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News & Press: Industry News

3 Indicted for Kroger Liquor Petitions

Wednesday, September 30, 2015  
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A Delaware County grand jury has indicted three petition circulators accused of falsifying signatures on a Kroger liquor option last year.

The six-count indictment, returned yesterday, includes two felony charges each of election falsification and forgery against Felicia Dawson, 49; Shampayne Thompson, 26; and Tiffany Gaston, 38. The fifth-degree felonies are punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

The women live in Columbus and were employed last fall by Strategy Network to go door to door and solicit signatures in support of a petition for the Polaris Kroger store to obtain a Sunday liquor license. As many as 34 of the required 113 signatures did not match signatures on file, said Josh Pedaline, director of the Delaware County Board of Elections. The women were paid $3 a signature.

The investigation included similar allegations against other Strategy Network workers in Union County, where only 181 of 432 signatures on two petitions were deemed valid for a Kroger Co. liquor option. Many of the signatures appeared similar in style, and some signers misspelled the names, elections officials said at the time.

Gary Wallace, Union County elections board director, said he was told by an investigator that that case is moving forward. No criminal charges have been filed.

Neither Kroger issue made it to the November ballot.

Ian James, Strategy Network's CEO, said he's been working with law enforcement in other counties but has no information about other criminal charges.

"When someone breaks the law, we work with law enforcement to fully prosecute them," James said. "They are not only breaking the law, but also ripping us off and ripping off our clients.

"We're not talking about a lot of money," he added. "If you're collecting 50 signatures and making $4 or even $5 a signature, why would you put yourself in legal jeopardy and a felony for $250? It's stunning to me that people think that they can break the law and not get caught."

James said he'll use the prosecutions as examples when hiring new petitioners. By state law, petitioners can't be felons.

Currently, the company has contracts with about 1,500 petitioners. It has obtained more than 5 million valid signatures in nearly 10 years, James said.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, By Dean Narciso, Saturday January 24, 2015

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