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Handwriting expert to testify in Flint mayor's bid to scuttle November recall election

Aug 24, 2017

Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercut is deciding two key legal challenges to a recall of Flint Mayor Karen Weaver
Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A judge wants to hear testimony from a handwriting expert in the next few days before deciding if a recall election against Flint’s mayor can take place in November.

Mayor Karen Weaver’s attorney launched a final legal attack on the recall petition this week, arguing before a judge that the county clerk’s office certified the petition despite numerous forgeries.

Attorney Kendall Williams represents Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. He told a judge today the Genesee County clerk’s office failed to screen out forged petitions signatures, including those where someone else filled in the date next to the signature. 

“It’s the oldest trick in the book you honor,” Williams told Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercut today. “(Petition circulators) will tell individuals: ‘Don’t date the document. We’ll date it for you.’  Because these signatures are only good for 60 days…. They do it and that’s illegal.”

Celeste Bell is the Genesee County corporation counsel. She represents the county clerk. 

Attorney Kendall Williams (standing) argues against allowing City Councilman Scott Kincaid (seated) from appearing on the November ballot, in either the mayoral recall or for his city council seat
Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Bell insists county election officials did their best to verify the petition signatures. But she says their expertise only goes so far.

“They’re still not handwriting experts,” Bell admitted to the judge. “If you’re going to order the clerk to hire a handwriting expert, that is going to come at great expense to the county.”

For now, the judge wants to hear from the mayor’s handwriting expert. 

Judge Neithercut is not only deciding if there are enough valid signatures to hold a recall election. He’s also deciding if one of the candidates can legally run in the recall.

Scott Kincaid has sat on the Flint city council for 32 years. He just won the primary to run for another term in November. But Kincaid is also one of more than a dozen candidates who filed to run against Mayor Weaver in a recall election in November.

The mayor’s attorney argues that violates state law, which says individuals can’t run for more than one seat in the same election. They argue state law requires such a candidate be bounced from both spots on the ballot. 

Kincaid’s attorney argues there’s nothing in the state’s recall law that says a candidate in a recall is barred from also running in another race.

After the hearing, Kincaid said he’ll wait to see how Judge Neithercut rules before deciding what his next move will be.  

“I received 84% of the vote (in the August city council primary),” says Kincaid, who says he may run a write-in campaign for his city council seat if the judge rules against him.

The court is expected to rule quickly on the mayor’s recall challenges because the county clerk needs to get final ballots to the printer in the next week or so.   

Sitting in Judge Neithercut’s courtroom today, recall campaign organizer Arthur Woodson listened closely to the attorneys’ arguments to the judge, and the judge’s pointed questions back at them. 

Woodson is among the candidates who filed to run against Mayor Karen Weaver in the recall election.

He’s philosophical about the decision that ultimately rests in the judge’s hands. 

“It is was it is. If (the mayor’s challenge) gets tossed, I’m OK.... If it doesn’t, I’m OK. I just get my $100 back from where I signed up to run for mayor,” Woodson says with a smile.