.

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.

Cathy Drzyzgula January 23, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Actually the complaint says the ***envelope*** containing the campaign letter did not have an authority line on it, the letter itself certainly did: http://www.votecathyd.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/KatzLeter.pdf
redsgirl January 24, 2012 at 03:31 AM
I must say I did receive "the letter", I opened it because it looked official. I did think it was misleading and felt a little put off by the fact that it was a pitch from my mayor on his buddy pals and who he was supporting...glad to know it came out of political pockets and not my tax dollars...I hope? Though my vote was mixed...I will say that this whole lets be a team thing on a local election -is kind of weird. Though I can see how it could be cost effective-it does seem a bit clannish...my humble opinion reindeer games are questionable.
Clark Day January 24, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Build a bridge and get over it.
Mary Anne Clark January 24, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Both Drzyzgula and Jud canvassed my neighborhood for the last 2 elections. I have never met Ross or Rowse. Perhaps they should examine their campaign process(or lack there of) before mud slinging
Clark Day January 24, 2012 at 07:01 PM
"This Letter had a marked and direct impact which ultimately tipped the election in the incumbents favor." I would say that Ross and Rowse's behavior tipped the election in the incumbents favor. The incumbents did not need the support of the Mayor to trounce Ross and Rowse.
Anne King January 24, 2012 at 09:46 PM
I live in the 20877 section of Gaithersburg, near Girard Street and I received visits on my door step from both Ms. Ross and Mr. Rowse, but none of the incumbents, EVER bothered to stop by. And I have taken my kids to numerous events at which I met Ms. Ross. I would love to know what Mr. Ashman has done in the last 3 months since the election. Even after the Election I saw Ms. Ross and her kids at the lighting of the Christmas Tree in the Kentlands. Were you there Mr. Ashman? Maybe I missed you, or perhaps you have your book fair in your hat so you don't think you need to do much else. After all, I read that nothing keeps you awake at night, didn't you say that? Why don't you and the rest of your colleagues/cronies drive around Gaithersburg and count the number of lease signs...if I were in office, I think that might keep me up at night. As for this letter, I received a copy and kept it in the pile of political mail I get from year to year. I pulled it out and noticed that there is nothing on the envelope to say...the ordinance says what it says... sounds like all the commotion from the current council leads me to think they're guilty of something, especially the name calling...if not...why not simply dismiss it in a more MATURE fashion...definitely piqued my interest, I hope this investigation shines light on ANY wrongdoing.
Clark Day January 25, 2012 at 02:06 AM
I also live in 20877. I had visits from all three incumbents and Tom Rowse. Perhaps I wasn't home when Paula Ross came by. Perhaps Ms. King wasn't home when the incumbents came to her neighborhood.
Andrew Ross January 25, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Clark, it's fair to say that Paula would not have knocked on your door in the same way she didn't knock on jud or cathy's doors. But she was in your neighborhood.
Mary Anne Clark January 25, 2012 at 02:50 AM
I have lived in Gaithersburg for over 20 years and been president of my HOA for most of them. No matter who has been in office, they have always been responsive to issues brought to them. Let's get past this infighting. Gaithersburg is a great place to live, and I am sure if we all work together we can make it even better.
Manuel January 25, 2012 at 09:04 AM
Ms. Clark why are you all of a sudden wanting to get along and past this infighting after slinging mud yourself? It must be because the people in office have done something that they want to cover up. Mr. Day, as an HDC commissioner who is paid by the city, why are you constantly making negative comments in the local press about people you barely know? The answer is simply low self esteem which is widespread amongst their group of supporters. This is the type of corruption & nastiness Ross & Rowse are standing up and fighting against.
Clark Day January 26, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Your (Manuel,whoever you are) comment is laughable.

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