The top leadership of Stonewall Democratic Club’s political team resigned Monday night, a public revolt against what they claim are the failings of its president, Alex Mohajer, who was elected last year.
In a letter to the group’s members, Political Vice President Jane Wishon claims Mohajer “undermined and overruled” the authority of the political team, creating a “toxic environment” for the group and shifting bias in favor of his personal favorites.
In a statement, the Stonewall Democratic Club said they “will not comment further on ongoing disciplinary actions out of respect for our grievance committee’s important process. We wish our outgoing political officers well in their future endeavors and are disappointed to find that they’ve decided to move on.”
“The Stonewall Democratic Club has a storied 46-year history and mission that transcends any individual. We remain united with a laser focus on the critical work of electing progressive Democrats at every level of government, with our sights trained on maintaining and expanding our Senate and House majorities. We will also work to hold all elected officials to account when they act in contradiction to our values, especially now when American Democracy and LGBTQ+ rights are under direct threat.”
The resignation letter is reprinted below in its entirety.
I’m sorry I won’t be there to oversee a fair and transparent endorsement process for your races and I wish you all the best of luck!
Re: Stonewall Political Team Resignation
To the general membership:
It is with great sadness that we, members of the political team of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Los Angeles, resign from our leadership positions. Our resignations are effective as of Monday, August 22, 2022, at 7:00 pm PDT.
We have turned over all political team assets to the Operations Vice President and the Secretary of the club.
From the first Steering Committee meeting after President Alex Mohajer’s election, which took place on Thursday, August 5, 2021, he has undermined and overruled the work of the political team, even work specifically delegated to the political team in Stonewall’s bylaws. As will be shown below, Mr. Mohajer and his supporters have:
- removed political responsibilities from the political team and reassigned them to non-Political chairs,
- disparaged our endorsement process by attempting to insert bias into the candidate interview panels,
- violated our bylaws and Code of Conduct in multiple instances, and
- created a toxic environment at meetings and in email communications with false accusations, unnecessary and futile nitpicking of political processes, and hostile comments directed at Political Vice President Jane Wishon.
Mr. Mohajer speaks of fostering inclusivity and consensus-building; however, his actions have been capricious and unilateral, eroding the democratic process and the principle of inclusion. The political team has been consistently berated and undermined.
Furthermore, Mr. Mohajer’s authoritarian approach is undermining public confidence in our Club and our endorsement process, dismantling the hard work of the political team. For example, the Club received the following complaint after the March Club meeting:
I am writing this letter the morning after and have already received several complaints from Stonewall members who were appalled, shocked and disheartened – this even from individuals who both are new members and those who have been long time members and are seasoned in the political endorsement process. I am concerned to hear the club categorized as being ‘run by a bunch of political novices’. Further, the political director, who is charged with conducting the endorsement process, was shut down by all the male members of the steering committee, who were in the know of the protest including the President. The dismissive mansplaining approach to managing the chaos made it worse. The authority of the political director was usurped.”
In addition, at least one person decided to “pass” on becoming a member directly due to having witnessed this behavior at a membership meeting.
Mr. Mohajer and his supporters have continuously made attempts to overrule and alter the endorsement process, shrink the political team’s purview, and stretch the Club’s bylaws and processes beyond recognition. Following are specific instances of this damaging behavior:
- Despite being apprised that the authority to affiliate and partner with political organizations is explicitly granted to the political team by the Club’s bylaws, Mr. Mohajer attempted to circumvent and nullify the political team’s authority to determine which political organizations Stonewall will affiliate and partner with for the Club’s political activities. He brought a motion to affiliate with a political action organization and assign that affiliation to the Communications Vice President, effectively cutting out the political team entirely, and has signed up Stonewall to partner with groups such as Indivisible and others for political activities without discussion with or input by the political team.
