shall hold a biennial organizational meeting at which it shall, before conducting any other substantive business, elect a temporary chair to preside over the meeting until the election of the new Chair of the County Committee, after which the new Chair shall preside. It shall also elect a temporary secretary to record the minutes of the meeting until the election of a new Secretary, after which the new Secretary shall record the minutes. The County Committee shall then fill any vacancies on the County Committee (see Article II, Section 4), after which the County Committee shall elect its five new officers (see Article III). Each nominated and seconded candidate for office shall be given an equal period of time, of no less than three minutes, to make a statement, followed by a question and answer period of no less than five minutes, provided that there are sufficient questions. The outgoing Parliamentarian shall be the primary teller of all votes. Within three days after each biennial organizational meeting, the Secretary shall file with both the state and county boards of elections a certificate stating the names and mailing addresses of the new officers.
10. Annual Operating Meeting
Every January,the County Committee shall hold an annual operating meeting at which it shall:
a. Consider and take action on the long-term strategic plan presented by the First Vice Chair (see Article III, Section 2);
b. Consider and take action on the budget presented by the Second Vice Chair (see Article III, Section 2);
c. Receive a written accounting prepared by the Treasurer of the County Committee of the Committee's income and expenses for the past calendar year, including corresponding amounts previously budgeted (see Article III, Section 2); and
d. Elect chairs for all standing committees, except the Town Chairs Committee (see Article V, Section 4).
Article III: County Committee Officers
1. Enumeration, Means of Election, and Term of Office
The County Committee shall have five officers: Chair, First Vice Chair, Second Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. Each shall be elected by the County Committee at its biennial organizational meeting for a two-year term. Pursuant to Section 2-112 of the Election Law, all officers must be enrolled members of the Democratic Party, but need not be members of the County Committee. Each officer shall serve until the election of his or her successor, unless removed from office (see Section 4).
The duties of the officers shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
a. The Chair shall set the agenda for and preside at all meetings of the County Committee and of the Executive Committee and be ultimately responsible for assuring that the policies and programs of the County Committee are successfully implemented.
b. The First Vice Chair shall, in the absence or disability of the Chair, perform the duties of the Chair. The First Vice Chair shall also be responsible for the annual preparation of a multielection-cycle strategic plan, to be presented to the County Committee at least one month prior to, and for ratification at, its annual operating meeting.
c. The Second Vice Chair shall, in the absence or disability of the Chair and First Vice Chair, perform the duties of the Chair. The Second Vice Chair shall also be responsible for the annual preparation of a two-year budget, to be presented to the County Committee at least one month prior to, and for ratification at, its annual operating meeting.
d. The Secretary shall manage the list of County Committee members, prepare minutes for each meeting (to be distributed to County Committee members promptly after such meeting), and be responsible for notifying County Committee members of meetings in accordance with Article II, Sections 5 and 6. The Secretary shall additionally be responsible for the County Committee's official correspondence. The Secretary shall be an ex officio member of the Communications Committee.
e. The Treasurer shall be responsible for collecting, managing, and disbursing all County Committee income (subject to Article VI) and for preparing and filing all required government reports—including, but not limited to, the campaign finance filings required by the state and county boards of elections. The Treasurer shall be additionally responsible for preparing a written report to be distributed to all County Committee members in advance of each County Committee meeting. This report shall present income and expense details for the period since the last report was issued as well as summaries for the year to date, listing budgeted amounts for the same periods. The Treasurer shall also present a written full-year accounting to the County Committee at its annual operating meeting. The Treasurer shall be an ex officio member of the Fundraising Committee. The Treasurer shall also be responsible for educating town and city committees with regard to campaign finance filing requirements, monitoring their compliance and compiling an annual report thereof for distribution prior to the annual operating meeting.
With regard to officers other than Chair, the Executive Committee shall temporarily fill vacancies within thirty days of the offices becoming vacant. The full County Committee at its next meeting shall then elect new officers to fill such vacancies until the next biennial organizational meeting; it shall also at that meeting fill any vacancies created by the elevation of existing officers. With regard to the office of Chair, the First Vice Chair shall serve as Acting Chair until the next meeting of the County Committee, to be held within thirty days of the office of Chair becoming vacant. At that meeting, the County Committee shall elect a new Chair to serve until the next biennial organizational meeting; it shall also at that meeting fill any vacancies created by the elevation of existing officers.
