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Aug 21, 2018 1:54 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

More East Hampton Voters Say Their Signatures Were Forged On Petitions

Some of the ten petition pages submitted by Amos Goodman.
Aug 21, 2018 2:32 PM

East Hampton Republican Party Chairman Amos Goodman last month challenged Independence Party petitions nominating David Gruber to be the party’s candidate for the single Town Board seat on the ballot this fall, accusing party leaders of forging signatures on the petitions.

But this week, as part of a review of Mr. Goodman’s own petitions—circulated in support of Manny Vilar as the party’s candidate in the special East Hampton Town Board election this fall—more than a dozen registered Republicans whose signatures appear on them said they did not sign any petitions, and that the signatures on the official form filed by Mr. Goodman were not theirs.

Of 18 people who answered the doors at their homes around East Hampton, Springs and Wainscott and were shown a copy of Mr. Goodman’s petition, obtained by The Press from the Suffolk County Board of Elections through a Freedom of Information Law request, 15 said the signatures on the petition were unequivocally not theirs, nor that of any registered voter in their households.

“That is not my signature—and that is not my wife’s either,” said Jim Overton, at his home in Springs. “A while ago, I might have told Mr. Vilar that I would support him, but I didn’t sign that. That much I know. I don’t like that, not at all.”

Some noted that the signatures were different from their own in a number of ways that could not be accounted for by writing hurriedly or on an unstable surface like a clipboard, and eagerly scribbled their signature on scrap paper or an envelope to demonstrate the difference.

Mr. Goodman has stridently denied having forged any signatures on any of the petitions after Independence Party Chairwoman Elaine Jones alluded to suspicions about his petitions in recent weeks—and redoubled his denial when presented with the results of The Press’s inquiries.

“I categorically deny that there is anything wrong with my petitions,” he said on Monday evening. “I never forged a signature in my life. I would never forge a signature in my life. It is nonsense.”

‘Why Do They Do This?’

The Press began its inquiry into the veracity of Mr. Goodman’s petition shortly after the Republican Party filed its court challenge last month against Independence Party petitions. That suit accused Independence Party leaders of forging the signatures of some residents registered with the party and carried with it substantial evidence in support.

At least eight residents whose names appeared on petition sheets signed and submitted by former Town Councilwoman Pat Mansir, now the Independence Party’s vice chair, have attested in legal affidavits obtained by an investigator hired by Mr. Goodman that the signatures that appear to be theirs on the petitions did not come from their hands.

In the wake of the revelations about the Independence Party petitions, The Press requested official Board of Elections copies of the petitions submitted in support of all five would-be candidates for the lone seat up for election—Mr. Gruber, Mr. Vilar, David Lys, Lisa Larsen and Roy Greenberg—and is conducting an ongoing inquiry about the signatures listed.

The inquiry about forgeries beyond the Independence Party petitions started with Mr. Goodman’s petition sheets because of the appearance of signatures on some of the 10 petition sheets he signed as having witnessed: generally indiscernible but all in a distinctly similar cursive style.

A Press reporter visited 40 homes on August 13, 17 and 20 at addresses paired to signatures on the petitions. Half the homes visited were unoccupied, and at two others the person who answered the door said they were not the homeowner or that none of the registered voters in the home were present.

But of the 18 registered voters whose names appeared on the petition, with their addresses, 15 were adamant that they had not signed the document.

One woman, a recent widow who spoke on condition of anonymity, found a document with her late husband’s signature for comparison. She remarked at the similarity between the two signatures on the petition, which were supposedly his and hers—but pointed out the obvious differences between them and the couple’s real signatures, which were very different from each other. She noted that her husband’s rather distinctive first name was plainly discernible on the petition but markedly different from how his signature appeared.

Several of the people interviewed said the signatures were obviously intended to be their names and reacted angrily. Others lamented the presumed motivations for what they saw as apparent fakery.

“Politics has gotten so bad,” said Dorothy Knowles, whose signature and that of her husband, Lawrence, both appeared on one of Mr. Goodman’s petition sheets, though both said the signatures were not theirs. “What’s wrong with people? Why do they do this?”

“I always put ‘M.E.’ and the Roman numeral II,” said Michael Bruno of Wainscott at his home on Monday morning. “That says ‘M. Bruno’—but that is definitely not my signature. Who did you say this is from?”

