AP NEWS

Recall challenge alleges forged signatures, other fraud

November 17, 2018

The Groves city councilman recently booted from office has gone to court alleging forgeries, repeat signatures and other problems with the recall petition that led to the vote for his ouster.

In a legal challenge filed in state District Court in Jefferson County, Cross Coburn claims he was illegally removed from his Ward 1 council seat. The petition, filed by attorney Jill Pierce, says the recall election should not have been put on the ballot.

Voters opted by a 2-to-1 margin to recall Coburn after nude photos of him from a dating app were anonymously mailed to City Hall.

Groves City Manger D.E. Sosa said Friday that he wasn’t sure if the city had been served with the petition yet. Pierce said the mayor and city clerk were notified of the petition before Thursday’s council meeting.

Coburn’s challenge says Groves resident William Howlett on May 4 filed an affidavit beginning the recall effort. The city’s charter requires a recall petition be returned to the City Clerk within 20 days of filing the affidavit with signatures of at least 10 percent of the city’s registered voters. Howlett filed the recall petition May 24.

The Groves city clerk said there were problems with that petition, which Howlett tried to rectify in an amendment he filed June 25. The clerk certified that petition and said 936 of 1,065 signatures on it were valid.

However, the petition for contest says the clerk then violated other provisions in the city’s charter, such as requiring the clerk to keep signed and dated petition blanks on hand for distribution. Without complying with the charter, the blanks shouldn’t be certified.

The legal challenge says the clerk also failed to identify numerous other deficiencies with the amended petition, including:

Several people who signed the petition more than once.

Some 80 signatures that don’t appear to be genuine.

Instances where people recorded the wrong date of birth.

Three Groves residents signed forgery affidavits saying they didn’t sign a page of the recall petition where their names appeared.

One of the pages included the name Chris Coburn, instead of Cross Coburn. The page was altered by scratching out the “h” and adding an “s” instead of being disregarded.

Pierce said the city charter mandates if a page of the petition isn’t sufficient, the entire page should be thrown out. That wasn’t done, she said.

Coburn “contests the results of the recall election as it was based on a deficient recall petition, which was wrongly certified by the City Clerk,” his petition says. It cites “deficiencies, fraud, forgeries and alteration of verified election documents.”

Coburn seeks a declaratory judgment that the recall petition was invalid and the results of the “wrongfully held election” be disregarded and he be reinstated to his position on the council, among other requests.

District Court Judge Donald Floyd in early October ruled in favor of the city of Groves after Coburn filed an injunction in August. The document requested the petition to oust him from his seat be ruled invalid, citing 80 of the 936 signatures that were likely forged.

Floyd said the injunction was filed too late because election ballots had already been sent out.

The petition to contest the election has been assigned to 58th District Court Judge W. Kent Walston.

kaitlin.bain@beaumontenterprise.com

twitter.com/KaitlinBain

AP RADIO
Update hourly