Greenwich Candidates Allege Fraudulent Signatures on Republican Election Petition

An excerpt of signatures on challenged petitions in Greenwich

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GREENWICH — Local candidates have accused Republican Town Committee members of forging signatures on an election petition, according to a complaint filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

The dispute stems from a Jan. 9 vote, in which Riverside Republicans endorsed newcomers Michael Hahn, Andreas Duus and Anthony Calabrese, along with current members Jerry Cincotta, Marc Johnson and Paul Olmsted, to fill District 5’s six open seats on the RTC. 

Since then, five of the six candidates — Hahn, Duus, Cincotta, Johnson and Olmsted — have publicly criticized current RTC leadership, calling for a change in Republican strategies and messaging. And several committee members, including RTC Chair Beth MacGillivray, are challenging their seats on the committee.

According to the SEEC complaint submitted by the five endorsed candidates, MacGillivray and two RTC members went door-to-door circulating petitions on Jan. 31 to earn three other Republicans — Gideon Fountain, Sharon Kistler and Maria Hermann Schnabl — spots in District 5. With 52 signatures collected, the circulators successfully forced a new primary election between the endorsed and petitioning candidates, which is currently scheduled for March 5. 

But Hahn, Duus, Cincotta, Johnson and Olmsted claim that a number of those signatures were forged, and have requested a full investigation into the apparent circulators — MacGillivray, Mita Spilo and Nan Levy.

“Election fraud in any form cannot be tolerated. It is our opinion the SEEC needs to launch an investigation into these allegations and if found accurate, enforce appropriate remedies,” the five candidates said in a Tuesday statement.

Upon receiving a copy of the complaint on Tuesday, however, MacGillivray questioned its intent and maintained that the circulators have no legal obligation to verify signatures. 

Evidence of forged signatures

The complainants point to three specific petition signatures that, they alleged, could not have been possible for circulators to obtain, given that those individuals were out of town. 

In a Feb. 4 email exchange, Duus said he was surprised to see Republican resident William Deutsch’s name on the petition. He then asked Deutsch in an email to confirm whether he was in Greenwich when the form was being circulated, to which Deutsch replied, “No I was not in town. Very sorry.”

Along with Deutsch, the candidates claimed that residents Matthew DeSalvo and Terri DeSalvo’s signatures were invalid. Though they did not explain how or when they contacted the couple, the complainants wrote that Terri said she was out of town on Jan. 31, and that Matthew said he did not sign the petition.

“With local knowledge of our constituents, we reviewed the petition and noticed several of the signatures could not have been obtained in the timeframe the petition was being circulated. Our familiarity with the community made us aware that some of the signatures were from people not in town,” the complainants wrote.

Deutsch and the DeSalvos did not respond to requests for comment.

In a Tuesday email, Republican Registrar Fred DeCaro confirmed he provided MacGillivray with the petitions on Jan. 31 and that they were returned later that same day with 62 signatures. He said the petitioners each needed to earn 48 signatures to appear on the ballot, and 52 of the 62 submitted signatures were verified and counted by his staff.

Included in the SEEC complaint were copies of five of the petitions, which contained markings written by registrar staff beside individual names, outlining the verification process. Matthew DeSalvo’s signature was left out of the final tally, but Terry DeSalvo and Deutsch’s names were approved by registrar staff.

‘A nuisance and a harassment’

In her response to the complaint, however, MacGillivray told CT Examiner that it’s the registrar’s job to verify signatures, not the circulators. She added that the circulators only collected signatures in person, not over the phone or via email.

“I have no responsibility in verifying people. I don’t ask for any IDs, any license,” she said. “We’re just door knocking, finding people and getting signatures. The registrar’s the one that verifies the signatures.”

MacGillivary countered that the complaint was an intentional move by the five endorsed candidates ahead of the March election.

“It sounds like it’s a tactic,” she said. “It is a nuisance and a harassment complaint.”

An SEEC spokesperson said on Tuesday that the commission has not decided whether it will open an investigation on the matter. The complaint was not included on the commission’s Wednesday meeting agenda.