- The Washington Times - Friday, November 18, 2005

A forensic document examiner has determined that signatures on several Montgomery County planning documents involving a Clarksburg development are “not genuine.”

The examiner — Katherine M. Koppenhaver of Joppa, Md. — testified in two affidavits that 48 signatures on planning documents for the Clarksburg Town Center were not signed by former planner Wynn Witthans but by other unknown persons.

“It’s very obvious that there are several different people that were signing Wynn’s name on legal documents,” Mrs. Koppenhaver told The Washington Times. “They were what we call blatant.”

In addition, she said the signatures of developer representatives were copied and pasted onto several documents, not signed.

Mrs. Koppenhaver, a board-certified document examiner with 17 years’ experience, was hired to analyze the documents by the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee (CTCAC), the homeowners group that uncovered hundreds of building-code violations in its community.

CTCAC attorney David W. Brown sent Mrs. Koppenhaver’s affidavits Thursday to Planning Board Chairman Derick P. Berlage.

“We are aware that the authenticity of the signatures has been called into question,” Planning Board spokeswoman Nancy Lineman said in an e-mail yesterday.

“However, … the document expert does not say ‘forgery.’ As you know, there are numerous circumstances in which a signature is actually written by someone else, for example: a colleague, a staff member, an assistant.”

But David Weaver, a spokesman for County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, said, “We now have potential criminal wrongdoing being revealed” in the document analysis.

Mr. Weaver said Mr. Duncan, a Democrat who is running for governor next year, is “very troubled” by the analysis and “continues to be outraged by the revelations coming out of [the Department of] Park and Planning.”

Ms. Witthans resigned from Park and Planning earlier this year after acknowledging she had altered site plans to conform with what builders had constructed in Clarksburg. The Planning Board ruled that more than 500 building height and setback violations occurred at the site.

Ms. Witthans did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Former Park and Planning Director Charles E. Loehr, who retired Oct. 31, declined comment.

County planners have come under intense scrutiny and criticism in the wake of the Clarksburg violations, which are being investigated by the county inspector general and the state special prosecutor.

The discovery of inauthentic signatures on official documents “raises all kinds of questions,” said County Council member Steven Silverman, an at-large Democrat who is running for county executive next year.

“If this is accurate, there has to be an investigation about how this could have transpired,” he said.

The Planning Board already had scheduled hearings for Dec. 1 and 20 to hear evidence and issue rulings on the Clarksburg violations.

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