A 22-year-old West Bloomfield Township college student is facing up to 93 days in jail for an alleged case of election fraud involving the race for the new Oakland County Board of Commissioners 5th District, which represents Orchard Lake and portions of Waterford and West Bloomfield townships in the lakes area.
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department investigated the candidacy of John Scott, an independent candidate challenging incumbent county Commissioner John Scott (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield), who is seeking a sixth two-year term on the county board.
Also on the ballot in that race is Democrat Alexandria T. Riley of Sylvan Lake.
John Scott, the challenger, was arraigned in 51st District Court on Thursday, Oct. 11. He is next due back in court at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23 in front of 51st District Court Judge Richard D. Kuhn, Jr.
His personal bond was set at $10,000 and his attorney is H. Wallace Parker, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department.
Commissioner Scott said the effort is a ploy to confuse the electorate by placing two people named John Scott on the ballot, hoping to split votes and thereby give the electoral edge to Riley, 26.
“We must have zero tolerance against those who would commit election fraud in Oakland County,” said Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds Bill Bullard, Jr. in a press release. “Clearly lessons weren’t learned from the Fake Tea Party scandal and election administrators and law enforcement must be on guard against those who try abuse the process.”
Bullard was referring to the 2010 scandal in which so-called “Tea Party” candidates were put up for election — sometimes without their knowledge — in close races as an effort to siphon votes from Republican candidates to the benefit of Democrats. The fiasco resulted in charges against former Oakland County Democratic Party Chairman Michael McGuinness and Jason Bauer, the county party’s former political operative.
Both received probation and were fined after they entered “no contest” pleas in Oakland County Circuit Court.
In the case of the independent John Scott, several people — who submitted written statements to Commissioner Scott, which he then forwarded to the Sheriff’s Department — contacted the five-term Republican saying they had signed petitions to get him on the ballot in July.
But Commissioner Scott did not have active candidate petitions in circulation at that time; he had been placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot months before, as did Riley.
The separate but related incidents in question are as follows:
• Kathleen Boyea of Waterford wrote in a letter that she had signed a petition on July 16 circulated by a “20-something woman” in July, but the petition with Boyea’s signature lists Scott, the independent challenger, as the petition circulator, not a “20-something woman.”
• Brett Chudler, an Oakland County assistant prosecutor, wrote in a letter that he felt “bamboozled” on July 12 when a petition circulator — who he described in the letter as a “black male, medium height, build and complexion” — solicited signatures from him, his wife, Neisha Chudler, and his mother-in-law, Myrna A. Baytarian. He asked the petition circulator — who is identified on the petition they signed as being John Scott, the independent challenger — if he was being paid to collect signatures; the collector said he was, Chudler wrote in the letter.
Commissioner Scott says that raises the question of why someone would be getting paid to collect petition signatures for his or her own candidacy. Chudler wrote in the letter that the “monkey business” amounts to his family’s signatures being “obtained fraudulently.”
• Terrence and Linda Di Dio of Waterford wrote in a letter that they had signed a petition circulated on July 18 by “2 young Afro-American gentlemen.” The petition bearing Linda Di Dio’s signature (No. 37) lists Dominiqua Bearden of Pontiac as the petition circulator, while the one baring Terrence Di Dio’s signature lists John Scott, the independent candidate, as the circulator. Terrence Di Dio, owner of U.S.A. Auto Brokers, noticed a “late model black Jaguar sedan with dark tinted windows that was waiting in the road for the petitioners.” He took down the license plate number, and Commissioner Scott says he later learned that car allegedly is registered in the name of Riley, his Democratic opponent.
Riley on Oct. 9 called the accusation that her vehicle, which she confirmed is a Jaguar, was used to drive around petition signature collectors a “bogus allegation.” She confirmed that she spoke with Sheriff’s Department investigators on the matter, but also said she has never spoken with John Scott, the independent candidate; and has never met Commissioner Scott in person.
The petition signators detailed above, who Commissioner Scott said are all supporters of his, are “furious” about the alleged incident of election fraud, according to Commissioner Scott.
“I’m insulted by this,” Commissioner Scott said last week. “(Top Democrats) all got the same dirty tricks. They don’t want to compete in the arena of ideas. They like to compete in the world of dirty tricks, confusion, and fooling people because they know they can’t win if we were to actually discuss ideas and how things are done.”
Nominating petitions include the following language in the bottom-left corner: “A circulator knowingly making a false statement in the above certificate, a person not a circulator who signs as a circulator, or a person who signs a name other than his or her own as a circulator is guilty of a misdemeanor,” which is punishable by up to 93 days in jail.
“There’s not much to tell you, to tell you the truth,” said Wallace, the independent Scott’s attorney. “The young man wanted to run for office. He filed all of his paperwork, went to get the signatures on the petitions to be able to qualify for that office, and then finds out that someone’s got a problem with it. Unfortunately, his opposition is a man of power (Commissioner Scott).”
Wallace said he’s “still trying to determine what supposedly (his client) did wrong.”
Commissioner Scott said on Thursday, Oct. 4 that the case appears to be similar to two other cases that have gained attention statewide: The petition signature fraud scandal that resulted in charges against four staffers of former Republican U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter and brought about his political demise; and the scandal involving Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) and state Rep. Roy Schmidt, a Democratic lawmaker who switched parties and allegedly tried to put up a false Democratic candidate to run against him in the 76th state House District on the west side of the state. Both Bolger and Schmidt are now the focus of a one-person grand jury investigation.
Regardless of what happens in the legal case, John Scott, the independent candidate, will remain on the ballot; absentee and military personnel ballots have already been sent out.
But Commissioner Scott does have one thing working for him — a clarifying designation he received for the Nov. 6 general election ballot which lists him as a Republican Oakland County commissioner.
Sid Rubin, mayor pro tem of Keego Harbor, was one of the people who said he mistakenly signed the nominating petitions for the independent John Scott.
“One can only feel violated by being fraudulently approached and fooled into signing something as important as an election nominating petition,” Rubin wrote in a letter. “The integrity of our election process is once again being attacked by what I believe to be unscrupulous individuals trying to win or disrupt an election by using deception while gathering signatures.”
“I felt very comfortable signing the petition for the John Scott that I knew (the incumbent), never really suspecting there would be another John Scott running against him with the same name,” Rubin said on Monday, Oct. 8. “I thought that would be highly unusual and suspect, and who would want to do something as crazy as that?”
A message left with John Scott, the independent candidate, on Oct. 9 was not returned prior to press time.