Forged signatures get Jon Keyser collector fired

Posted at 4:06 PM, May 16, 2016

The woman who collected signatures for Jon Keyser's campaign, which have come under scrutiny from a Denver7 investigation, has been fired. We are only identifying the woman as "Maureen."

"She is fired as a result of your investigation," said Steve Adams, partner of Black Diamond Outreach. "And our internal investigation."

"What did you internal investigation find?" asked Denver7 Political Reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"It showed us that there were very suspect signatures. Coupled with the report that you did, [it] gave us reason to believe that they were forged," said Adams.

MORE | VIDEO: U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser talks around questions about forged petition signatures

On Monday, investigators with multiple District Attorneys offices met to discuss one complaint from liberal group ProgressNow Colorado and complaints from two voters who said they did not sign petitions for Keyser.

Those two voters are from Arapahoe County and contacted the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office to complain about their signatures being forged.

MORE | Multiple voters confirm for Denver7 their signatures were forged on Keyser petitions for U.S. Senate

Keyser qualified for the U.S. Senate primary ballot by petitioning onto the ballot. He had to go to court after the Secretary of State originally rejected some signatures. A judge allowed those signatures to be counted.

The Keyser campaign hired Clear Creek Strategies to collect signatures to qualify Keyser for the June 28 mail-in Republican Senate primary ballot. Clear Creek Strategies subcontracted some of the work to Black Diamond Outreach. Maureen was an employee of Black Diamond Outreach.

"When we called her in to talk to her, she blatantly denied it and at that point we let her go," said Adams. "She didn't admit to anything."
"Yet you still let her go?" said Zelinger.
"We still let her go. It's like if we get a complaint of a canvasser at the door, and the resident says, 'Your canvasser came to our door (and) smelled like pot,' they get fired. And they can deny it until the cows come home."
Adams explained that his employees get paid $12-$15 per hour collecting signatures.
"Was this person paid by the signature? Is there any incentive to forge signatures?" asked Zelinger.
"We believe the way we do things, there isn't. We hire everybody as employees. We pay them an hourly rate, but we also pay them a performance bonus, so if they perform above and beyond what we expect a decently trained canvasser to perform, we pay them -- and I don't know the exact amount -- but they get 'x' amount per signature over whatever that threshold is. So there would be a small incentive, but man, a real small one," said Adams.
"Do you believe there was fraud here?" asked Zelinger.
"The evidence leads me to believe that, yes," said Adams.
On Monday afternoon, Keyser spoke with Denver Post reporter John Frank, giving more detailed answers than the "I'm on the ballot" phrase he told Zelinger multiple times on Thursday.
"It appears, in fact, that some of those signatures were turned in in an improper manner and that's a very, very serious thing," Keyser said to the Denver Post. "It's an extremely serious allegation. I think that speaks to why I was very measured and very disciplined in talking about this."
He also took exception with Denver7 going to his home on Wednesday afternoon, after repeated attempts to reach his campaign by phone, text and tweets failed.
"Like any father, I was upset that my privacy was invaded at my house while I wasn't there," Keyser said.
Black Diamond Outreach collected signatures for Keyser's campaign by going door-to-door, visiting registered Republican voters at their homes.
Denver7 previously discovered that Maureen has a criminal history. In New York State in 1998, she was charged with fraud, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of attempted fraud and sentenced to five years probation. In 2005, she was charged with grand larceny and robbery, but pleaded down to lesser charges.
According to Adams, state law limits how far back he can consider someone's criminal history before denying that person a job.
"If she had forged something five years ago, we would have never hired her," said Adams.
"Legally, you can only go back how far?" asked Zelinger.
"Seven years," said Adams. "Her forgery was 20 years ago. At what point in time have you served your penance would be the logical question.
Denver7 has now confirmed with 13 voters in Congressional District One that they did not sign a petition to help Keyser get on the ballot. He qualified for the ballot by getting more than 1,500 signatures in each of Colorado's seven congressional districts. He was credited with 1,520 valid signatures in Congressional District One. So far, 13 of those voters have told Denver7 that they did not sign those petitions.
Adams said even if Denver7 found 21 invalid signatures in Congressional District One, which would drop Keyser below the 1,500 required from each congressional district, that the campaign could argue previously invalidated signatures should be counted.
"I know for a fact that there's probably 200-plus (signatures) in CD1 that would get validated if we re-open this," said Adams, referring to signatures that the Secretary of State invalidated because of technical errors by the signature collector. The campaign did not challenge, in court, invalidated signatures from Congressional District One because the signatures that were validated were still beyond the requirement.
"Do you think (Maureen) should face criminal prosecution?" asked Zelinger.
"I think that's something for the D.A. to figure out. We will participate in any investigation; full cooperation." 
Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Wayne Williams held a news conference to discuss the 2016 legislative session.
One of the bills he discussed was about mandatory training for circulators for voter petitions.
"What kind of mandatory training would have prevented fraud or (in error) name and addresses?" asked Zelinger.
"Making sure that the circulators know what information has to be in that form would help correct those issues. Making sure they knew they need to verify their voter registration and make sure it matches their current address would have resolved some of the issues that prevented a couple of candidates from making the ballot," said Williams. " I think that it's important for a circulator to know the legal consequence if they do not follow the law. Colorado law is very clear that a circulator who says something that is not true under oath bears the risk of criminal prosecution for that."
Initially, he determined that Keyser, Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha and former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier did not collect enough valid signatures because of technical errors by the signature collector and notaries. Former Colorado State athletic director Jack Graham successfully earned his way on the ballot through the petition process, without having to go to court. El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn won his spot at the top of the ballot by going through the caucus process and being nominated at the Republican State Convention.
Keyser and Blaha both successfully won their court appeals when the judge, who has more discretion than the Secretary of State, allowed those signatures to count when she determined there was only a mistake and no wrongdoing by the signature collectors.
Frazier also won some of his arguments, but did not have enough signatures validated to qualify. He has appealed to the state Supreme Court to be counted as a candidate.
Ballots were sent to military and overseas voters last weekend and they include all five names, including Frazier. If the Supreme Court does overturn the lower court ruling, Frazier will have to declare he is no longer a candidate and no votes' cast for him will count.
The short timeline for signatures to be collected and the idea of having to verify each individual signature will be discussed over the summer and fall, in preparation for next legislative session.
"One of the questions that we hope to study, working with a diverse group of both Democrats and Republicans -- those interested in the issues -- is looking at, do we make a change there, and if so how would that change be funded and what does that do to the timelines?" said Williams.
Despite the findings from the Denver7 investigation, the Secretary of State has no power to pull a candidate off the ballot, especially after a judge has ruled for them to be on the ballot.
"If one of the circulators for any of the campaigns violated the law, that individual can be prosecuted for that," said Williams. "There is no indication, that I have seen, that any of the campaigns themselves knew of that."