Guzzardo withdraws; mayoral petitions forged?

Guzzardo withdraws; mayoral petitions forged?

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

Leonardo Guzzardo, who yearns for an adult district in the River District, claimed he withdrew his bid for the office of mayor Friday after learning his validity of his petitions were in question.

Guzzardo, 48, is the owner of Lincoln Hotel. He alleges he hired Marshall Starks and Sidney Banks for $2,000 in October to obtain the signatures for his candidacy.

Guzzardo said he acquired most of the petitions from Banks and Starks by early January and said they obtained about 90 percent of the necessary signatures. But as the Jan. 23 deadline was approaching, Guzzardo said he lacked enough signatures. Banks and Starks refused to acquire the remaining number by the deadline, Guzzardo said.

He alleged they also wouldn’t sign their names for the line that reads, “Circulator.” Therefore, some people he knew, including Mike Taylor, Gary Long, Mike Eddie and Frank Gupton, signed as circulators.

Taylor, Long, Eddie, and Gupton signed their names as circulators on Jan. 23 before Notary Public Mary E. Moore, according to Guzzardo’s petitions on file with the Board of Elections.

Guzzardo said he and his friends went to places including bars on Seventh Street and Broadway to acquire signatures. He said he finally had enough signatures and took the petitions to the Board of Elections early on Friday.

On Friday afternoon, Guzzardo said an individual called Long and told him Starks and Banks and other individuals obtained names from people who thought they were signing for Starks. Long also said the individual alleged that some of the petitions were actually signed, but many of them were forged and were acquired from the phone book.

Guzzardo said that after learning about the information, he decided to withdraw.

Banks admitted that Guzzardo approached him and Starks to get signatures. “I never did any,” he said. “It was all Marshall. He had someone go on the west end to get them.”

All attempts to contact Starks were unsuccessful.

Board of Elections requirements

All people who sign petitions must be registered voters, and the Board of Elections has their signatures on file. The Rock River Times randomly viewed four of the signatures from each of the four circulators at the Board of Elections—a total of 16 signatures. Staff at the Board of Elections pulled up each name on computer where their signatures were scanned in off their voter’s registration card. With one dubious exception, each signature appeared very different from the signatures on the petitions. Many of the signatures or printed names were very apparently in the same handwriting.

Helen Genovese and Carl Anderson’s names were signed on the petitions, but they are deceased. Several of the signatories were not registered voters.

An independent candidate needs a minimum of 1,965 signatures and a maximum of 3,124 signatures. Guzzardo had 2,008.

Rockford Board of Elections Executive Director Nancy Strain said the board doesn’t examine the petitions. “We look only at apparent conformity,” she said. Strain said employees make sure the petitions are numbered and bound. “It was someone else who had gotten copies of the petitions,” she said. “There was a couple that came in and looked at the copies.”

Strain said that they didn’t file an objection. She said if no one files a formal objection, the board can’t do anything.

Winnebago County Associate Judge Tim Gill’s name was on the petition. He said he didn’t sign the petition, but he wouldn’t file an objection.

Strain noted the board’s commissioners met Monday and discussed bringing the matter to State’s Attorney Paul Logli, but they didn’t make a decision on it. The next time the commissioners will meet is the day before the election. Strain said the commissioners can make a decision before that time if they call her individually.

According to statutes for elections in the form of petition for nomination, “Whoever forges any name of a signer upon a petition shall be deemed guilty of forgery, and on conviction thereof, shall be punished accordingly.”

The General Counsel for the State Board of Elections, Al Zimmer, confirmed that the city’s board of elections is not an

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enforcement agency. However, Zimmer said, “They don’t have criminal power. I don’t think the statute precludes them from referring it to the state’s attorney if they see wrongdoing.”

As to Guzzardo’s withdrawal from the race, Zimmer said, “It would change the focus from the validity of the petitions, but it changes it to people who have committed forgery or perjury. The evidence of round tabling are the petitions themselves”

Zimmer noted, “Generally, people who round table are not too bright. They take a telephone directory or poll list.”

He noted there have only been two cases of round tabling in the last eight to 10 years.

Guzzardo said he is upset that the petitions were allegedly forged. “It was a mean thing to do,” Guzzardo remarked. “It was a fraudulent job. I’m not going to sue them. It’s an embarrassment to me.”

One of Guzzardo’s major goals if he became mayor was to designate an adult district downtown. He advocates a casino, 24-hour bars and legalized prostitution. “We need the income,” he remarked. “It would bring in thousands of tourists a week. I can have a better adult district than Las Vegas. I’d be running the whole show. They’d have a statue of me.”

He also said he believes in gay rights and gay marriages, the separation of church and state and the right to bear arms.

“I’m not saying I would have won this election; I would have added a little color to this election,” Guzzardo said.

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