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Potential Mayoral Petition Scandal Widens

By Kevin Robinson in News on Dec 7, 2010 3:00PM

Photo by edkohler.
In what could soon become a full-blown scandal, Illinois Secretary of State police are investigating allegedly false signatures by notaries public in nominating petitions for four candidates. Nominating petitions for James Meeks, Carol Moseley Braun, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and Rob Halpin, who withdrew from the race yesterday, are all under scrutiny now after two notaries public charged that their signatures were forged on hundreds of petitions filed for several candidates gathered by paid circulators.

According to the Sun-Times, the problems aren't limited to mayoral candidates. City Treasurer Stephanie Neely's nominating petitions have also been impacted by the allegations. According to Alex Caplan and Maricela Rodriguez, the same two notaries whose signatures were allegedly forged on the mayoral petitions also forged notaries on 727 of 2,331 signatures on Neely's petitions.

So far there are no allegations of wrongdoing on behalf of the campaigns or candidates, and with the exception of Neely, whose petitions were all gathered by volunteers and supporters from ward organizations, all of the petitions in question were brought in by paid circulators. “When they come back to our office with stamped, notarized petitions, we take them, put them in our stack and we pay the individuals,” James Meeks told CBS2. “We have recently found out through these investigations that some of them are fraudulent. I believe that there should be an investigation.” He said that fraud could be crippling to well-meaning candidates, although so far hasn't been a problem for him, as none of his petitions have been challenged. For Neely, though, there may be trouble, Her petitions have been challenged and the two separate complaints say she shouldn't be allowed on the ballot, as she has an insufficient number of signatures. Neely contends that she has nearly 20,000 valid signatures, well beyond the 12,500 required to be on the ballot.

Mayor Daley weighed in on the matter, saying that a fake notary signature on petitions is a violation of both state and federal law. “There should be federal investigations, state investigations,” Daley told CBS2. “If I did that, the feds would be right after me tomorrow. They’d be chasing me down the street.”