- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

Petition circulators for D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams who are accused of forging signatures on nominating petitions could face up to six months in jail and a $10,000 fine under D.C. law.

Subpoenaed circulators Scott Bishop Sr.; his son, Scott Bishop Jr.; and daughter-in-law Crystal Bishop did not appear to testify yesterday before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics for a second day, said Vincent Mark Policy, attorney for Mr. Williams.

"We did not expect the Bishops to come here and testify today," Mr. Policy said during questioning of a handwriting specialist he called as a witness in lieu of the Bishops.

The Bishops are being blamed for most of the forgeries on nominating petitions submitted for the mayor to place his name on the Sept. 10 Democratic primary ballot.

The Bishops, along with Williams campaign co-chairman Gwen Hemphill and Carlton Pressley, the mayor's faith adviser, are expected to testify today.

"We will file with the D.C. Superior Court and have the U.S. marshals bring them in if it comes to that," said Benjamin F. Wilson, the elections board chairman.

The elections board is reviewing 5,980 of the 10,240 signatures submitted on Mr. Williams' behalf. The review comes in response to a challenge filed two weeks ago by D.C. Watch, a watchdog group headed by community activist Dorothy Brizill. She said her review of the mayor's petitions produced only 884 valid signatures.

Mr. Policy and Doug Patton Mr. Williams' attorneys conceded last week that 213 pages, or 4,260 signatures, were forged.

The board must decide by July 30 whether Mr. Williams has the 2,000 valid signatures required to remain on the ballot.

Mr. Williams yesterday said on WTOP Radio's "Ask the Mayor" call-in program that Scott Bishop Sr. is still being paid by his campaign despite his not being involved in any current campaign duties.

"I certainly don't want to point the finger at the lowest person on the totem pole . I urge everyone to cooperate. All I'm doing is just trying to provide for his financial stability. I'm just mindful that Scott has a family to feed," Mr. Williams said.

Mrs. Brizill suggested during yesterday's hearing that Mr. Bishop did not appear at the behest of the mayor.

Mr. Williams could be viewed as a co-conspirator in the petition scandal subject to the same penalties as petition circulators who falsely signed affidavits, but that would only occur if witnesses testified Mr. Williams ordered them to forge signatures, said private lawyers and officials of the election board.

D.C. Registrar of Voters Kathy Fairley was expected to complete her review of the petitions yesterday morning, said Mr. Wilson, adding that the board will then examine the petitions line by line with the challengers and Mr. Williams' attorneys.

He said the public hearings are proceeding too slowly for the board to meet its deadline. "At this rate of speed, where it takes us 40 minutes to go through one petition, we will be reviewing this until mid-August."

Mr. Williams' name will remain on the ballot and "it will be as if the board did not act at all, if the board fails to make a decision by the deadline date," said Ken McGhie, general counsel for the elections board.

Mr. Williams' attorneys have contested the constitutionality of a D.C. rule that petition circulators be registered voters in the city. Yesterday, they challenged the board's method of verifying signatures comparing signatures on voter-registration cards with those on petitions.

Mr. Policy called Hartford R. Kittel, a former FBI expert in handwriting analysis, to verify the Bishops' signatures on several petitions.

But all Mr. Kittel ended up doing was suggest to the board that their method is "flawed."

Spectators wondered aloud whether the mayor's defense was focused on fighting to get the requisite 2,000 signatures validated or building a case to be taken to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District.

Challengers said the defense is a clear indication that the mayor does not have enough signatures.

"We suggested [Wednesday] night that the mayor simply bring us the 2,000 minimum signatures he thinks are valid and we would just review those," said challenger Shaun Snyder with the D.C. Watch group.

"Mr. Williams' lawyers denied our offer."

Mr. Wilson said Wednesday that the board's preliminary examinations had found barely 2,000 valid signatures of the more than 10,000 names submitted on Mr. Williams' behalf.

Jon Ward contributed to this report.

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