Only one of those interviewed, Springs resident Vincent Wolfe Sr., said the signature he was shown was indeed his. He recalled the day that he had signed the petition and said he remembered he was the first person to sign that particular sheet.

Indeed, his signature was the first one on a sheet Mr. Goodman circulated on the weekend of June 23 and 24. A reporter visited the addresses of the 11 other registered voters listed on that particular petition sheet on Friday, August 17, but none was at home.

Another resident, Fred Lester, said he thought the lone signature for his address might be that of his wife, Gayle, though she was not home to verify it. And another, Jim Sykes, said he was “95 percent sure” the signature on the petition that appeared to be the initial “J” and his last name was neither his nor his wife’s, who has the same first initial as he does, but added that he couldn’t be positive.

“If you ask me, this all looks fake,” Mr. Sykes said as he handed back the petition sheet containing 20 signatures.

‘Pretty Unusual’

Mr. Goodman signed 10 of the 17 petition sheets submitted in support of Mr. Vilar, containing 120 of the 219 supporting signatures. The petitions have been affirmed by the Board of Elections, and the deadlines have passed for any legal challenges.

Mr. Vilar did not sign any of the petition sheets, other than the one sheet he witnessed himself, containing 20 signatures, including his own.

Both Mr. Vilar’s petition sheet and one of Mr. Goodman’s contain the signature of “R.W. Cornelia” at 24 Bon Pinck Way—the address of Mr. Goodman’s predecessor as the Republican Party chairman, Reginald W. Cornelia. The two signatures are unmistakably very different, even to the untrained eye. Mr. Cornelia could not be reached for comment this week.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who is in his 31st year of holding elected office on the South Fork, as both a Republican and an Independence Party member, said that he has seen only occasional evidence of forgeries on political petitions in the past.

“In my experience, blatant outright forgery is pretty unusual,” he said. “Usually, it’s people who have not been a part of the process for a long time. But if it happens, that would be a matter for the district attorney.”

Mr. Goodman harked to his own dismay when he was presented with evidence that some Independence Party petitions may have contained forgeries, and how he saw the gravity of such an act. He agreed with Mr. Thiele that forgeries should be reported to the district attorney and said that he’s been told some of the people who have denied signing Independence Party petitions plan to report their forgery claims to the police—though none has as of yet.

“People are outraged when they have had their identity stolen, which is what that is, and we experienced that when we went around with Pat Mansir’s petitions,” he said. “The language on the petitions is that it should be treated as an affidavit, that making false statements is tantamount to perjury. It is something I take umbrage on.”

He steadfastly rejected any suggestion that the signatures on his petition were forged and said it would be “a little crazy” for him to have launched a legal attack against a rival party’s petitions if his own petitions were “problematic.”

He also marveled at the triviality of doing anything improper with political petitions.

“The notion that you would do something like this for no real reason is something I don’t understand,” he said. “There are people who know how to do it right and don’t want to do it the proper way.”

Blaming ‘Sloppiness’

When asked why so many people would say the signatures did not match their own, he surmised that perhaps he’d gotten sloppy in filling out the addresses on the petition sheets and had matched the wrong address with the signature of someone—someone with a similar-looking name in instances where the name appears to be correct but the signature wrong—or that the people who were interviewed simply didn’t recall another person with the same last name at their address who may have signed instead or signed their name for them.

“If anything, I have been sloppy, maybe,” Mr. Goodman said. “In going around getting signatures … people don’t write in their addresses, and the person carrying the petition has to go back and fill them in later. Maybe I transposed the wrong address.”

That most of the supposed signatories saw clear evidence that their own name—not another, similar one—had been signed in someone else’s hand, Mr. Goodman again chalked up to clerical mistakes.

“I’m sorry people feel they were taken advantage of. It sounds like we need to rethink our protocols so that we correctly identify people who signed with their addresses—I’ll take responsibility for that,” he said. “If you go back and write in the wrong address, that’s sloppiness—not the sort of willful action like the Independence Party did.”

Mr. Gruber, whose petitions for the Independence line are the subject of Mr. Goodman’s lawsuit, scoffed at Mr. Goodman’s explanations for the discrepancies in his petitions and wondered if Mr. Goodman hadn’t miscalculated in his attack on the Independence petitions.

