More Allegations of Forged Signatures Surface in Greenwich Election Petitions 

Greenwich Town Hall (CT Examiner)

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GREENWICH — Republican Town Committee members have called for the cancellation of two upcoming primary races, alleging state election law violations by fellow party members in complaints filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

In two separate complaints, RTC Vice Chair Joseph Montanaro and member Michael Spilo claimed that local registrars and petitioners accepted improper signatures on election petitions. The filings come one week after several committee newcomers submitted a similar complaint

The complaints stem from disagreements over party messaging between two committee factions. While many support current RTC leadership in their efforts to boost outreach and denounce Democrats’ politics, others have called for a change in leadership. On Jan. 9, the two groups faced off in a caucus, endorsing separate slates of candidates for a spot on the RTC. 

But later that month, several party members looked to challenge the caucus results and force primary elections by collecting petition signatures. Altogether, local Republicans gathered enough signatures to trigger primary elections in districts 2, 4, 5, 8 and 9 for March 4. But the legitimacy of petitions in districts 2, 5 and 8 have been called into question and referred to the SEEC for investigation.

Last week, five of the endorsed District 5 candidates — Michael Hahn, Andreas Duus, Jerry Cincotta, Marc Johnson and Paul Olmsted — filed the first complaint with the SEEC, alleging that three signatures collected by RTC Chair Beth MacGillivray, Mita Spilo and Nan Levy had been forged. According to the candidates, three of the signers confirmed they were not in Greenwich when the signatures were collected.

MacGillivray has since denounced the filing, calling it a “nuisance and a harassment complaint.” 

On Monday, Spilo told CT Examiner that the original complaint was “frivolous” but inspired him and Montanaro to check petitions in other districts. Upon review, they claimed that 30 signatures in District 2 and 48 signatures in District 8 were unlawfully collected.

“I was flabbergasted by what I found,” Spilo said.

State law violations

The first complaint filed by Montanaro and Spilo alleges that Republican Registrar Fred DeCaro and Assistant Republican Registrar Traci Carney violated state election law by accepting signatures which were personally collected by some of the petitioning candidates. According to emailed copies of the petitions, District 8 candidates Caren Vizzo St. Phillip, Janet Freiheit and Michael Evensen and District 2 candidate Jill Kelly circulated petitions for their own candidate slates in late January.

They said the registrars should have rejected the petitions submitted by those candidates, citing a Connecticut statute which forbids town committee candidates from circulating any primary petition for “another candidate or another group of candidates.”

After emailing the registrars demanding a cancellation of the upcoming District 2 and District 8 primaries, Montanaro and Spilo wrote, DeCaro said the issue was “out of their hands.”

But DeCaro later told CT Examiner that Montanaro and Spilo are misinterpreting the state law. 

“Having carefully reread the statute and the legislative history attached to it, I do not believe the law prohibits a candidate from collecting signatures for a slate which they are part of,” DeCaro said. “It seems nonsensical to claim that a petition candidate could not collect signatures for his or her running mates on the same slate, whose name will appear right next to theirs on the ballot.”

On Tuesday, State Elections Officer Heather Augeri agreed with DeCaro’s interpretation in an email to the Greenwich registrars. Noting that her response was not an official opinion of the Office of the Secretary of the State, Augeri said, “Yes, they can circulate for themselves and candidates on their slate.”

DeCaro, who was endorsed by the RTC in his 2022 reelection bid, added that he doesn’t believe local registrars or the SEEC have the power to stop a local primary.

In the second complaint, Montanaro and Spilo alleged that three Republican petition circulators — Edward Dadakis, Paul Cappiali and Kelly — collected forged signatures. They claim numerous signatures were written by the same person and that the circulators lied about witnessing separate signatures.  

According to state law, any person who signs a name other than their own on a primary petition shall be fined, and any person who fraudulently files a false certificate shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

Specifically, Spilo and Montanaro claimed Dadakis collected two signatures that were “penned by the same hand,” Cappiali collected three, and Kelly collected two.

“It should have been clear when they looked at the page that one person signed all three names,” Spilo said.

But on Monday, Dadakis said Montanaro and Spilo provided no real evidence to back their claim. In his case, the complaint alleged that he collected identical signatures from District 8 residents Barbara Oxer and George Oxer. But Dadakis said the couple could confirm they signed their own names. Barbara later confirmed with CT Examiner that she and her husband signed their own names.

While Spilo and Montanaro contend that misconduct occurred in districts 2 and 8, they dismissed any wrongdoing in District 5.

“The only one they provided any evidence for was an email from Bill Deutsch, and Bill Deutsch didn’t say that he didn’t sign the petition,” Spilo said.

Should the SEEC find the three contested District 5 signatures invalid, the petitioners would still have the required signatures to trigger a primary. However, Spilo argued if the 78 signatures challenged in their complaints for District 2 and District 8 are excluded, those petitions ought to be considered invalid.

“The petition should have been rejected, and the primary shouldn’t go forth. I don’t know if we’ll be able to stop it,” he said.