Officers may be removed by a two-thirds vote of the County Committee, provided that notice of intention to remove an officer is given by first-class mail postmarked at least two weeks prior to the meeting at which such a vote will take place. Any group of at least twenty County Committee members may originate such notice, as provided in Article II, Section 6.
Article IV: The Executive Committee
1. Purpose, Powers, and Duties
The purpose of the Executive Committee shall be to provide coordination and leadership to the work of the County Committee and to act in the place of the County Committee between County Committee meetings. The Executive Committee shall have all the powers of the County Committee, except the power to revise these rules, to elect officers and standing committee chairs (except on an interim basis or as specifically provided for in these rules), and to endorse candidates on behalf of the County Committee for party or public office. The duties of the Executive Committee include, but are not limited to, the creation of annual written goals for each of the standing committees, to be presented to the committees before the annual operating meeting. The County Committee may by majority vote override any action taken by the Executive Committee.
a. The members of the Executive Committee shall be the five officers of the County Committee plus the chairs of the eight standing committees (see Article V, Section 2) and the eight District Representatives (see below). The District Representatives are to be chosen from eight districts constituted as follows:
District 1. City of Hudson
District 2. Town of Kinderhook
District 3. Town of Claverack
District 4. Towns of Chatham and Ghent
District 5. Towns of Greenport, Stockport and Stuyvesant
District 6. Towns of Austerlitz, Canaan, Hillsdale and New Lebanon
District 7. Towns of Copake, Ancram, Gallatin and Taghkanic
District 8. Towns of Clermont, Germantown and Livingston
b. The Chairman of the Hudson City Committee shall be the member for District 1. For all other districts, a majority of the members of the County Committee in each district will designate in writing by a certificate to be filed with the Secretary of the County Committee a member of the County Committee from their district to be their representative on the Executive Committee. The term of office of District Representatives on the Executive Committee shall expire upon either their ceasing to be members of the County Committee or the date of the biennial organizational meeting, unless sooner removed from office by majority vote of the County Committee members from the applicable district.
The Chair of the County Committee shall be the chair of the Executive Committee. The Secretary of the County Committee shall be the secretary of the Executive Committee. Minutes of Executive Committee meetings, prepared by the Secretary, shall be promptly provided to all County Committee members.
By January 1 of each year, the Chair shall determine and distribute by first-class mail or by email to each County Committee member the dates and times of the regular Executive Committee meetings for that year. Any change in the date or time of a regular meeting, or the addition of a special meeting, of the Executive Committee must be communicated to each County Committee member by first-class mail sent at least one week prior to the new date of the meeting. All County Committee members, whether or not they are members of the Executive Committee, shall be allowed to attend. If the Chair falls or refuses to call a special meeting of the Executive Committee at the request of an Executive Committee member, any six Executive Committee members may do so, provided that proper notice is given. At such a meeting, the members of the Executive Committee who are present shall select a chair for the meeting.
The quorum for the transaction of business of the Executive Committee shall be the presence at the meeting of one-third of the members of the Executive Committee. No business of the Executive Committee shall be transacted in the absence of a quorum.
6. Manner of Acting
The Executive Committee shall act according to the majority vole of those members in attendance, provided that a quorum is present, and provided further that no action shall be deemed taken without the affirmative vote of at least five members of the Executive Committee.
7. Emergency Action
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this Article IV, on an emergency basis, after giving actual notice to the full Executive Committee, the Executive Committee may meet on shorter notice than one week or may transact business and take action by written consent of a majority of the members of the full Executive Committee without convening a meeting.
Article V: Standing Committees
1. Purpose and Duties
The purpose of the standing committees is to manage and carry out the day-to-day work of the County Committee. The duty of each standing committee shall be to accomplish the goals provided by the Executive Committee (see Article IV, Section 1). Each standing committee may fulfill its goals as it sees fit, subject to review by the Executive Committee and the County Committee.
