Grosso, an independent running against Brown, and Brizill allege that Brown failed to collect the 3,000 signatures from registered voters required of citywide council candidates to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. 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.
The complaints force Brown into an uncomfortable position as he enters the fall campaign, which could be hindered by questions about his finances and potential voter backlash over ethics controversies in the John A. Wilson Building.
“We believe there was a prevalent violation of our election law,” Brizill said at a preliminary hearing Wednesday by the Board of Elections and Ethics. “We have clearly found a pattern of forgery and irregularities.”
Brown’s attorney, Thorn L. Pozen, strongly challenged Brizill’s accusations, calling them “wild, reckless and truly without basis.”
“We see no pattern of any enforceable action,” Pozen told board attorney Rudolph McGann at Wednesday’s hearing. “These broad, reckless allegations come without specificity.”
Brown appears to have the upper hand. Karen Brooks, the elections board’s registrar, tentatively decided Wednesday that the signatures Grosso and Brizill challenged were not enough to deny Brown a spot on the ballot.
After reviewing Grosso’s challenge and matching it against voter rolls, Brooks said she identified 3,390 valid signatures from registered voters — 390 above what’s needed to qualify. A line-by-line review of Brizill’s challenge revealed that Brown still had 3,272 valid signatures.
But Brooks did not rule on the forgery allegations, leaving that for the three-member board to determine at a hearing early next month.
Still, Brown spokesman Asher Corson said Brooks’s findings confirmed the campaign’s belief that it easily qualified for the ballot.
“It’s disappointing that the BOE and our campaign is being forced to spend so much time talking about petitions when we should be talking about jobs,” Corson said.
Grosso said he will ask the board to override Brooks’s initial finding at its next meeting. When he and his attorneys conducted a cursory review of the preliminary ruling, Grosso said he discovered at least 40 signatures that should have been tossed.
“I think it’s important to continue to move forward,” said Grosso, a lawyer who lives in Brookland. “I’m pretty comfortable we will get enough to get him below 3,000.”
Regardless of the outcome, the dispute could boost Grosso’s name recognition as he competes for Brown’s seat, one of two reserved for a member of a minority party. Republican Mary Brooks Beatty is also a candidate.