Disgusted, outraged, Cliff Hay quits as Dems' head


By Patsy Nicosia

After 50 years as the leader of Schoharie County’s Democrats, Cliff Hay has resigned—in disgust and outrage.
Beyond that, it’s hard to get anyone to agree on what went down.
Both sides of the dispute charge the other with subterfuge and lying as a way to keep—or take control--incompetence, secret meetings, ignoring the by-laws, and shouting each other down.
It’s a lot.
“I’m afraid this country is going to hell,” Mr. Hay said last Wednesday.
“It’s a mob mentality. It’s just like the mob that tried to take control of the Capitol. I don’t want to be associated with this group anymore. I’m done.”
Mr. Hay’s resignation came last Tuesday at a special meeting called by mostly-younger members of the County Democratic Committee who said that Mr. Hay’s resignation letter was an attack on them.
Mr. Hay’s letter does criticize “several members of the SCDC” for rejecting the guidance and advice of more experienced members and calls them out for a variety of missteps—including “giving potential candidates incorrect information and direction” and screwing up caucuses.
In the letter, he also indicates his intention to appoint a new seven-member By-Laws Revision Committee before ending with his resignation, effective immediately, because of a family emergency.
He never got to the end of that letter nor, at first, did SCDC Secretary Linda Cross, who said she was also shouted down when she tried to read it.
Ms. Cross said she was able to read a shorter version—just Mr. Hay’s resignation—and then at the end of the meeting, she read the longer letter.
Sandy Manko of Sharon and Phil Skowfoe of Fulton, vice chairs of the Democrat Committee, said the noise of 40-50 people shouting at and over each other was “deafening.”
“They bullied and harassed Cliff until he resigned,” Ms. Manko said.
“I told them this is no democracy,” Mr. Skowfoe said, before he said they too walked out in disgust.
The mostly-younger Democrats see things differently.
“We had no idea he planned to resign,” said Theresa Heary of Middleburgh, chair of the Communications Committee.
Their actions last Tuesday came in part in response to a vote by the Executive Committee to disband all ad hoc committees effective September 1—something they didn’t find out about until after they showed up to work the Dems’ BBQ on August 29, Ms. Heary said.
Tuesday they were just insisting the SCDC stick to their agenda—voting on revised by-laws topped that agenda--and follow their own rules, she said.
Among their other complaints: that the old guard strategized to split their vote and refused to let them in.
“Our wish was to be able to work together to play to our strengths. We never wanted a power struggle or conflict” but to expand Democrats’ online presence and visibility and increase voter turnout and engagement, they said in a written statement.
“Conflict came about because those goals were more important than precedent.”
The revised by-laws voted on last Tuesday—though with Mr. Hay, Ms. Manko, and Mr. Skowfoe missing the Executive Committee says there was no vote—include steps intended to: “limit an over-concentration of power and end potential conflicts of interest…by disallowing any committee member from holding both the chairmanship and the Board of Election commissioner’s role; impose term limits, allow for email organizing, and require that the Executive Committee by elected by the entire committee rather than the committee chair.”
What’s next?
Ms. Heary was nominated to replace Mr. Hay at Tuesday’s meeting before they realized they’d need to notify all SCDC members first.
That means they’ll have to wait until their October 21 meeting to decide.