“He’s stirred up a hornet’s nest—Elaine Jones is spending quite a bit of time and effort into looking into his petitions, and now I think he has the proverbial tiger by the tail,” Mr. Gruber said. “If it turns out there is forgery involved, that could have repercussions for him. I would not want to be in his shoes.”

Mr. Goodman, who took over the party at the start of this year, shortly after it suffered its second straight Town Board loss at the polls, has led a hard-charging campaign in which he personally spearheaded petition drives for both Mr. Vilar on the Republican line and Ms. Larsen on the Independence line.

He quickly ran afoul of Ms. Jones, who accused him of posting Ms. Larsen to force a primary against Mr. Gruber even though Ms. Larsen had no intention of running a campaign. When Ms. Larsen withdrew from contention, the Republicans attempted to have Mr. Vilar substituted for her in the primary. When Ms. Jones and State Party Chairman Frank MacKay blocked Mr. Vilar’s candidacy, Mr. Goodman filed the lawsuit challenging Mr. Gruber’s candidacy, which if successful will leave the Independence line blank on Election Day.

Mr. Gruber wondered aloud on Monday what Mr. Goodman’s strategy was in going after his Independence Party petitions so aggressively, in light of the political balance between him and his Democratic primary opponent, Mr. Lys, a former Republican.

“If Amos knocks me off the Indy line and David Lys wins the Democratic primary, the best chance Manny Vilar would have would be for me to still be there and probably take some Democratic votes away from Lys,” Mr. Gruber said. “And if I win the Democratic primary, I don’t think whether I have the Independence line or not is going to be material. And in doing all this, he’s just salting the earth in terms of the relationship of the Republican Party and the Independence Party. I don’t know what he had in mind, frankly.

“I told him it was a mistake to pick a fight with Elaine Jones,” he added.

Ms. Jones said that she also has, in fact, been going door to door with Mr. Goodman’s Republican petitions, inquiring about their veracity with party members. She said on Monday that she has found 20 people who said they did not sign the petition—one of whom told her they had already spoken to a Press reporter about the matter.

Ms. Jones said she will seek affidavits from some of those she spoke to and plans to take them to the district attorney and the State Department of State, which oversees notary public commissions.

“He’s talking so much about how it’s too late to challenge his petitions and the deadline—well, I don’t care about that,” Ms. Jones said. “Who cares? Let Manny Vilar run—he should be able to run. But, Amos, he’s doing bad, bad things and … he should have been more careful.”

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What is in the water in East Hampton?
By Preliator Lives (324), Obamavillie on Aug 22, 18 8:46 AM
Sadly - perfluorooctane sulfate and perflourooctanic acid .
By dogtired (21), north sea on Aug 22, 18 8:54 AM
Desperate Patsy Mansir and Sleazy Elaine Jones distract from being caught forging redhanded. They go from "our petitions are fine" to "he did them too." Give me a break!
By SpringsBub (11), Springs on Aug 22, 18 10:43 AM
Pat Mansir is East Hampton's very own version of Hillary Clinton. We've all had enough of both of them.
By Hobie58148 (13), East Hampton on Aug 24, 18 1:29 PM
Nice investigative reporting. You don't see many local newspapers nowadays actually going out on the road and conducting this type of investigative journalism. Or for that fact, even bother mentioning the story.
By BruceB (141), Sag Harbor on Aug 22, 18 11:47 AM
They will only investigate if it’s adversarial to conservatives or Republicans. And then they will only publish 1/10 the facts in a creatively reordered and selectively edited fashion. If it involves the wrongdoing or corruption of a liberal or Democrat they waive their hands and chant “There’s nothing to see here” then move on to another story.
By localEH (351), East Hampton on Aug 22, 18 3:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Like when Chris Cuomo crashed his car by the village train station in a drunken stopper trying to do a burnout. “Nothin to see here” on that one!
By icecreamman (415), Southampton on Aug 23, 18 6:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
Sounds like congress!!!
By knitter (1537), Southampton on Aug 22, 18 1:41 PM
Ummm. It's pretty clear that most, if not all, of the writing on that page was done by the same person. That's a pretty embarrassing attempt to get away with forgery.
By Arnold Timer (308), Sag Harbor on Aug 22, 18 1:54 PM
5 members liked this comment
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