Friday, March 22, 2013

The Truth about the nominating petitions of Kim Velez

       There are a great deal of accusations and assumptions being tossed around the blogosphere concerning the circumstances that brought about Kim Velez's withdrawal as an Allentown City Council Candidate. This all started with her petitions, and if you want to find the truth of the matter, it is not a bad idea to start at the beginning.
     So Friday Morning I returned to Lehigh County Voter Registration and paid $1.75 for copies of the seven pages of signatures she submitted. Kim originally collected and submitted 6 pages with 108 signatures, but she later added 17 more that were collected by current City Councilwoman Jeannette Eichenwald.
    So to set the record absolutely straight, Kim Velez's public record shows she submitted 125 signatures. That's how many are on the 7 pages she presented.

     Now it is true she only needed 100. So with the help of the friendly staff and the use of a computer terminal, I spent from 9:45 until 12:45 Checking the Lehigh County voter rolls of EVERY SINGLE SIGNATURE on those pages.
   The great thing about Lehigh County voter registration records is you can check registration by name or address, and see what the person's party is. The first thing I did was enter each last name and search it. If it came back no voter, I would enter the address. When an address pops up it shows all who are registered to vote there. A recurring issue with Kim Velez's petitions was that no such person was on the voter rolls at the address. That doesn't mean they don't live there, It just means they were not registered to vote.I found at least 22 names that were not registered to vote. As they are not registered voters of any party, especially the Democratic party which they need to be, they are not qualified electors.
      That dropped the number of "GOOD" signatures to 103.
      On the names that were registered voters, I found at least 12 names that were registered as other parties or no affiliation at all. They are not qualified electors either for Miss Velez, and that drops her "GOOD" signatures total to 91.

      There were four signatures where the name or address were illegible, and attempts to guess were futile. The system allows trying the first three letters of a last name, and when even the addresses had no one with matching names, I took those out as well. that drops the total to 87.

     There were 4 more signatures that are what can be listed as with "correctable defects." The date a person signs a petition is important, as it shows the petition was circulated during the allotted period. These particular signatures had the zip code written instead of the date. That puts them in question, and drops the total to 83. I found one more signature, it was by a registered Democrat, but it had one problem: They were registered to vote in South Whitehall, not Allentown.

    Whether anyone likes it or not, I hate to tell you, but these petitions would not have survived a challenge.

    The thing is, I think the more the merrier is good for Democracy, but you have to follow the rules. I have filed many petitions and never had one challenged. First, because I got more than I needed, and second because as I was getting them I made sure the person I was asking to sign was a qualified elector before handing them the pen. Then I had them sign exactly as they were registered.

   It is not that hard to do. When you get your petitions from Lehigh County Voter Registration and register as a candidate, they give you a walk lists of all the precincts. It is simple, you just have to read the list and go right down the street.

   I feel badly for Miss Velez, but I also feel bad for Tim Brennan. Tim is a personal friend, and the way he has been portrayed has truly bothered him. I know Tim as one of the most honest and ethical men I have ever met. I do not believe for a minute that he misrepresented himself on the phone as acting on behalf of the Lehigh County Democratic Party. I believe Tim when he tells me that all he was doing was asking her to come to his office on Monday so he could point out the flaws in her petitions. And they are flawed.
    I still don't know who the client was, and that is for others to speculate on, but if you put everything else aside, Kim Velez did not meet the burden of legitimate signatures that the law requires.

    All the other candidates did. How can we reward Miss Velez with a ballot position if at the end of the day, it is proven she did not earn it. If she is allowed on the ballot, a candidate might as well write the names of 100 different fictional cartoon characters down and give them whatever address they want.
    Voter reg isn't going to check the names, all they do is count how many, checking the names is up to regular folks if they have doubts. Someone had doubts about Kim Velez's petitions and hired Tim Brennan to check it out. That is the way the system works, if you don't like it, work to change it.

