Zecca and Vescera Voted Off Oneida County Democratic Committee
WIBX has learned that actions were taken at the meeting of the Oneida County Democratic Committee on Thursday that resulted in official reprimands of several committee members and the ousting of two others.
Ed Bucciero and Jerome McKinsey are believed to have been officially scolded for their support of then-Council President Bill Morehouse in his bid for City Comptroller. The action is, in essence, a slap on the wrist.
A more formal reprimand in the form of a censure was imposed on committee members Frank Meola and Ashley Torres for conduct related to the election**. Meola was allegedly cited for improperly running a meeting in which Morehouse was endorsed.
Morehouse, although a Democrat, did not win the Democratic primary in the city of Utica during the last election. That vote went to then-Councilman Jim Zecca, who subsequently was named the Democratic candidate for the Comptroller's position, despite the lack of support from some of the more vocal members of the committee.
It is that lack of support from the committee members that led to the procedural disciplinary action taken by the Oneida County Democratic Committee. Protocol demands that members support the candidates chosen by the party, and therefore by default the voters those members represent. Failure to tow the party line is considered valid cause for such action.
As it turns out Morehouse apparently did not need the support, as he eventually won the bid for Comptroller of the City of Utica with 3,126 votes over James Zecca with 2,550 votes.
Despite the fact that Zecca received the Democratic vote he, along with Councilman Vescera, started a third party, the Utica United Party, to run in direct opposition to the Democrats. That, the committee voted, was cause not only for a reprimand but for exclusion from the Committee altogether.
If there was one thing proven by the Utica United Party it was that there was little united about the party to begin with. It is that dissention that troubled Democrats within the county. As one member told WIBX, the obvious friction was not spiritually good for the party.
It should be noted that both Vescera - who was re-elected to the Common Council in the last election - and Zecca are eligible to join the party again in June if they secure enough Democratic signatures. In other words, as one source within the party stated, "It is not a life sentence."
WIBX spoke with Oneida County Democratic Committee Chair Mitchell Ford who would confirm only that personnel action was taken at the closed door committee meeting held on February 13, 2014. These are, he said, private matters.
Zecca and Vescera have chosen to make the matter public themselves. After requests for interviews and calls by WIBX both have now issued one joint written release with the following individual statements attached:
Vescera's statement (not edited by WIBX) reads as follows:
The Oneida County Democratic Party Committee met last night to hear and then vote on the recommendations of the three members of the Hearing Removal Board.
The board was comprised of Bill Thickstun, the Oneida County Committee Vice-Chair, along with committee members Barbara Klein from New Hartford and former County Chairman Bill Barry to address complaints lodged against City of Utica Democratic Party Officers: Frank Meola – Chairman, Lori Washburn – Secretary, Lucretia Hunt – Treasurer and others.
The complaints included Official Misconduct, Dereliction of Duty, Misuse of Power, Disloyalty, Persistent Failure to Discharge the Duties of the Office, along with Reckless & Arbitrary Behavior.
According to the 3 member board as stated by its head Mr. Thickstun, many of the complaints were valid but did not rise to the level of removal from the party committee because Frank Meola and Lori Washburn, behind closed doors, expressed their regrets and remorse.
The refusal of the members last night to remove Frank Meola, Lori Washburn, Lucretia Hunt and others from the committee exposed a ‘pack’ of rogue members of the party leadership all too willing to cover-up the corruption, illegal actions and lack of decency over the last many months within the inner circle.
That has caused a massive loss of public confidence in the local Democratic Party.
Transparency in city government and party politics is something that should be supported and nurtured.
Frank X. Vescera
Zecca's statement (not edited by WIBX) is below:
Zecca's Statement on Oneida County Democratic Committee Vote
"Last night's vote by the Oneida County Democratic Committee came as no surprise to me. It only confirmed the length that this 'cult' will go to coverup the corruption, lack of morals and illegal behavior of many of the leadership within this small and isolated group. They do not represent the rank and file Democrats of Utica. As we have proven time and again in elections, they are out-of-touch with the people. In 2011, I ran for council at-large without their support and was rewarded in the primary by rank and file Democrats, going on to garner the most votes in the entire city in the Fall of 2011. In 2013, without their support, the rank and file Democrats rewarded my hard work with a victory in the primary for Comptroller. They likewise elected the non-establishment candidates in West Utica's county legislative race and the first ward's council race.
Meanwhile, they have thankfully now put it on record that they support the behavior of the members that clearly violated their so-called rules. Worse, they confirmed their support for a City Chairman, Frank Meola, that has a long history of nefarious activities and has brought public embarrassment to the party and city government. This clearly establishes a line between the old guard that has created the problems that face this city, and those of us that will continue to fight to restore our city to prominence.
I will continue to advocate for reformist leadership in Utica. I will put my personal, professional and political records up against any of these people. We have several major elections coming up this year and I will be active in making sure the people of Utica have real choices at the ballot box. In the meantime, I will ponder my own electoral future in the weeks ahead."
James A. Zecca
**Meola and both Ashley and Alex Torres became the center of a personal scandal following the election. Some have alleged that Zecca and Vescera were behind the publishing of information related to that scandal although both Vescera and Zecca have publicly denied any involvement. (Note: In an interview during WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning on Monday, 17 February 2014 Zecca said that he was indeed involved in Alexis Torres' decision to make allegations against Meola; basically telling Torres that he should do whatever he thought was right.) Vescera has said that he was "helping" Alexis Torres with financial matters related to the scandal. Alexis Torres later admitted that he had no proof of some of the allegations he made publicly.
Torres Says He Doesn't Have Proof Of Allegations Against Frank Meola
Revelations about the scandal have been the subject of heated controversy, many arguing that it had no business being brought to the public.
Ironically Meola and Vescera both appeared on WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning in September of 2013 to discuss the issue of civility in politics. That story can be found below:
Utica Councilmen Frank Meola and Frank Vescera debate