- Mr. Mohajer attempted to circumvent and nullify the political team’s authority to oversee and administer candidate forums and similar candidate events. This authority is explicitly granted to the political team by the Club’s bylaws. For example, Mr. Mohajer removed several political events of the Club from the bylaws-mandated purview of Jane Wishon, Political Vice President, including the Q&A session with County Sheriff candidate and current Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna and the West Hollywood City Council Candidates Forum, and reassigned them to the Communications Vice President.
- Mr. Mohajer attempted to insert himself onto a candidate interview panel for a race in which one of the candidates was his close personal friend.
- Mr. Mohajer issued personal candidate endorsements that conflicted with the Club’s endorsements, citing his leadership position with Stonewall. This of course falsely implied a Club endorsement, overruling the voice of the general membership and undermining the thoughtful, unbiased process that historically has given Stonewall’s recommendations tremendous respect.
- When the political team recommended that a Club member be excluded from future candidate interview panels due to that member’s inappropriate conduct on past panels, Mr. Mohajer misrepresented the reasons for the political team’s recommendation to other members of the Club’s executive committee. Mr. Mohajer told others that the political team was acting “unethically” when excluding that member, a good friend of Mr. Mohajer’s, from panels and that holding the member to the same standards as all the rest of the club was somehow expressing bias against that member.
- Mr. Mohajer permitted vice presidents to appoint four members of the grievance committee past the required 28-day timeline and lobbied those vice presidents to appoint his choices. Mr. Mohajer also sent an email to the grievance committee members saying that he would identify alternates for them if they needed. Both of these actions are in violation of the bylaws, which mandate that at-large members choose the alternates, not the president, and that all appointments after the 28-day deadline require an election by the membership.
- While a grievance against Mr. Mohajer was undergoing review by the grievance committee, Mr. Mohajer failed to seriously entertain a suggestion that the Club change the bylaws to allow independent investigators to examine grievances against officers, indicating a clear conflict of interest on the part of Mr. Mohajer.
- Mr. Mohajer’s stacking of the Grievance Committee resulted in its unilaterally suspending Jane Wishon from her elected position as Political Vice President without conducting an investigation into a retaliatory grievance against them.
- Mr. Mohajer stated to one of the political team members that he intentionally appointed as many people to Steering as the bylaws would allow, in order to dilute the votes of those who opposed him in the officer election; that he had no intention of building bridges; and that it is the responsibility of the other officers to follow his direction as he is the ultimate decision-maker.
- Mr. Mohajer appointed a bylaws committee without soliciting open applications from the general membership or even asking vice presidents for candidate recommendations for the committee. While this is not a violation of the Club’s bylaws, it demonstrates Mohajer’s particularly insular and non-transparent approach to leadership and his interest in handpicking Club leadership, preempting the voice of the general membership.
- Mr. Mohajer encouraged an open season on attacking Vice President Jane Wishon and members of the political team, including in an hour-long discussion at the beginning of the April Steering Committee meeting where he led the attacks. As an example, Mr. Mohajer made false statements to the other officers about why Vice President Jane Wishon withdrew from the leadership of the Heart of LA Democratic Club, a feminist Club that they co-founded. Another example is that Mr. Mohajer called a meeting of the executive board and excluded only one officer: Jane Wishon. And yet one other example is that Mr. Mohajer made unfounded and disparaging assertions to the Steering Committee and general membership that the political team operates “as a puppet” for others outside the Club.
Personal attacks are a breach of our Code of Conduct, which requires that the president maintain a harassment-free and non-hostile environment in both General Membership and Steering Committee meetings, as well as in internal email communications. In many of these meetings and in written communications addressed to the Steering Committee, supporters of Mohajer routinely make comments orally and in writing against Jane Wishon that can easily be viewed as hostile and out of line. And yet, Mohajer failed in his responsibility to call out such comments as inappropriate and against the Club’s Code of Conduct. At most, he offered a neutral comment like “Alright, now” or “There it is,” which does nothing to dissuade the hostile behavior and, if anything, conveys that such comments will be tolerated. Many in Stonewall’s general membership have complained to members of the political team about the hostile nature of remarks targeting Jane Wishon and Mr. Mohajer’s unwillingness to put a stop to them. This behavior is not only hurtful to a valued, hard-working officer of the Club, but is also destructive to the Club at large.