There shall be eight standing committee as follows:
a. Town Chairs, which shall be the County Committee's lead policymaking body, responsible for the development of the biennial County Committee platform;
b. Fundraising, which shall plan and conduct all fund-raising and donor-development activities;
c. Party Building, which shall provide information and logistical support to County Committee members and Town Chairs regarding party building, plan and conduct outreach efforts with regard to important party constituencies, develop the volunteer base, and facilitate the development of inspectors and poll watchers;
d. Candidates and Campaigns, which shall recruit suitable candidates for county elective office, screen candidates for approval by the County Committee, provide information and logistical support to candidates for town, city and county elective office, and assist in their campaigns within the county; this group shall also maintain a County Committee liaison with the county board of elections, provide advice on requirements of the Election Law, and prepare petitions for Democratic candidates;
e. Communications, which shall manage the County Committee's communications with the public and advise town and city committees with respect to their communications needs;
f. Issue Development, which shall monitor the activities of town and county government, track issues within the towns and the county, and develop other information for the purpose of issue development;
g. State and National Affairs, which shall maintain communications with the state and national Democratic Parties and develop and support candidates for state and federal office in concert with the state and national parties. The six county representatives to the State Democratic Committee shall be ex officio members of this committee.
h. Governance, which shall work in conjunction with Democratic elected officials to facilitate more effective governance and communication among Democratic elected officials.
The members of the Town Chairs Committee shall be the nineteen town chairs (see Article VIII, Section 1). For all other standing committees, members need only be enrolled members of the Democratic Party registered to vote in Columbia County.
4. Officers, Means of Election, and Term of Office
a. The chair of the Town Chairs Committee shall be chosen by the members of the Town Chairs Committee. All other standing committee chairs shall be elected by the County Committee at its annual operating meeting. Each chair shall serve until the subsequent annual operating meeting unless removed from office by either the Executive Committee or the County Committee. In the event of a chair vacancy, such vacancy shall be filled on an interim basis by a member of that standing committee chosen by the Chair of the County Committee until the County Committee votes on a replacement at its next meeting (or, in the case of the Town Chairs Committee, until the Town Chairs Committee votes on a replacement).
b. Each standing committee shall designate its own secretary, who shall be responsible for recording the minutes of meetings, when appropriate, and providing them in a timely manner to the Secretary of the County Committee for transmission to the County Committee members. The Chair of each standing committee shall be responsible for maintaining a roster of its members.
Each standing committee shall meet at the call of its chair. When practical, all standing committee members and County Committee members, whether or not they are members of a standing committee, shall receive notice of such meetings at least one week prior and be allowed to attend. If the chair of a standing committee fails or refuses to call a meeting, any three members of that committee may do so provided that proper notice is given. At such a meeting, the members of the standing committee who are present shall select a chair for the meeting.
6. Manner of Acting Standing committees shall act according to the majority vote of those members in attendance. No quorum is necessary, provided that actual notice of the meeting has been given to all members al least one week in advance of the meeting.
Article VI: Execution of Instruments
1. Contracts, Instruments
No member of the County Committee may enter into any contract or execute and deliver any instrument in the name of the County Committee without the authorization by resolution of the Executive Committee. Such authority may be general or may be confined to specific instances.
Funds of the County Committee may be deposited from time to time to the credit of the County Committee only with such depositories as may be selected by the Executive Committee.
3. Orders for Payment of Money
All checks, drafts, or other orders for the payment of money issued in the name of the County Committee shall be signed by such officer(s) or member(s) of the County Committee and in such manner as shall be determined from time lo time by resolution of the Executive Committee.
4. Endorsements for Deposit
Endorsements for deposit to the credit of the County Committee in any of its duly authorized depositories may be made, without countersignature, by any officer of the county Committee or may be made by hand-stamped impression in the name of the County Committee, unless otherwise provided by resolution of the Executive Committee.
Article VII: Administrative Matters
1. Robert’s Rules of Order
The rules contained in the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised shall govern the County Committee in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with these rules and any special rules of order the County Committee may adopt.