     One last point of order: I am a Lehigh County Democratic Committeeman. I have done various research for many of the political operatives in the valley area. I pride myself on being thorough. On this instance, I was not approached by anyone to do this research and I have shared it with other bloggers and parts of the media.

      I also want to give a special thanks to Tim Benyo and Terri Harkins, as well as other staff at Lehigh County Voter registration for putting up with me for three hours in their office as I researched every last signature. I would like to point out that they helped me verify at least a dozen signatures as being good, as well as the 43 I found to be bad..

      I have decided against posting the petitions online, even if they are public record. I believe the people who signed have a right to privacy, and possibly would not be willing to get involved in the Democratic process next time if they knew their names and addresses, as well as party affiliation, would be splattered on the Internet.


  1. I am sorry but I believe Tim Brennan acted inappropriately. If he simply wanted to show her the flaws in her petitions, why did he email her the withdraw form and tell her to "let him know" once it was filed? His objective was to get her to back out of the race, the democratic process defines the process as implementing a challenge. If her signatures were this bad - why call her? why not just file the proceedings to challenge them? Why threaten her that the proceedings were going to be costly for her (we all know they aren't unless she were to get an attorney)? I believe that Tim Brennan is probably a good person, and I am sure he's not a demon - but he didn't just call HER he called her family members... really? that's not inappropriate? I believe it is. He may have the highest of integrity, I believe however he had a huge lapse in judgement in this situation... maybe he just got carried away with power or whatever - but there was a line - I believe he crossed it. I do not believe that he is a monster however.

  2. We don't know the conversation that actually took place. Kim Velez is a political newcomer who I concede may have realized she screwed up and panicked. She should have sought legal counsel from within the local Dem Party community (It does exist) and brought them to a meeting. How do we know what exacyly was going through her mind? All we have is how she wants it portrayed, in her best interest, that doesn't mean it is the truth. I believe she is a newcomer who made honest mistakes, and was being offered a chance to get out gracefully.
    Instead we have this mess. I believe that Tim would be willing to have her and a representative come to his office and accept his apology for making her feel the way she did, even though he never intended to.
    My position still stands: She withdrew on her own volition, and because her petitions are lacking, she should not be rewarded with a place on the ballot she has not earned.

  3. I respectfully disagree, Tim Brennan has admitted that he was hired to do this (although he won'at admit to who was paying him), he was not giving her an opportunity to "get out gracefully" in my opinion. If this was all in good faith, why call family members and discuss it? Why send her a withdraw form (completed for her btw)? It's all just too slimy. I can appreciate that he is your friend, but objectively - I can't see it your way. I'm not her friend - I am not his friend. I have no dog in this fight, but I have met Velez, I have had discussions with her about running/why she was running etc. Her intentions were admirable. The fact is she was coerced, persuaded/convinced to withdraw, when his role (what he was paid to do) was to challenge her petitions if they weren't valid. If he invited her to a meeting to discuss her signatures and she declined, that should have been the end of the conversation. That is how the system is defined as I understand it, he stepped out of that system... had he filed a challenge against her signatures - he wouldn't be in the world of mess that he is in right now. For that reason she should be reinstated and her signatures should not be challenged... the time for challenging was on Sunday when he was convincing her to drop out. Had his energy been spent working the actual process, he'd be sleeping a lot better this week, I'd imagine. ~Respectfully

    1. One thing I am looking forward to is seeing this before a judge. Judges locally have a tendency of following the rule of law, not rewriting it to serve a political purpose. I haven't seen any activist judges on the Lehigh County bench.
      From what I have seen in Lehigh County Courtrooms, those folks can smell Bull coming from miles away, and will quickly sort through the mess. IF IT GETS THAT FAR. I agree that a challenge should have been filed during the properly allotted period and the person behind it revealed. As long as I don't definitively know who it is, I think it irrespobsible to start naming names.

