Yesterday we reported on the hearing before a court appointed referee weighing whether City Council member Alan Gerson should get back on September's Primary ballot. Ray Dowd (pictured, left), representing candidate Pete Gleason, has now given us his take on what happened in the courtroom. Dowd called several witnesses to support his contention that the Gerson campaign engaged in fraud. He wants the court to uphold the Election Board's decision to kick Gerson off the ballot.
The trouble for Gerson began when the printer got his home address wrong on some petitions. Even though the campaign ordered corrected petitions, somehow (it's unclear how) the Truman Democratic Club didn't get the corrected version. The club collected signatures on behalf of Gerson and other candidates it decided to support. Dowd believes yesterday's testimony by one of the volunteers, Renee Abramowitz, is critical. On the stand, she acknowledged that someone had corrected the address and then written in her initials. Dowd says it's a clear case of forgery and, therefore, fraud. Dowd also pointed to the testimony of Jessica Loeser, president of the Truman Democratic Club. Loeser said that – after volunteers had collected signatures – she told them to change Gerson's address.
During cross-examination, Loeser said signature collectors were instructed to inform voters that they were being asked to sign a petition in support of placing Alan Gerson on the ballot. Councilman Gerson's attorney, Lawrence Mandelker, said there can be no fraud unless it's proven that voters were deliberately misled. Dowd called this argument "ridiculous." "Falsifying petitions is fraudulent behavior," he said. Dowd said that yesterday's testimony contradicted what Gerson himself has said — that the problems were caused by a printer's error. Dowd believes he proved it was the "fraudulent acts" of campaign surrogates that are to blame for Gerson's predicament.
Dowd told me he is troubled by the circumstances under which Abramowitz said she collected signatures A nurse for the United Jewish Council, she testified the petitions were left on her desk. When the petitions were completed, she handed them in to her boss at the UJC. Dowd says he questions why an employee, working for a non-profit organization receiving millions of dollars in government funding, was collecting signatures for a political campaign. Dowd acknowledged that this aspect of Abramowitz's testimony is not relevant to the allegations of election fraud. But he thinks it might be a campaign finance issue.
The referee, Leslie Lowenstein, is now preparing a report that will be forwarded to the State Supreme Court Judge who will decide the case next week.