The Executive Committee shall designate a Parliamentarian. The Parliamentarian shall be the teller of County Committee votes. The Parliamentarian shall also provide interpretations of Robert's Rules of Order and of these Rules.
3. Notices and Minutes to Town Chairs
All town chairs and all chairs of affiliated Democratic town organizations, as identified by the town chairs, shall receive notices and minutes of meetings, whether or not they are members of the Countv Committee.
4. Treasurer's Account Books Open to Members
The Treasurer's account books shall be available to all County Committee members during regular business hours upon request.
5. City of Hudson The use of the word "town" herein is meant to include the City of Hudson.
6.Use of Email for Notices
Except as otherwise specified herein, all notices of meetings and transmission of minutes and other material may be made by email, provided that copies are mailed to those members of the County Committee not having email capability. Any member may waive notice by first-class mail by advising the Secretary that he or she is willing to have all notices sent by email and by providing the proper email address.
7. Fiscal Year The fiscal year of the County Committee shall be the calendar year.
Article VIII: Town Organization
1. Election of Town Chair
Members of the County Committee from each town shall elect a town chair or co-chairs, who may or may not be a member of the County Committee, notice of which decision shall be communicated in writing to the Secretary of the County Committee prior to the biennial organizational meeting. If co-chairs are elected, the members of the County Committee from the town shall designate one co-chair to serve on the Town Chairs Committee, notice of which decision shall be communicated in writing to the Secretary of the County Committee prior to the biennial organizational meeting.
2. Party Caucuses and Primaries
a. Candidates for town office must be named by primary ballot or by party caucus. If a town wishes to proceed by primary ballot ,the Election Law must be followed. If a town wishes to proceed by party caucus, the following rules apply.
b. The town chair (or in the case of co-chairs, either co-chair) shall have the sole authority to call a party caucus and shall set the date for the party caucus. However, if within forty days of the deadline for holding such a caucus no such date has been set, or the office of town chair is vacant, the Chair of the County Committee may designate another town party member to convene a caucus and give notice thereof. Participants in a caucus must be enrolled Democrats in that town and appear on the corresponding list provided by the county board of elections,
c. Notice for each party caucus shall be given by posting such notice in the public areas at the offices of the town clerk and the county board of elections and by filing a copy of such notice with the town clerk and the county board of elections at least ten days prior to the caucus date. Notice shall also be given either by newspaper publication (in the legal notices section) within the town once at least one week but no more than two weeks prior to the caucus date or by posting announcements in ten public places in the town at least ten days prior to the caucus date. Each notice shall specify the date, time, place, and purpose of the caucus.
d. Those present at the caucus shall elect a caucus chair and a caucus secretary and also, if desired, caucus tellers. Each caucus officer shall take the constitutional oath of office provided by the county board of elections before acting. Caucus rules shall be determined by a majority vote of those participants present with each casting a single vote. Each opening, even if for the same office, shall be voted on separately. Caucus participants may choose not to nominate a candidate for a particular opening.
3. City of Hudson
The City of Hudson shall have a primary election to elect its candidates for office.
4. Town Rules
Each town committee shall adopt rules for its guidance and governance consistent with the Election Law and with any requirements of the County Committee, and shall provide a copy to the County Committee and the county board of elections.
Article IX: Indemnification
The County Committee shall indemnify and hold harmless its officers and members from and against any and all liability, cost, damage, claim, or expense incurred in carrying out his or her responsibilities as a member or officer of the County Committee, except where such liability, cost, damage, claim, or expense arises from or is caused by, in whole or in part, the negligence or willful misconduct of said officer or member.
Article X: Election Commissioner
The County Committee shall recommend, as necessary, a candidate for commissioner of elections to the Democratic caucus of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors to serve for a term of two years. A currently serving commissioner of elections may be recommended for reappointment.
Article XI: Amendments
These rules may be amended by a majority vote of the County Committee members, provided that notice of intention to amend and the text of such amendment has been given by first-class mail postmarked at least two weeks in advance of the meeting at which such a vote will take place. Any County Committee member may originate such notice.