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May 21, 2024

Brownsville Democratic Official Admits Board of Election Forgeries Came From Inside His Camp

Four Brooklyn residents have claimed that their signatures were forged on filings seeking to boot candidates for Brooklyn Democratic Party positions off the June primary ballot. Now, THE CITY has learned that the forgeries originated from inside the camp of an elected party official.

Longtime 55th Assembly District Leader Anthony Jones said the forms submitted this month to the Board of Elections — which include the four forged signatures — were filled out by members of his Democratic club in Brownsville, but that he’s not sure who.

“Somebody in our club filled out those papers, OK? And we’re still trying to figure out who did it, but we just don’t know,”  he said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Jones said the effort was part of a borough-wide bid to knock Democratic rivals from the ballot communicated to district leaders at a recent meeting of the Kings County Democratic Party, which has been taking steps in recent months to protect current leadership’s majority control of the party by targeting rivals.

This included filing signature objections against more than a hundred candidates for unpaid party positions known as county committee members — about 4,000 of whom will serve for two-year terms starting in September.

These members vote on party rules and help pick the party’s nominees in special elections following sudden vacancies in the state legislature.

Jones, who is running unopposed for district leader, said he takes responsibility for failing to properly oversee the process that resulted in the allegedly false filings against county committee candidates in his district. But he blamed the forgeries on what he described as infiltrators of his Community First Democratic Club, whom he believes are affiliated with his political adversaries.

“What we do know is that we feel like we were set up,” said Jones. “Whoever signed those papers and put those names, they knew exactly what they were doing and that’s why I’m where I’m at today.”

At Leaders’ Direction

The allegedly fraudulent filings were part of a flood of ballot challenges filed earlier this month with the Board of Elections, dozens of which listed Anthony Genovesi Jr., a top Brooklyn Democratic Party lawyer, as a point of contact.

In the wake of the forgeries — which have sparked a rally, an official complaint with the BOE, and a lawsuit— the party said it played no direct role in securing individual objections.

But in his interview with THE CITY, Jones asserted that district leaders aligned with party leaders were instructed to gather and submit ballot challenges against county committee hopefuls – as part of a battle with the New Kings Democrats and other groups seeking to reorganize the party and dilute the power of its executive committee.

“It’s New Kings Democrats and the county going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” said Jones. “And everybody gets caught up into this mess.”

Jones said that one of his associates picked up the pre-printed ballot challenge forms from the office of Abrams Fensterman, a large Brooklyn law firm where Genovesi Jr. works and where Mayor Eric Adams’ chief of staff, Frank Carone, formerly served as partner.

He said they were returned to county leadership after being filled out.

Genovesi and Bob Liff, a Brooklyn Democratic party spokesperson, did not respond to requests for comment.

Jones said he didn’t supervise the process or inspect the objection forms because he has no personal interest in trying to obstruct people who want to participate in the Democratic party.

“All throughout my years of being a district leader, I’ve never challenged anybody running for county committee because I believe it’s an open process and I’m not trying to stop anybody from running,” he said. “If County tells us to do it, we did it.”

Déjà Vu

While Jones blamed political foes for the forgeries, a Board of Elections document reviewed by THE CITY shows that one of the forged names on the ballot objections also appeared weeks earlier on a petition to re-elect Jones himself.

The March 11 document contains 10 signatures gathered by Marilyn Beck, a former staffer for Jones’ failed 2021 campaign for Brooklyn borough president.

One of the 10 alleged signatories is John Booker, a street vendor who previously told THE CITY his signature had been falsified on a ballot objection form in the 55th Assembly District.

On Wednesday, after reviewing an electronic copy of the March ballot petition, Booker told THE CITY this was yet another obvious forgery.

The 67-year-old, whose right hand is injured from years of carting around merchandise, said he could not physically write out the version of the signature as it appears on the filing Beck compiled for Jones and a slate of affiliated Democratic candidates.

The “J-O-H-N” in his signature, as it appears on his driver’s license, is a mess of diagonal curves and dashes. But on the form turned in by Jones’ associate, his supposed signature is easily legible and begins with a traditional, cursive “J.”

“I can’t sign like that,” he said, sitting at his table outside the Broadway Junction train hub. “The J’s too big.”

Beck told THE CITY that she doesn’t ask people for identification when she gets them to sign their names on petitions. She couldn’t remember the specific petition in question, having filed dozens of them.

“When I go out there, I go out there and I work very hard for Anthony Jones,” she said by phone.

Denied Matching Funds

City Campaign Finance Board records show this is not the first time Jones has been scrutinized for questionable signatures.

Last year, when Jones ran for  Brooklyn Borough President,his campaign finished nearly $750,000 in debt after being denied public matching dollars because of red flags identified by the CFB.

Candidates for Borough President and City Council are eligible for public matching funds at an 8-to-1 ratio for the first $175 in contributions from each resident who lives within the district.

At a hearing held online on Nov. 18, 2021, senior CFB counsel Joseph Gallagher explained why Jones’ campaign was denied hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential matching funds the month prior.

“CFB staff had identified 28 non-credible signatures on affirmation statements submitted by the campaign,” said Gallagher. “So the CFB staff recommended denial on that basis.”

Affirmation statements are signed declarations by donors that they have given cash to a candidate’s campaign.

Jones testified that he was told throughout the election that his campaign was getting closer and closer to the threshold for receiving matching funds, and that at one point he was even erroneously awarded more than $200,000 by the CFB — which he promptly returned.

“I’m concerned, I’m a little confused,” he told the board members at the time. “I believe that everything we were asked to do through the campaign, we did it.”

He added that he was in debt to a lot of people who worked hard on his campaign, and who believed in his message.

CFB filings show his campaign raised just over $83,000 while registering more than $827,000 in expenses.

The most his campaign would have been eligible for in matching funds was about $444,000.

“I didn’t really have an opportunity to compete like others were able to compete because I didn’t have the money to do it,” Jones testified at the time.

Jones garnered 2.7% of the vote in the general election, running on an independent line.

Every Candidate Challenged

Questions were first raised about the objection forms filed with the city Board of Elections this year by the organization Rep Your Block, which is helping Brooklyn residents apply for hundreds of the 4,000 county committee seats up for election in June.

In the 55th Assembly District, all six candidates for county committee who were aided by Rep Your Block saw their petitions to get on the ballot challenged, while none of the 159 party-affiliated candidates were challenged, BOE records show.

At a rally Monday at Borough Hall calling for the Board of Elections to toss all petition challenges affiliated with the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said the party’s attempt to block participation on the county committee made no sense.

“If you have young energetic people that want to make a difference and insert themselves in your party — in your Democratic Party — why not do everything you can to encourage that person?” said Reynoso, one of the founders of the New Kings Democrats.

The Board of Elections will hold hearings deciding on the validity of signature objections later this month.

This article was originally posted on Brownsville Democratic Official Admits Board of Election Forgeries Came From Inside His Camp

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