EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 10, 2013

Probe of suspicious signatures scrapped

LAWRENCE — On a day when Attorney General Martha Coakley announced she is bearing down on allegations of campaign irregularities at City Hall, Secretary of State William Galvin announced he is backing off.

Galvin will not investigate allegations that city election official Rafael Tejeda faked signatures on nominating petitions for state Rep. Frank Moran last year, a spokesman for Galvin said yesterday.

Spokesman Brian McNiff said Galvin and his aides, who oversee elections in Massachusetts, did not review the petitions or interview Tejeda, but pointed out that Tejeda denied the allegations in a story raising questions about the signatures published by The Eagle-Tribune on Nov. 4.

The newspaper hired a forensic handwriting expert to examine five signatures on Moran’s petitions — including one allegedly by a woman who lives next door to Tejeda and is not a U.S. Citizen — after Moran’s opponent for the 17th Essex House seat brought the alleged fakes to the newspaper’s attention.

The expert, Ron Rice of Plymouth, concluded that Tejeda signed all five of the signatures, then used his position as an election official to fill in boxes at the bottom of the petition sheets validating the signatures. Tejeda himself also signed Moran’s petitions.

“Forging the names of voters to nomination papers is a serious matter,” McNiff said in an email yesterday. “But after reviewing accounts of the allegedly forged signatures on nomination papers of a candidate for state representative in Lawrence, reported the weekend before the Nov. 6, 2012 election, the accounts, which include a denial from the alleged perpetrator, remain simple (sic) that, allegations.”

McNiff also said the deadline has passed for challenging the signatures and added that forensic handwriting analysis “does not always prevail” when the state Ballot Law Commission considers allegations that signatures were faked.

The Eagle-Tribune did not file a challenge against the signatures with the Secretary of State.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Merrimack Valley

Eagle-Tribune News Videos
Photos of the Week