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Elections Board Throws Out Complaint

Ross and Rowse waited too long to file their complaint, board finds.

Tom Rowse and Paula Ross, two former candidates for City Council who lost their election bids, waited too long to file their complaint against the Mayor and three winning candidates, the Gaithersburg election board found earlier this week.

At their meeting on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors of Elections dismissed the complaint, which that Council members Jud Ashman, Cathy Drzyzgula and Ryan Spiegel formed a secret political committee with Mayor Sidney Katz and sent out misleading mailers to voters.

Ashman, Drzyzgula and Spiegel all the allegations.

According to City Attorney Lynn Board, who was not at the meeting, the BOSE determined that the complaint, filed on Jan. 20, was not filed within 30 days of the alleged infraction.

"I'm not surprised about the BOSE's decision," Ross said in an email. "Their hands were tied in many ways.  Playing against the house is hard, getting the house to admit they're cheating is near impossible.  We always knew that making change would have to occur outside of the Mayor's auspices."

Rowse said he agreed with Ross's statement.

Ross said said is evaluating the next steps to take.

Outside counsel was at the meeting on behalf of the City, Board said.

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.

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.

Andrew Ross February 10, 2012 at 08:25 PM
This was a completely calculated act of fraud by our elected officials to use the election law that they wrote and then chose to circumvent. By making illegal campaign contributions and spending the days after the 3rd reporting period and then not reporting them until 60 days after the election allowed them to pressure the BOSE to throw out the charges for "untimely reporting" outside of the 30 day window. If BOSE thought that the charges were without merit, they would have ruled as such, but this was orchestrated to allow the law to be broken without allowing for a timely appeal to be made. If this ruling isn't reversed by a higher court, then the campaign rules will have no teeth for any candidates next time - candidates can freely fundraise and illegally spend money outside of the rules as long as it takes place during the last reporting period. Paula is too nice to use the words that I would use about our elected officials, but one word nobody could use about them is "honest."
Barb Anderson February 12, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Good government is an open and transparent government. Sure sounds like these individuals in power have something to hide. One news story you've read them all, corrupt politicians in office...what a shocker!

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