The environment that Mr. Mohajer has nurtured over the last year gives the Club’s general membership the impression that attacking an officer, and specifically Jane Wishon, in a hostile and baseless manner is welcome. It also encourages the filing of baseless grievances against Jane Wishon and anyone who supports her political leadership in the Club.
Important work remains for the next 77 days up to Election Day and then in the weeks beyond, when votes are counted. We must focus on holding the House, achieving a true majority in the Senate, and electing Democrats as Governors, Secretaries of State, and other offices pivotal in the fight to protect the freedoms we hold dear. There simply isn’t the time and energy for us to continue navigating the unrelenting stream of toxicity and attacks to which we have been subjected over the past year.
Urging Mr. Mohajer to uphold the bylaws requirement of facilitating a safe space during Club meetings has not yielded any results. Protecting the position of Jane Wishon, Political Vice President, and the political team against the constant over-reach and disparagement by Mr. Mohajer and his favored Club members has become untenable. Following up on these issues with grievances has only resulted in the filing of retaliatory grievances, to be overseen by a Grievance Committee appointed by Mr. Mohajer and his closest supporters. We are exhausted and at the end of our rope.
We no longer believe that we will be able to focus our energy on getting Democrats elected in November while navigating these toxic waters.
This next part is from members of Jane Wishon’s political team:
This letter would be incomplete if we did not mention the cruelty with which Jane has been treated by Mr. Mohajer and his closest supporters on the Executive Board and Steering Committee. Bylaws and Code of Conduct violations aside, the worst we witnessed over the last year was the outright viciousness and unrelenting nature of the attacks on Jane. At first, these attacks were incomprehensible. They seemed to come out of nowhere, fabricated from nothing, with no obvious purpose except to belittle a valued elected leader of our Club.But as the attacks on Jane continued, usually in the setting of the Club’s Steering Committee meetings or in emails circulated among Steering Committee members, our incomprehension soon turned to outrage and the realization that something bigger and coordinated was at hand.
The members of this Club elected Jane – as it has done in years past – to be the Political Vice President, but it was becoming clear that Mr. Mohajer and his closest supporters were coordinating their attacks to work against Jane and Jane’s leadership, and they were doing it in the most malicious way they could get away with.Not only did they try to claim that Jane was somehow inadequate or unqualified to organize and lead political events (the kind that Jane had organized and led many times before, with notable success), and not only did they falsely refer to them as a straight woman, they did so in the most disparaging way, with overtones of malevolence and, in some cases, misogyny. Time and again, we wondered that, if Jane were a man, would Mr. Mohajer and his ardent supporters still find it so easy to treat them with such contempt?Those of us who have had to watch Jane endure these attacks for more than a year (and have had our attempts to defend and support them brushed aside) are disgusted with Mr. Mohajer’s brand of unprincipled leadership and amoral personal conduct. We feel unsafe here and find it impossible to serve on the leadership team of this Club as long as Mr. Mohajer is president.
