Lowell Sun: Chelmsford Town Clerk Broke Ballot Rules

According to a lengthy article in today’s Lowell Sun it looks like the Chelmsford town clerk, Betty Delaney, broke state law when she gave access to Jim Ogonowski’s signature sheets to a third party that had not dropped them off or wasn’t the candidate.  You can read about it here.

“I was unaware. I was curious and wanted to see if my name was there. I probably shouldn’t have,” Dulchinos said. He called hours later to “clarify,” saying he had not seen the original sheets, but rather a copy of his signature that Delaney was preparing to send to the secretary of state.

When asked if he had also been allowed to see the names of two deceased men as stated in his affidavit, Dulchinos said he had “no comment.”

Galvin’s office confirmed that nomination papers are, in fact, confidential and that only a list of names of those who signed may be provided to the public after the names are certified. Galvin spokesman Brian McNiff said it was unclear if the public-records violation would impact any proceeding before the state Ballot Law Commission if Beatty files a formal challenge, or whether any disciplinary action could be taken against Delaney.

“Unfortunately, in politics, you sometimes have to deal with false accusations and attacks from opponents,” Ogonowski said. “I’m disappointed at the lengths people will go to disenfranchise voters and to win at any cost. But I don’t let that distract me. I’m running to serve the people of Massachusetts and help my fellow citizens, and I’m always willing to fight for both if I have to.” His campaign maintains they do not know how the fake signatures ended up on their forms, but insist that this is all part of the normal certification process. Signatures are often ruled invalid for a number of reasons that could include ineligible party affiliation or a wrong address. Ogonowski spokeswoman Alicia Preston said one person signed the name “Devil Dog” on the form.

One signature sheet turned in to Chelmsford included the names Charles Koulas and William Lavoie.

Koulas, who lived on his Pine Hill Road farm, died on Jan. 8. Lavoie, whose address was listed as the Palm Manor Nursing Home, died on May 30, 2006. He owned a Lowell dairy for more than 50 years.

In a memo sent to all town clerks on May 6, Michelle Tassinari, legal counsel in the elections division of the Secretary of State’s office, advised all clerks that state nomination papers are not considered public records “to ensure the integrity of STATE nomination papers.”

“Recently, this office has received inquiries about whether persons may make copies of or otherwise review state nomination papers submitted to local registrars for certification of signatures. The simple answer is NO,” Tassinari wrote in the e-mail obtained by The Sun.

Further, the memo stated that only candidates or their staff members could review their own nomination papers, not an opponent’s.

Delaney contacted Dulchinos more than a week later on May 19 to ask whether Dulchinos had signed Ogonowski’s papers. She had become suspicious after comparing his signature on a recent financial disclosure form to the block-lettered, printed name on Ogonowski’s form, according to Dulchinos’ affidavit.

Dulchinos’ son, Matthew Dulchinos, serves as an elected official on the town’s Board of Registrars, but the elder Dulchinos said it was Delaney and not his son that first contacted him.

“I think it’s very suspect that the attorney for our opposing campaign viewed them,” said Preston, Ogonowski’s spokesperson. Both Dulchinos and the Beatty campaign said Dulchinos is a supporter but not a member of Beatty’s staff. Preston said by virtue of his affidavit Dulchinos was the attorney on record for the Beatty campaign.

Kahlil Byrd, a spokesman for Beatty, said he was unsure whether the campaign would file an official challenge of Ogonowski’s signatures with the state Ballot Law Commission if Ogonowski succeeds in getting his name on the ballot.(emphasis mine)

Interesting so Peter Dulchinos’ son is a registrar of voters in Chelmsford.  I know the Dulchinos family and was surprised when this story came out. I am even more surprised now.  

The most interesting part of this whole story is that Beatty seems to backing down from a legal challenge according to his spokesman.

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