Alexander’s petition challenged

Elections panel hears allegation of illegality

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The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics will decide by Monday whether council member Yvette M. Alexander’s petition to be on the primary election ballot is legally sound or if her campaign ignored election laws and imperiled her bid to retain her Ward 7 seat.

Ms. Alexander’s team submitted 1,384 signatures to the elections board from registered ward voters — far above the 250 signatures needed to get on the April 3 ballot in the fiercely contested race among six Democrats.

At issue is whether a trio of Ms. Alexander’s petition circulators actually witnessed all the signatures, which they attested to by signing their own names at the bottom of petition pages.

Ward 7 resident Dawn Matthews says the circulators authorized signatures that were collected by a van full of “assistants” in violation of the city elections laws.

On Thursday, she told the board that her fiance, Vincent Cooke, signed a petition for Ms. Alexander that was circulated by a young man who said he is a former felon and looking for work.

But the page submitted to the elections board was signed by circulator George B. Browne Jr., a much older man who is retired from the military, she said.

For more than two hours, board Chairman Deborah K. Nichols and members Stephen I. Danzansky and Devarieste Curry listened to testimony and questioned witnesses about their cross claims.

“This is a very serious matter,” Ms. Nichols said.

The Alexander campaign’s attorney, David Wilmot, a powerful D.C. lobbyist currently representing Wal-Mart’s bid to put stores in Ms. Alexander’s ward and elsewhere in the District, said the accusations by Ms. Matthews are hardly sufficient to deny the signatures collected by the campaign.

He said Ms. Matthews — who was assisted Thursday by Kemry Hughes, the campaign manager for Tom Brown, one of Ms. Alexander’s opponents in the Democratic primary election — relied on hearsay and other indirect knowledge to reach her conclusions about how the campaign collected signatures.

Mr. Browne and another circulator, Derek Ford, testified they only submitted signatures that they personally observed.

Mr. Ford is a consultant to a lobbyist for Wal-Mart and volunteer treasurer for Ms. Alexander who city records show operates an unregistered company that received constituent-service funds at his Southeast Washington apartment, in addition to more than $9,000 paid from Ms. Alexander’s account for “supplies, catering, travel, postage, petty cash and consultant.”

Last year, according to documents that surfaced in a campaign finance probe of Ms. Alexander, he also received five “starter” checks drawn on Ms. Alexander’s constituent-services account totaling $705 that were not properly disclosed to OCF, as required by law.

While a team run by Lancer Group consultant Harold Gist gathered signatures on Ms. Alexander’s behalf, the campaign decided to discard those petition pages based on advice from counsel, Mr. Ford testified on Thursday.

Mr. Ford said there is a misconception in the District that candidates can use assistants to get signatures as long as the authorizing circulator is nearby.

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