Since an en-masse resignation by the entire political team makes a statement, and since many members have been shielded from the toxicity that has become commonplace in the Club’s Steering Committee meetings and email threads, we feel a responsibility to provide clear reasons for our action. It is our hope that the Stonewall membership will take action to bring the Club to a place of safety and inclusivity for all members. In the meantime, the political team will continue its work to advance Democratic candidates, ballot measures, and progressive ideals – just not as leaders within Stonewall. We leave this team behind with great regret, as our work has resulted in a stronger voice and impact for the LGBTQ+ community. For the past 5½ years, under the auspices of our Political Vice President Jane Wishon, the political team has brought to fruition:
- the first-ever Leadership Development Program, which has brought dozens of LGBTQ+ people into the political space;
- the first-ever lobbying day with partner organizations in Sacramento;
- the first-ever Pride mobilizations to Phoenix and Tucson;
- the first-ever process for opening the endorsement panels to general member participation (we require prospective panelists to disclose their conflicts, and we balance endorsement panels to include a diversity of voices at the table);
- an updated and public endorsement process that is the model for other clubs, because it is transparent, fair, and ethical, yet rigorous and designed to reach beyond talking points and buzz words;
- an open process by which any candidate can request the Club’s endorsement via a form, which ensures that we are not picking and choosing which races and which candidates we will include;
- endorsements in more locales than ever before, from all parts of the County;
- endorsement of nearly 1,200 candidates who support LGBTQ+ and feminist values with slate cards and other candidate support that reached tens of thousands of voters;
- successful candidate forums for the Chair of the California Democratic Party, all seven “flippable” congressional seats in 2018, LA City Mayor, LA County Supervisor, and West Hollywood City Council; and
- a solid reputation throughout the State of California among political operatives, elected officials, candidates, and Democratic voters as the Club at the forefront of the progressive movement.
We continue to stand with the LGBTQ+ community and women, and we will work to advance progressive policies and candidates through other organizations.
Jane Wishon, Political Vice President
Karen Eyres, Political Action Chair
Adam Kroll, Endorsements Chair
Dan Halden, Legislative Action Chair
Kanin Pruter, Political Action Vice Chair
Jamie Kennerk, Endorsements Vice Chair
Sarah Pinho, Legislative Action Vice Chair
It’s a sad day when all these mansplaining comments attack the gender-queer former Vice President (who campaigned against Prop 8) instead of recognizing that they and their team are whistle-blowers – the retaliation for calling out Mohajer and his team is ridiculous.
No. Don’t. Come back. Please don’t go. I’m so hurt.
JK I couldn’t give a crap, y’all damn cringe. So, he operates how you want our federal government to operate, and how our state, county, and local governments already operate, and…y’all big mad about it? CRINGE.
Hmmm, maybe it’s time to join Stonewall again.
Sour grapes much? Isn’t it lovely when the trash takes it’s self out?
Ding dong the witch is dead! Good riddance. Jane Wishon and her cronies have been a problem for the LGBTQ+ community ever since she worked and supported the Yes on Prop 8 Campaign, which she loves to speak about at length. Always been a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a cancer on the organization. Glad she and the rest of her corrupt pose are gone!
Simple spelling doesn’t seem to be the forte if anyone on here…including the editorial “staff!”
“We just want marriage equality!” went to “transition the kids without letting the parents know” really damn quick.
Stonewall is a total mess and irrelevant. Bye-bye
Democrat political hacks, clubs and self congratulating bores like the WEHo Stonewall group that took Ed Buck’s bucks… are about as popular as Hitler in Israel. Every-time you are forced to hear someone like Erickson, Shyne or Horvath blabber on is a good reason to re-register as in Independent.
Interesting thought. Perhaps all voters should be declared Independents….bring if independent mind. Then elections might be about issues avoiding g these political scrums who consider themselves “special interests”. These political groups are nauseating, left overs from the sororities and fraternities at college.
“Independents” never win, except in New England.
Everyone in the know KNOWS this group has been a complete sham for years and years.
Wasn’t that the genesis of the D’Amico/Ed Buck phenomenon?
Oh wah the straight white lady didn’t get to overtake a diverse queer space. And after calling someone the F-slur she even got people to resign with her, wow. The Left really is our own worst enemy. Onwards and upwards!
All this factional infighting is going on and no Republicans are involved.Sorry to hear a well-known Democrat group is tearing itself apart.Rebuilding this group now is not a good time as the general election is just over two months away.
LOL should be followed by the next article . . .
“STONEWALL DEMS GLADLY ACCEPT RESIGNATIONS OF POLITICAL TEAM”