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8-31-16

Criminal probe begins
in county commission campaign
Police report filed vs. Smith’s petition

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

A police report has been filed in the matter of an alleged first class elections offense in Platte County.

Dagmar Wood, candidate for first district county commissioner, confirmed Monday that her husband filed the police report regarding a matter that was the topic of an article in last week’s issue of The Landmark.

A potential criminal offense that could rise to the level of a felony has been alleged by Wood’s campaign in the recent petition effort that qualified Andy Smith as a candidate in the November election for first district county commissioner.

Wood said she was present when her husband filed the report with the sheriff’s department.

“They took it and it looks like they are going to investigate. They (the sheriff’s department) had anticipated receiving something from somebody,” Wood said, referring to the allegation that was detailed in last week’s Landmark.

Major Erik Holland of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department said an outside agency will be asked to conduct the investigation.

Holland said that “although we are capable of doing this investigation, since it involves two people who are candidates for county commission, who obviously would deal with the sheriff’s department budget, the sheriff thinks it’s best to ask an outside agency to avoid any appearance of a conflict.”

Wood said her husband, Eric, was the one to file the report because “he did the substantial amount of the investigation” into the petition and would be able to answer questions from investigators.

Wood won the Republican primary by defeating incumbent Beverlee Roper by 95 votes at the Aug. 2 Republican primary. Andy Smith worked his way onto the November ballot as an independent candidate via a petition process that was certified by the Platte County Board of Elections recently. Election officials certified more than 500 signatures in Smith’s petition effort, above the needed 459 to be placed on the ballot.

But now at least two people whose names appear on Smith’s petition have provided sworn affidavits to an attorney for Wood, indicating they signed the petition in the presence of someone other than the person who signed as the circulator-affiant on the petition sheet. That’s where the criminal allegation comes into play.

The circulator affiant is the person who swears before a notary public that he/she was present when the individuals signed the petition and that she/she was the circulator who procured those signatures.

In short, Missouri law requires that each sheet of every petition be verified through a sworn affidavit “by the person who circulated it.”

State law makes it a class one elections offense for a person to willfully and falsely certify that he or she witnessed the signing of a petition as a circulator or in any other manner knowingly furnish false information to an election official.

The two voters--a husband and wife--who signed Smith’s petition but who have noted the discrepancy in regard to the person who swore as the circulator affiant are Parkville residents.

In those sworn statements to Wood’s attorney, both say they signed a petition for nomination of Andy Smith on July 31. Both say their signatures were procured by and signed in front of Alice Trager.

But, according to records, the person who swore to being the circulator witnessing their signatures was Brenden Smith, who is the son of Andy Smith.

“I know and would recognize Brenden Smith, and I did not sign the petition in his presence,” the wife says in her sworn affidavit to Wood’s attorney.

Despite the sworn affidavits and allegation that was provided to the board of elections via Wood’s attorney, the election board did not turn the matter over to the sheriff’s department.

Scott Campbell, one of two attorneys for the board of elections commissioners, said he sees the situation as “dueling affidavits.”

“That’s too thin for us to turn over to the sheriff’s department. If they (the Wood campaign) think that’s a criminal offense they should turn it over to the sheriff’s department. It was their investigation and their findings that led to the allegation,” Campbell told The Landmark last week.

At a meeting of the Platte County Board of Elections Commissioners on Tuesday, Aug. 16, the matter of the alleged elections offense did not get discussed in open session by the four member board and there was no closed session that evening. That Aug. 16 session was the first meeting since the date of the letter from Wood’s attorney detailing the allegation to the board of elections. The board has not met again since that time. Their next meeting is set for Sept. 20 at 5 p.m.

Wood last week told The Landmark: “While I am disappointed that my opponent appears to have secured his place on the ballot through falsified circulator affidavits, I am not going to ask a court to remove his name from the ballot. I will let others decide whether elections offenses were committed.”

The decision to file the police report came after the board of elections had failed to do so, she said.

“I knew there either was a civil path (legal action in civil court)for us or a criminal path for us. I did not want to pursue the civil side of things because it didn’t seem like it would have an outcome we are interested in. I was hoping the election board would see clearly there was an elections offense that needed to be investigated. I knew all along it was going to get to them (the sheriff’s department) one way or another,” Wood told The Landmark Monday evening.

Smith has failed to comment on the allegation. Repeated messages left for him on his cell phone by the newspaper over the past week have been unreturned, as have questions sent to him through Facebook.

A friend of Smith’s told The Landmark last week that Smith is “out of the country for the next week.”

The four members of the Platte County Board of Elections Commissioners are Jim Everett, Democrat; Diane Pepper, Democrat; Marvin Ferguson, Republican; and Betty Knight, Republican.

Everett serves as chairman of the board.

The Landmark reached Everett by phone on Monday to get his thoughts on the board choosing not to turn the matter over to the sheriff’s department. The discussion took place prior to the knowledge that Wood was filing a police report.

“It’s still a discussion item among the board,” Everett said initially. When pressed to say whether that meant the board hadn’t yet made a final decision on whether to report the matter to the sheriff’s department, Everett responded: “I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying I have no comment. I can’t speak for the board.”

When told he wasn’t being asked to speak for the board but to speak for himself, Everett declined comment to that question and to a series of other follow-up questions asked by the newspaper.

This is the second problem with paperwork by Smith in his trip into local politics this election cycle.

In March, he had originally filed to be on the ballot as a Republican in the August primary, but was removed from the ballot by election authorities for failing to provide necessary financial paperwork by the deadline for doing so.

As a candidate for county office, he was required to file a short form personal financial disclosure report with both the county clerk’s office and the Missouri Ethics Commission by the 21st day after the closing of candidate filing.

That deadline was April 19. On April 20, the board of elections was notified by the county clerk of Smith’s failure to file the personal financial disclosure form. The board of elections also contacted the Missouri Ethics Commission and confirmed that Smith had also failed to file the paperwork with the MEC by the April 19 deadline.

The penalty for failure to file that paperwork is removal of the candidate’s name from the ballot. That left only Wood and Roper on the ballot for the Aug. 2 primary election.