- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2005

An attorney for the District-based political committee facing more than $600,000 in fines over a failed bid last year to build a gambling palace in Northeast has asked a judge to reassess the penalty.

The Citizens Committee for the D.C. Video Lottery Terminal Initiative of 2004 was ordered in July to pay more than $622,880 in fines after the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics said it found fraud, forgery and a lack of oversight by the committee during a petition-gathering drive last year.

“We think that the board’s order is wrong and that it is unfair,” said George Jones, the attorney for the committee.

Mr. Jones said yesterday that he wants the D.C. Superior Court to “take a fresh look at the legal questions” in the board’s ruling imposing the fines.

“We understand that the board worked really hard and that they’re trying to do their job as they see it,” he said. “We just think that the board has gone too far.”

The committee spearheaded a signature-gathering drive to include on the November ballot a proposal for a gambling emporium at New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road Northeast.

The gambling initiative, which was financed by offshore venture capital firms, failed.

In its investigation, the elections board found that the committee did not collect the required number of signatures to put the matter on the ballot because many of the signatures were forged.

Last month, the board filed a request in D.C. Superior Court seeking a court order to collect the fines from the committee and its former officers Pedro Alfonso, Vickey Wilcher and Margaret Gentry.

Mr. Jones, however, said he filed in court last week a response seeking to block the collection efforts.

Mr. Jones said the committee should not be held liable for fraudulent petitions because “third-level independent contractors” were responsible for hiring, training and paying petition gatherers.

The board, in a 45-page ruling, disagreed.

The board ruled that the committee showed “complete disregard” over the activities of petition gatherers.

The board also ruled that the committee “failed to be sufficiently responsive in the face of improper conduct, and further failed to properly oversee the petition circulation process.”

A hearing in the case has been scheduled for Oct. 11.

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