Whoops! : City Says It Was Wrong in Rejecting Signature Challenge

The City’s Election Department apparently made a critical mistake in rejecting School Committee at-large candidate David Lindsey’s request to challenge the signatures of his opponent Bernie D’Onofrio, but the office is not yet apologizing for the mistake – which Lindsey said ended up being a very humiliating and time-consuming journey that didn’t need to happen.

Long story short, the Election Department believed that the deadline to file a challenge to signatures was on Tuesday, July 23, and there was some contention about whether or not Lindsey had filed it prior to 5 p.m.

Turns out the deadline was actually Aug. 6, but no one checked the City Charter before handing down their rejection.

Nonetheless, Lindsey said he had proof he filed at 4:58 p.m. and the Department stalled until after 5 p.m. to time/date stamp it – all of which was quite contentious and hotly debated last week, but found to be totally unnecessary this week. The Department held strong that Lindsey had submitted his challenge too late, and after three outside opinions were sought, continued to stand their ground on the rejection – which was made official in a letter on July 24.

Turns out no one at the City bothered to check the City Charter – and the actual deadline for challenging signatures was not until Aug. 6.

All of the drama over the deadline was for naught.

“The whole ordeal is beyond asinine,” said Lindsey. “I’m sure foolish things like this happen all the time, but maybe they don’t get caught on it. I felt insulted. I was in the office well before 5 p.m. Then to hear I didn’t even have to be there before 5 p.m… This is about citizens having a fair election process and making sure anyone in the city can come to City Hall and it’s a place where they can come and not be turned away or objectified because of how they look. I wonder how that office can resurrect its integrity. How can anyone in the city feel they can operate that office with objectivity?…Another guy could come in and ask for the same thing I asked for and there’s no problem. When I came in, it’s a problem and people are stalling and people are lying on my name.

“I am prepared to be litigious,” he continued. “If the person isn’t going to be fair and objective, then I’m fully prepared to take look into all avenues and all actions necessary. This is bigger than me.”

On Thursday, Aug. 1, the City acknowledged their mistake in a statement from City Clerk Sergio Cornelio – who was on vacation at the time of the incident July 23, but whose office oversees the Election Department.

“The City Clerk’s office originally submitted an elections calendar which prescribed dates for nomination paper filing and related deadlines to the Secretary of State’s office for review,” read the statement. “In the interim and upon calendar review, the City obtained guidance form the secretary of state’s office modifying deadlines that were based on information that would have been correct for some municipalities, but as we have a City Charter, our prescribed dates follow our charter.  The calendar as originally submitted has been deemed to be correct. As such, objections to, and withdrawals of, nomination papers shall be accepted until 5 p.m. on August 6, 2019.”

However, the statement stopped short of an apology to Lindsey, who said he and his wife, Council Candidate Gerly Adrien, were treated very poorly and were not given proper service in getting their paperwork filed.

“I am going to call for an apology,” he said. “I had to leave work two times for this and spend all this time at City Hall on this – and for nothing.”

He said he wasn’t even properly informed of the rejection, saying he was the last person to find out that it had happened. He said that notice came in a very “haphazard” way in which he was informed through his wife, Gerly Adrien, rather than directly.

He said he immediately went to City Hall last Monday, July 29, to talk the matter out with the City Solicitor. He said he was irate, but knew he needed to be calm. After talking to several people, including an assistant city solicitor, he said he was prepared to take the matter to the Attorney General, District Attorney or even the ACLU. Were that to happen, he said, they would certainly be subpoenaing security tapes.

“I also told him that this was far from over,” said Lindsey. “In the event I took the matter to law enforcement – by that AG or the DA or even organizations like the ACLU – I will do so. If we were to subpoena the (security) tapes, they will show I was clearly in there and she certainly had the letter. We went through all that, all that time I spent there away from work, and come to find out they didn’t even know the right deadline. It was Aug. 6, not July 23.”

Now, Lindsey said, he has been informed that the challenge to D’Onofrio’s signatures will move ahead, but he said he still will be waiting to see if he can trust the office to conduct the review. He said it is a learning experience, and he said people have to know what they’re doing when they’re dealing with something as sacred as an election by and for the people.

“They’re not used to seeing someone like myself saying, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’” he said. “Not just that, they’re not used to anyone saying, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’…I just want things to be fair and I want them to do things right for all the citizens of Everett. There are good people in that office…At the end of the day, the buck stops with one or two people. They are the people who have to make sure this process runs right, and they have zero knowledge – tacit or otherwise – and that’s a problem. It’s a disservice to the city. In that kind of job, what you don’t know, you should know really fast.”

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