- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics yesterday sent the petition forgery case involving Mayor Anthony A. Williams' re-election campaign to the office of the U.S. attorney and the D.C. Corporation Counsel so that those deemed responsible could be prosecuted.
Mr. Williams' own actions were not referred for review by higher legal authorities, nor were those of his former campaign adviser, Charles N. Duncan, who resigned last month over the scandal.
The mayor lost a spot on the Sept. 10 Democratic primary ballot when thousands of suspected forgeries were discovered on his required petition.
Several of the mayor's lower-level campaign workers, including signature collectors Scott Bishop Sr., Scott Bishop Jr., Ann Lewis and Robert Yeldell, were brought to the attention of investigators and prosecutors, said elections board spokesman Bill O'Field.
Nearly 7,000 of the more than 10,000 signatures that Mr. Williams submitted to the elections board were collected by the Bishops and were suspected by the board to have been forged.
During a hearing last month, Mr. Duncan told the board that the petition drive was led by Scott Bishop Sr., a veteran staffer known for posting campaign signs around town.
The elections board is expected to consider heavy fines for the Williams campaign and will continue hearings on the signature scandal tomorrow.
In a separate hearing yesterday in the D.C. Court of Appeals, attorneys for Mr. Williams asked a panel of three judges to overturn the elections board's July 26 ruling to strip the mayor's name from the primary ballot.
Washington lawyer Vincent Mark J. Policy told Judges Michael Farrel, Inez Reid-Smith and Eric Washington Jr. that the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics "acted lazily" and "was simply too general in its reasoning" when it stripped Mr. Williams' name from the ballot.
"Your underlying argument is that [the mayor] somehow got snookered by the board," Judge Farrel retorted.
"If the board has this broad range of authority, it has to use it carefully," Mr. Policy said.
The judges are expected to decide by Friday whether to grant the mayor's appeal.
Mr. Williams has spent the past week touring the District and campaigning as a write-in candidate.
The elections board, a three-member panel appointed by the mayor, cited numerous forgeries and said Mr. Williams failed to submit the required 2,000 valid signatures to secure a spot on the ballot.
Members said they doubted the legitimacy of 6,900 signatures collected by Mr. Bishop Sr., Mr. Bishop Jr. and Crystal Bishop, the younger man's wife.
D.C. Registrar of Voters Kathy Fairley said the mayor had submitted at least 2,235 valid signatures, but the board said some of those also had been collected by the Bishops.
The board said it was obligated to deny Mr. Williams a spot on the ballot because Mr. Bishop Sr. and Mr. Bishop Jr. invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer any questions at a hearing on the petition signatures. Mrs. Bishop did not attend the hearing because she was in the hospital.
Kenneth McGhie, general counsel for the elections board, told the appellate judges that the board based its ruling "on indications of potential fraud."
Mr. Policy said the election board's "suspicion of forgery" was not enough to justify removing the mayor's name from the ballot. "Where does the board get the evidence to leap to the conclusion that the Bishops did the deed?" he said.
Legal analysts say court judges usually uphold the rulings of city agencies.
Mr. Williams' attorneys conceded to D.C. Watch, a nonprofit watchdog organization, that 214 pages of signatures collected by the Bishops were invalid, the elections board had said.
Community activist Dorothy Brizill, who heads D.C. Watch, unleashed her challenge to the signatures after noticing that thousands of them appeared to have been written by the same hand.
Asked yesterday whether she thought the court of appeals would rule in favor of Mr. Williams or the elections board, Mrs. Brizill said, "I don't go to Las Vegas, and I don't play the ponies."
She added, however, that any fair-minded person would come to only one conclusion: "That the mayor should not be on the Democratic Party ballot."


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