Rumors are swirling in the political establishment suggesting that the District Attorney has launched a fraud investigation into the contractor hired to collect Simon Belsky‘s election petitions.
Belsky, who was petitioning to be on the Democratic primary ballot against Michael C. Nelson for City Council, hired an independent contractor recommended by an unnamed City Councilman. It appears as if the contractor sabotaged Belsky’s campaign by forging signatures, making up names and addresses, and failing to file important documents before deadline.
Of the 2,597 signatures collected by the Belsky team, only 230 were valid. The sum of those 230 were collected by Belsky’s wife and a friend of the campaign. The remaining 2,367 were collected by the contractor, who has yet to be identified. All of those were deemed false or invalid. The Democratic party requires 900 signatures from people within the district to land on the ballot.
Sources throughout the city are hinting that the District Attorney and possibly the FBI are looking into the issue. Penalties for fraud can include severe fines and jail time.
According to sources, the falsified petitions included many entries written in the same handwriting, fake names, and addresses that don’t exist. The consultant was also responsible for submitting documents to challenge Councilman Nelson’s petitions. Those documents were not sent until after the deadline. Belsky later said that Nelson’s campaign had only managed to collect 637 valid signatures – well below the required 900. But since the documents to challenge were not filed in time his invalid petitions will still be counted and Nelson will remain on the ballot.
Belsky declined to comment on the rumors of an investigation at this time, but did say, “It was clearly fraud.”
He added that he is continuing his fight against corruption, mismanagement, and ineptitude in our district, and will be taking his fight to the people. He is currently seeking out alliances with the local civic associations to strengthen their influence upon the politicians and the community boards – which he describes as stooges of the politicians.
With the alliances of those groups, he says, “We can affect change. We can raise hell.”
Though Belsky has collected more than $13,000 for his campaign he has promised to return all of it to his contributors. By election law, he is not required to return those funds and may instead use them to cover campaign expenses, though Belsky has decided to foot those bills himself.
“Every penny is going back to the people who have contributed it,” he said. “My checks are written out. There will not be one person who does not get the full amount back.”