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Norwich Democrats drop attempt to oust Ward from party's ranks

Norwich - City Democratic Party leaders have dropped an attempt to expel controversial former City Council candidate Ron Ward from the party rolls.

The decision not to pursue Ward's expulsion came after Registrar of Voters JoAnn Merolla-Martin consulted with state central committee officials Thursday regarding the statute she cited when she scheduled an hearing on whether Ward should be expelled for two years.

Democratic State Central Committee officials advised city party leaders that the state law allowing local registrars to remove a party member for failing to support party ideals or candidates is "likely unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable."

"Based on their guidance," Merolla-Martin said Thursday, "we are no longer pursuing our scheduled hearing with Mr. Ward and his affiliation with the Democratic Party."

Ward, an outspoken critic of party leaders and some Democratic candidates last fall, ran on the Norwich for Change party ticket after failing to win the endorsement of the Democratic committee.

Merolla-Martin said the state central committee would back the city if it did not endorse Ward for a new two-year term or denied him support in future elections.

The town committee will caucus Thursday at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Ward said he plans to seek re-election to the town committee, but did not meet the deadline to be listed among the candidates at the caucus.

He would have to attend the March meeting to seek any open seats at that time, Town Committee Chairman Frank Manfredi said. Some could be available, as only 58 Democrats signed up for the 77 seats.

Ward said Thursday night that he had not heard that the effort to remove him had been dropped, but he welcomed the decision. Ward had hired New London attorney Andrew Feinstein to represent him at the Jan. 26 hearing.

"I'm glad we got clarification and can bring this to a closure now so we don't have to go ahead with it," Ward said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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