For supporting non-Democrat candidates; first time organization has disciplined one of its members
By Daniel Borsuk
Outspoken Democratic Party Contra Costa County Committee (DPCCC) member Jason Bezis, a Lafayette attorney, was handed a one-year suspension Thursday evening from serving on the political party panel for violating DPCC bylaws and for allegedly assisting and providing support to non-Democrat candidates.
This marks the first time the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County (DPCCC) consisting of 26 elected officials, has ever disciplined one of its members, albeit an outspoken party member, Bezis, who has served on the political panel for six years.
The vote was 35 in favor to 3 in opposition with one abstention on a motion that that the Richmond Democrat had willfully violated the county party’s bylaws. On a second motion, members voted 32 for and 7 in opposition that the attorney had supported a non-Democratic candidate. For the third motion, members voted 32 to 7 that Bezis had supported a nonpartisan candidate.
According to Executive Committee member Marshall Lewis, “the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County (DPCCC) has a total of 60 voting members. 24 of those members are elected on the public ballot, and the rest are either elected by local Democratic clubs, appointed by elected officials, or play some role in party leadership. DPCCC has existed for many decades, during which time several members have unfortunately had to be disciplined. This was the committee’s first time using a new set of disciplinary procedures, not its first time disciplining a member.”
“The 35-3 vote was to determine that Mr. Bezis was guilty of the charges. The 32-7 vote was to apply a one-year suspension as the penalty,” he clarified.
Details on the three charges were not provided by DPCCC officials.
Before DPCCC Chair Katie Ricklefs announced the results of the closed-door session, she briefly remarked, “This is the first time we’ve done this. We’re trying to be as transparent and open as possible concerning the case involving Jason Bezis while being confidential and congenial, and respectful.”
During the one year, Bezis is under suspension he can attend future DPCCC meetings but cannot vote on agenda items.
Before Thursday evening’s DPCCC meeting, Bezis leveled a charge that the organization, especially current Chair Ricklefs and past DPCCC Chair Maria Alegria had violated DPCCC Complaint & Due Process Policy and Procedure while seeking removal of his committee membership.
“All of you have violated the so-called ‘Due Process Policy & Procedure’ in your authorized, coordinated effort to oust me,” he wrote in an April 10 email to Chair Ricklefs. “You and other DPCCC actors have conspired to corrupt the disciplinary process and abused ‘closed meetings’ in violation of the California Democratic Party Open Meeting Rule. The suggested remedy is retraction and/or reversal of the CDRC and Executive Committee action.”
Bezis prides himself on being an independent thinker, who is unafraid to question tough issues when he confronts them. Those traits were demonstrated early Thursday evening before Chair Ricklefs called for the executive session that would suspend Bezis’ ability to serve on the committee for one year.
Bezis’ inquisitiveness and ability to ask questions was put to the test when he was the only committee member to ask questions about a piece of state legislation, Assembly Bill 1099 authored by Democrat Assemblymember Mike Gipson of Compton. If enacted into law, AB 1099 would impose a new annual excise tax on owners of rental or leased property to develop a new funding source for rental assistance, aid for the homeless, affordable housing and housing counseling services.
Former DPCCC Chair and current member Maria Alegria, a former Pinole City Council member, interrupted Bezis’s statement about AB 1099, saying the reason he opposes AB 1099 is probably because the conservative-oriented Contra Costa Taxpayers Association does not endorse the measure.
That comment froze further discussion on the pros or cons of AB 1099, especially from Bezis.
“I was deemed guilty of a jumbled of three charges,” Bezis wrote in an email sent to the Contra Costa Herald after the vote. “There was no separate vote on the three charges. I am suspended from the Contra Costa Democratic Party for one year. The closed session was a torture chamber. This is ‘Contra Costa cancel culture’ at its worst. I was deemed a terrorist to ‘transgender people’ among other irrelevant and untrue accusations.”
Bezis had earlier written in an email that was dispatched to this reporter: “I have nothing to hide about my alleged transgressions. Everything that I have done in my past six years on the County Committee has been to advance openness, transparency, fairness and inclusion.”