Montgomery County police union used felons to gather signatures in ballot drive

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Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye

Montgomery County's police union used felons, including a fugitive and a man convicted of forgery, to collect signatures for a ballot measure that would kill legislation reducing police collective bargaining rights, court documents show.

The county cites the Fraternal Order of Police's use of felons among reasons why at least 6,700 of the 34,828 signatures validated by the County Board of Elections are insufficient to put the measure, protecting police officers' ability to negotiate any management decision, on the November ballot.

The felons were responsible for collecting signatures and certifying they were gathered legally.

"The notion that a felon who under Maryland law would be prohibited from voting in an election, and who at any time was at the risk of arrest by the very individuals on whose behalf he was circulating the petition, would be responsible for preventing fraud flies in the face of common sense and is truly laughable," attorneys for the county wrotein documents filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

One felon, Keith Gregory Moore, of Grand Rapids, Mich., was convicted of forgery, fraud, aggravated assault and home invasion, the court filing shows.

Another petition circulator, Jessie James Rowe, of Kalamazoo, Mich., was a fugitive felon at the time he wasgathering signatures -- and still is -- the document says.

In June 2010, Rowewas convicted of possession of methamphetamines or Ecstasy. A warrant was issued for his arrest on July 2, 2010, after he tested positive for marijuana, amphetamines and opiates, violating his bond. As of May 17, when the county filed the court documents, the warrant was still outstanding. In 2004, Rowe pleaded guilty to operating a meth lab.

The county wants the 2,744 signatures Rowe collected and the 543 gathered by Moore tossed out.

Both were hired by California's PCI Consultants, which the FOP contracted togather signatures. Union Secretary Jane Milne referred questions to PCI. A PCI representative did not return calls.

The union asked that the criminal records be omitted from the court record because the county submitted them after a legal deadline.

The union and Board of Elections argue that criminal history is not relevant.

The only legal requirement is that circulators be at least 18 years old, the Board of Elections said in a court document. They do not need to be eligible to vote or live in the jurisdiction where they collect signatures.

"Unless there is evidence that a voter's signature is false, it does not matter if the circulator lacks credibility as a witness," the union wrote in a court motion.

Montgomery County says other problems among the 6,700 signatures it is challenging include signatures lacking proper dates, names that don't match voting records and circulators who gave inaccurate address information. The Elections Board approved 4,594 signatures more than required for the referendum.

The court is scheduled to rule June 18 on motions for summary judgment.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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