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Posted at 05:02 PM ET, 09/06/2012

Michael Brown, Dorothy Brizill set for clash over petition signatures

Civic activist Dorothy Brizill and her husband are expected to clash Friday with attorneys for D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown over allegations that his campaign forged petition signatures to qualify for the Nov. 6 election.

Following up on separate challenges from Brizill and candidate David Grosso, the three-member D.C. Board of Elections will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. to decide whether Brown gathered the 3,000 signatures he needed to appear on the ballot.

Last week, in a preliminary decision, the board of elections registrar and assistant counsel determined that Brown appears to have narrowly made the ballot with about 3,300 valid signatures from registered voters. But elections officials have yet to decide a separate complaint by Brizill and her husband, Gary Imhoff, that hundreds of Brown’s signatures may have been forged.

Brizill requested last week that Brown and numerous staffers, including his chief of staff and communications director, appear at the hearing to testify about their roles in the campaign. Brizill is also seeking testimony from campaign staffers or volunteers whom she suspects of collecting invalid or forged signatures.

But on Thursday, Brown’s attorney, Thorn Pozen, told Brizill and Imhoff that the campaign would not voluntarily make witnesses available to testify.

Asher Corson, a Brown spokesman, called Brizill’s request “unreasonable” because he said the plaintiffs do not have evidence that the potential witnesses did anything improper.

“The request for witnesses is unreasonable, unspecific and lacking in relevancy,” Corson said. “The request amounts to a fishing expedition.”

In an interview, Imhoff said that he and Brizill will instead ask the elections board to issue subpoenas.

“They need to call some people to find out what went on in the signature-gathering process,” Imhoff said

Brown turned in 4,675 signatures, but Grosso and Brizill say more than 2,000 were duplicates, came from unregistered voters or were gathered by people not authorized to circulate petitions. In their preliminary review, elections officials determined that about 1,300 of Brown’s signatures should be tossed, leaving him a narrow path to make the ballot.

Brizill and Grosso, an independent challenging Brown in the November election, believe even more signatures could be disqualified when the elections board considers potential forgeries. 

Brizill and Imhoff, longtime activists who launched the D.C. Watch blog, filed a complaint Aug. 20 that cited cases in which “the printed name bears no resemblance to the signature” or multiple signatures appeared to be “written by the same individual in the same hand.”

Board officials may have to compare suspected instances of fraud against registration cards, which contain voters' signatures.

Brown, who is attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week, is not expected to appear at Friday’s hearing. But Corson said the campaign is optimistic that the board will dismiss Brizill’s complaint.

“The allegations of wrongdoing are totally without basis and defamatory,” Corson said.

By  |  05:02 PM ET, 09/06/2012

 
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