Ross, Rowse Allege Illegal Political Committee
The two former Council candidates claim secret committee funded Katz mailing.
UPDATE: Councilman Ryan Spiegel has issued this brief response:
"I will be providing a thorough response to the BOSE in due time, which will demonstrate the complete lack of merit of these allegations. It is unfortunate that these individuals have chosen to file an utterly baseless complaint, especially when there were grounds to file legitimate complaints against their own activities but others chose to take the high road and not burden the taxpayers with these matters. The 2011 election is over, the voters have spoken very clearly, and it is time to move on."
Councilwoman Cathy Drzyzgula issued the following response:
I am disappointed that Mr. Rowse and Ms. Ross continue to make charges that are not based on evidence and often demonstrate a lack of understanding of the Election Ordinance. I will continue to demonstrate that I carried out my campaign in accordance with the spirit and intent of this law.
ORIGINAL POST 2:25pm: Former City Council candidates Paula Ross and Tom Rowse have filed a formal complaint with the city alleging that the mayor and three incumbent council members formed a secret political committee during the election.
Ross and Rowse say that a letter mailed before the election to voters from Mayor Sidney Katz endorsing council members Jud Ashman, Cathy Drzyzgula and Ryan Spiegel was secretly funded by the candidates and intentionally misled voters into thinking it was an official city mailer.
"While Katz didn't disclose that he supported the [political committee] or the Letter financially, we believe that Katz is a member of this committee and involved in the formation of the PC through use of his name and signature, the address of his business, and the invaluable (though improper) use of his office of Mayor of Gaithersburg," the complaint says.
It goes on to list four instances where Ross and Rowse believe elections code violations occurred. The entire complaint can be viewed in PDF form in the images section of this article.
Ashman sent Patch this response:
"The substance of these complaints is not only absurd, it's an absolute, pointless waste of time. We will go through the motions and address whatever questions need to be addressed, but, make no mistake, this is about a couple of people who can't accept the fact that they lost an election. I've lost an election before, and I know it's hard, but they are simply behaving like sore losers. Ross and Rowse spent a lot of time talking about how much they do for the community, but they've done nothing over the last three months except turning over every stone for an answer as to why they lost. Regretfully, their issues lie within themselves."
Katz, Drzyzgula and Spiegel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ross and Rowse, in the complaint, go on to say:
"We hereby request the [Board of Supervisors of Elections] grant us a hearing. The four separate complaints above show that the incumbents and Mayor Katz consistently colluded to willfully circumvent the election code that they wrote and/or revised over the past four years in office. This Letter had a marked and direct impact which ultimately tipped the election in the incumbents favor. The true funder or funders of this Letter were illegally hidden from the public and us. This was all purposefully done to mislead the voters. Mr. Katz’s conduct in regards to the Letter is an abuse of his position as Mayor and he and the incumbents should be publicly reprimanded."
According to the complaint, Katz sent out a letter endorsing the three incumbent candidates using his title as mayor, potentially causing voters to think the letter was official city correspondence. The letter, the complaint alleges, was also not clearly marked as a paid political advertisement.
The complaint says that Spiegel initially funded the political committee by paying Heyman Mailing Services, Inc. two installments of $750.27 for the printing and distribution of the letter.
Then, "the Letter was equally financed via 3 checks by all three campaign committees, on October 24, 2011 by Spiegel in the amount of $1347.22, on October 24, 2011 by Drzyzgula in the amount of $1347.21 and Ashman on October 26, 2011 in the amount of $1347.22 to Heyman."
According to official election results posted on the City's website, Spiegel received the most votes of all the candidates (2,156), followed by Ashman (1,969) and Drzyzgula (1,856).
Rowse, in his second run for the council, received 1,134 votes, and Ross received 1,001.
Stay tuned to Patch as this story develops.