Mike Brandi, the chair of the Saratoga Springs Republican Committee has submitted a complaint to the Saratoga Springs Police Department. The complaint focuses on what appears to be a forged signature on a petition that Ron Kim circulated. Here is a link to the Daily Gazette article.
In a conversation with Mr. Brandi, Brandi expressed ambivalence about the controversy.
“This business with criminally targeting people circulating petitions is not healthy for our democracy,” Mr. Brandi told me. “We identified Mayor Kim’s flawed petition last year. Even the most cursory inspection of the signature in question raises doubts that the hand that signed it was the same as the hand that signed the registration card at the Board of Elections. Still, we did not want to and do not want to create an atmosphere of fear for people generous enough to volunteer their time and take part in the democratic process by circulating petitions.”
“On the other hand, the recent and gratuitous charge against Tracey LaBelle was the last straw. Ms. LaBelle properly witnessed every signature on all her petitions. The fact that there were some people who signed her petition using block letters that did not match the script on their registration cards did not constitute ‘forgery’ and Ms. Tuz had to have known this.”
“At this point, the police have our complaint against Mayor Kim and we trust them to investigate fairly.”
In contrast to City Democratic Committee Chair Pat Tuz, Mr. Brandi has made both his claim and his documentation available to the media and the public.
The arrow below points to the signature on the petition.
Below is the registration card from the Saratoga County Board of Elections. The signature to compare can be seen at the bottom right. It simply begs credibility that the person who signed the petition is the same person who signed the registration card.
Making things more challenging for Mayor Kim is the fact that the person who signed his petition was a neighbor so it would seem likely that Mayor Kim had to know the person was signing someone else’s name.
As Mayor Kim is not only an attorney but a veteran campaigner (he served as Commissioner of Public Safety for two terms and has run for numerous other offices) it is not unfair to hold him to a high standard when it comes to campaign petitions.
The law requires that the person circulating a campaign petition must affirm that they observed every person who signed the petition. It is a crime to sign the “witness” statement at the bottom of the petition knowing that it contains something false.
Mayor Kim’s Bizarre Response
In the spirit of fairness, I sent Mayor Kim an email to his City Hall email address inviting him to respond to the controversy. In my email, I assured him that anything he sent me would be posted without interference or editing. In contrast to Ms. Tuz, I sent him images of the petition and the registration card so he would be properly prepared.
He responded by advising me, “This email is inappropriate for a City supported resource.”
I do not know why that would be the case. Reporters commonly write to public officials regarding newsworthy issues that are not directly related to their city duties.
Still, I simply wrote back asking how I could contact him on this matter. I never heard back from him.
I hope readers of this blog will appreciate my frustration over his response. He and his colleagues go on at great length about transparency and accountability. In spite of the civility of my inquiries and the serious nature of the issues I am inquiring about, they rarely acknowledge let alone respond to my emails.
Here is the text of my email to Kim:
To: Mayor Ron Kim
From: John Kaufmann
Date: February 24, 2022 3:45 PM
Subject: Petitions and Signatures
I have come into possession of the two documents attached. One is the voter registration card of Mr. R Cooley and the other is the petition you witnessed which includes a Mr. Cooley’s alleged signature. As you will observe, the two do not match. Mr. Cooley’s address indicates that he is a neighbor of yours.
As an attorney and an experienced politician, I am sure you are aware that you must observe each person actually signing your petition in order to properly witness the document.
In fairness to you, I would like to offer you the opportunity to respond to this issue on my website. Whatever you submit to me would be posted on my site without editing.
As you have championed the importance of transparency, I would expect that you would take full advantage of my offer in order to inform the citizens of our city about the facts behind what appears to be a violation of New York State law.
I look forward to hearing from you.John Kaufmann’s Email
Later that afternoon, I received a blank email from Mayor Kim. I wrote back advising him of this. I then received the following email:
———- Forwarded message ———
From: Ron Kim <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, Feb 24, 2022 at 5:07 PM
Subject: Re: Petitions and Signatures
To: John Kaufmann <email@example.com>
Sorry, still learning how to use my I-Phone email application. This email is inappropriate for a City supported resource.
So I wrote back to him asking how I could contact him about this matter. He never responded.
Apparently, there is no way of contacting him on matters he would prefer to avoid.
On May 23, 2021, Ronald J. Kim of Xx Martin Avenue, Saratoga Springs, New York, executed a certification certifying under penalty of perjury that certain signatures on a petition labeled “Sheet No. 75” had been made by the purported signatories “in my presence on the dates above indicated and identified himself or herself to be the individual who signed this sheet.” Signature 5 on sheet 75 is recorded as being “R Cooley” residing at Xx Martin Avenue, Saratoga Springs, New York. Signature number 4 on sheet 75 is recorded as being “SD Cooley,” also of XX Martin Avenue, Saratoga Springs, New York. However, the signatures for SD Cooley and R Cooley appear to be very similar and potentially were made by the same person.
The registration information for “R. Cooley” of XX Martin Avenue corresponds to Richard R. Cooley. Mr. Cooley’s signature on file with the Saratoga County Board of Elections does not match the signature applied to sheet 75.
The above facts give rise to a suspicion that Mr. Cooley was not the one who signed sheet 75. If Mr. Cooley did not sign sheet 75, Mr. Kim’s certification of sheet 75 is rendered false. Mr. Kim’s false certification of sheet 75 may be punishable as a misdemeanor under Election Law Section 17-122 and/or Penal Law Section 210.45.