A small committee of local Democrats sighed, shook their heads, and grimaced as they painstakingly recreated much of the chaos and discord their party had suffered over the past year. Conveniently, that discord has a name: Dan Ramos, elected party chair of the Bexar County Democratic Party. Despite his marked absence, and with no one to speak on his behalf, Ramos was put on trial Saturday afternoon in the basement of the gay-friendly Metropolitan Community Church.
Members spent nearly four hours listening to testimony painting Ramos as a stain on the party. After considering email exchanges, local media accounts, and audio recordings of chaotic party meetings, the seven-person committee unanimously recommended the party remove Ramos, now halfway through his two-year term as party chair.
Robert Miller, who chaired Ramos’ trial committee, remarked after the vote, “This has really been by far the worst situation I have ever experienced in Democratic politics in Bexar County. … This is painful and this is embarrassing; it’s an extreme measure to remove a county chair.”
Ramos’ toxic remarks of last month, equating homosexuals to polio-stricken children and the local Stonewall Democrats to the “fucking Nazi party,” sparked a wildfire of condemnation from Democratic leaders and organizations across the state.
Congressman Charlie Gonzalez publicly chastised Ramos for the remarks last month, saying, “Such sentiments are neither shared nor represent the beliefs of the local Democratic party.” State Senator Leticia Van de Putte wrote to Ramos, “Make no mistake — the divisiveness you have caused is no simple family squabble, which we Democrats often have, and even at times relish. Rather, your behavior has caused irreparable harm, from which it is already too late for any future attempt at atonement on your part to repair.”
Ramos did not return repeated calls for comment.
The trial committee heard 10 complaints in total Saturday criticizing Ramos’ performance as chair since being sworn in last spring. And while it’s Ramos’ rancorous comments last month that snowballed into loud calls for his removal, Ramos’ opponents have long blamed him for fueling bitter interparty animosities and for continually violating the party’s standing rules.
Among their more serious charges was that Ramos has continually failed to give over party bank statements, making financial oversight of the party impossible. Ramos quickly took the party’s other two signatories off the account last year and even tried to dissolve the party’s budget and finance committee.
And as the party struggles to repay a looming debt from last year’s primary season, BCDP spokesman Todd Hedley said Ramos’ erratic behavior has essentially scared away any donations from local Democrats. The party’s last treasurer’s report, from early February, shows County Judge Nelson Wolff gave the BCDP $1,000 sometime in late December, the party’s last reported donation.
“I mean, people are scared to give us any money,” Hedley said. “He (Ramos) is such an unstable and erratic person that no one would trust him with handling their money.”
The public outcry, however, has seemingly inspired Ramos to dig in his heels and ratchet up the rhetoric. Over the past two months, as the party’s problems continued to boil on the surface, Ramos has bristled at the mention of some of the biggest local Democratic names, like Henry Cisneros and Senators Van de Putte and Carlos Uresti, making it clear he’d be unlikely to take any of their recommendations or advice. Ramos has even called for Wolff’s head, saying the county’s top elected Democrat should be run out of office.
Ramos and his small group of supporters have said the demands that he resign are meant to distract from the real issue plaguing the party — the theft of roughly $200,000 from BCDP coffers. Ramos has repeatedly insisted others will go down with former party treasurer Dwayne Adams, now indicted and set to stand trial.
Early this month, Ramos even claimed to have inside knowledge of the District Attorney’s case, and insisted Adams would soon “name names” to take down other party leaders that Ramos blames in scandal. Though the DA’s office has repeatedly denied the claim, Ramos scoffed, claiming the DA’s office, too, is corrupt.
Ramos has also repeatedly blamed the party’s problems on what he calls racism against Hispanic and Westside Democrats, saying earlier this month, “Some folks are afraid of the brown tsunami.”
Maria Davalos-Salinas, one of the trial committee members, said, “I have found that personally appalling, that he would say this whole thing is about racism. … This problem was never about black, white, brown, or whatever. It’s about `Ramos’` words and his actions.”
While he didn’t show at the Saturday trial, Ramos’ voice rang through a small set of computer speakers as committee members listened to multiple recordings of the chair’s erratic comments at party meetings and his remarks to the Current last month.
The committee also watched an unedited half-hour video, recorded by a local Fox affiliate, of a bizarre press conference Ramos held a week after party members began calling for his resignation. In it, Ramos called Texas Democratic Chair Boyd Richie “an idiot,” saying, “He’s got gay people advising him, I think he slipped a little bit when he demanded my resignation.” Ramos also said County Judge Wolff “better watch his comments” and should be kicked out of office. And Current Editor Greg Harman he simply called a “lying son of a bitch.”
“That was hard to watch,” said Sylvia Schmidt, part of the BCDP trial committee. “If you listened, you could hear all of these contradictions and he just repeated a lot of those hurtful things.” During the video, Ramos teetered back and forth, at times denying he even made comments to the Current (“I mean, them telephones can do funny things”) while also reiterating some of the offensive remarks that drew fire in the first place (“I don’t care if `gays` marry each other. That’s not my private business. I do care when they adopt kids that are already traumatized and are coming from orphanages and stuff and then they wake up in the morning and say, ‘What? My momma is my daddy also?’ You know, that’s my heartburn.”)
Since neither state nor local Democratic Party bylaws specify how to remove an unruly chair, the BCDP has gone forward under Robert’s Rules of Order, parliamentary rules used to guide public bodies across the country, and it’s likely Ramos will challenge the rare move.
The BCDP’s larger executive committee will vote on May 3 whether to follow the committee’s recommendation and remove Ramos as chair. If they remove Ramos, party members will have 20 days to vote in a new chair, members said.