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Wednesday, April 15, 2009 01:07 pm

An unusual move for power as Democrat chairman departs

New rules allow Timoney and Davlin to “stack the deck”

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Mayor Tim Davlin

In a move that has party veterans scratching their heads, Patrick “Tim” Timoney, outgoing chairman of the Sangamon County Democrats, has appointed almost 40 new precinct committeemen over the past month, according to records provided by the county election office. Many of those appointees have names that ring a bell with anyone familiar with Springfield politics: Five are named Davlin, and are closely related to Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin; three are named Timoney; two are closely related to Jim Donelan, who is Davlin’s executive assistant.

Timoney made 35 appointments on March 30, apparently within hours of sending a letter via regular mail to all precinct committeemen announcing that he had decided to step down from the party leadership post he has held for the past seven years.

Timoney was traveling this week and could not be reached, but party insiders say these appointments are designed to ensure that Donelan will be elected to Timoney’s post. Donelan did not acknowledge an e-mail seeking comment. The question party veterans are asking is what motive Timoney could have for orchestrating such a move.

“The mayor’s executive assistant would become head of a political party in an officially nonpartisan office? There’s some serious issues there,” says one traditionally-elected precinct committeeman, who asked not to be named. “Somebody’s doing something rotten.”

Another longtime precinct committeeman, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, asked a similar question: “I don’t understand why the mayor would want to bring the party into his office. If Donelan’s it, then every time he does something, it will be seen as being at the direction of the mayor, and every time he makes a mistake, that will reflect back on the mayor,” the veteran says. “This is a tempest in a teapot — who gives a [expletive]? But they’re going to fight bitterly over this, because I know my beloved party.”

Frank Kunz, alderman for Ward 3 and a Democrat, points out that Davlin has never relied on the party for campaign funds, and doesn’t have any obvious need for party support. “You could take over the party, but what would it get you except headaches?” Kunz asks.

Whatever the motive, Timoney’s effort has focused on names known as loyalists. Davlin’s brothers Pat and Mike, sister Maureen, son Ryan and daughter Tara were all appointed precinct committeemen by Timoney on March 30. Donelan’s father and grandmother, John and Regina, were also appointed that day, as was Bill O’Rourke, executive assistant to Todd Renfrow, the man Davlin named to run City Water, Light and Power. Former Ward 9 alderman Tom Selinger and his niece, Bridget Selinger, were appointed precinct committeeman that day, as were Kevin, Cindy and Ryan Timoney.

This maneuver wouldn’t be possible under the traditional scenario, as appointed precinct committeemen are not allowed to vote for party officers, or to hold party office. Donelan — himself an appointed committeeman — would be ineligible to serve as chairman, and all the people Timoney has appointed in the past 30 days would be unable to vote for him. But since Timoney is stepping down in the middle of his term, the election for his successor will be conducted under a different set of rules.

Neil Calderon, party treasurer, has been considering running for the top spot himself, and says this sort of “deck-stacking” could have negative consequences for the Democrats.

“It’s exclusionary, and the last thing we need as a party is to develop the mentality of potentially excluding people so that these elections have predetermined outcomes,” Calderon says. “Does it disappoint me? Yeah, because it’s just more of the same BS that really takes the wind out of anybody’s sails that wants to see the party move forward. But does it stop me? No.”

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