  4. As a lifelong resident I am disgusted by the entire political process in this town. Everyone involved to any degree should be ashamed. I'm embarrassed t to admit that I live in Allentown.
    The mayor, city Council, the school board, the entire lot of them. An embarrassment. A disgrace. A shame.

    1. POlitics in this County is full contact, whether we like it or not. The only way to change the game is to play as it now runs. I don't like many of the tactics used, but I understand them. And I play just as mean when I have to. That's on me.

  5. chris, you write that you have to follow the rules, well the rules state that any challenge to signatures had to be filed by last tuesday, and they were not. the rules state that intimidation cannot be used to have a candidate withdraw. Brennan violated the rules, not velez. his opportunity to challenge her petition, in a lawful manner. has come and gone. any deficiency in her petition is now a moot point. this is simply an attempt at damage control for brennan, and he will need damage control.

    1. Yes Mike, you are right about the rules. But let us respectfully disagree. I am allowed to believe that my friend Tim did not intend to intimidate Miss Velez. I kno who she is because she attempted tp solicit my signature at the Dem Meeting on a Saturday a few weeks back and I declined, telling her I did not live in the city.
      I liked that there was so much new blood attempting to get involved in local government.
      If this goes to court, I have full confidence in the system that a judge will give a fair decision.
      We really should be careful what we ask for, all of us might get something none os us like.

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  7. This is a lesson to all candidates and lawyers in a petition challenge. Even if the person is a political new comer, don't be nice. Challenge their petition and get them thrown off the ballot if they don't have the required signatures. From Chris's analysis she obviously would have been thrown off the ballot and there would be no press story of shenanigans.

  8. Not the mayor. The mayor is a good Christian man.

  9. Do you call the thuggery in Allentown democracy?
    How's sad and pathetic.

  10. I have decided against posting the petitions online, even if they are public record. I believe the people who signed have a right to privacy, and possibly would not be willing to get involved in the Democratic process next time if they knew their names and addresses, as well as party affiliation, would be splattered on the Internet.

    Chris - I would have liked to see the actual petitions, and I diagree with your defense of Brennan. He acted reprehensibly and I hope he is rebuked by the appropriate governing board.

    But I do appreciate your restraint in not posting the petitions online. If I had been one of the signers, I would have been unsettled having my name and address posted for all to see as involved in this. I say thank you for your restraint.

  11. To be honest, I took it as a sign from God when I couldn't get the Document to post that I shouldn't do it. I personally wouldn't care if I had my name as a signer, but others might. Part of my core beliefs in respecting the sensitivities of others occasionally.

    1. Chris, I'm not going to dispute your analysis, I'm sure it's solid. Here's the problem. Tim should have filed a challenge on the behalf of his client and let a judge handle it. I've seen judges in some counties totally blow off rules, but at least we'd have a legally binding ruling. I like Tim, and I've known him for most of my adult life, so I don't think he meant anything wrong here, but in his being helpful (and wanting to explain this to her), he caused a bigger mess. Secondly, I may be confused on the timeline, but I'm wondering why this would have happened after the deadline to challenge? At that point, it really doesn't matter if she signed all the signatures herself, she's in.

    2. Rich, if what has been posted eleswhere is to be believed, Tim called Miss Velez on Sunday. She filed her withdrawal on Monday at 12:50 PM. I know this because Tim Benyo notarized it and it is in his notary ledger.
      Velez made her issue known far after the Tuesday close of business at County Voter reg. I did not find out about it until Thursday AM. I don't know who her legal rep is, but if she has it, we will find out soon enough.

  12. I'm just an average y citizen, and never miss an opportunity to vote, I try to pay attention but I don't understand insider party politics,
    To someone like me the politics in Allentown and to a lesser degree in all of Lehigh County, stink to high heaven. I could not be more disillusioned. What a rotting mess.


I welcome comments from real people, not robots. (Though I admit that with some extremists who have been programmed, you can't tell)