Petitions to recall Wickenburg Town Council members Kelly Blunt and Royce Kardinal do not contain enough valid signatures to trigger recall elections, according to a decision Monday afternoon by the Maricopa County Office of the Recorder, however the Arizona Attorney Generals Office is conducting a criminal investigation into whether some of the signatures filed by activist Paula Hartwell were fraudulent.

Kathryne Wright was caught off guard last week when it came to her attention that her name and a signature, which looks exactly like hers, appears on the fifth page of the recall petitions for both Blunt and Kardinal.

“That looks like my signature, but I did not sign those petitions,” Wright said during an interview with the Sun. “I have no problem with Royce or Kelly.”

The signatures appear next to the address of her business, Salon 221 at 221 E. Apache St. After reviewing the petitions, Wright signed an affidavit on June 7 stating she did not sign the petitions. She took the affidavit to the Wickenburg Police Department to report that fraud had been committed using her name. According to WPD Lt. Amy Sloane, the report was forwarded to the town clerk’s office and to the state attorney general’s office.

AG Spokesman Ryan Anderson confirmed the AG’s office received the complaint and said an investigation into the alleged false signature was being handled by the criminal division.

Meanwhile, two other women told the Sun on Monday their signatures also appear on the petitions, but they did not sign them. Jan Sullivan, owner of Horspitality RV Park, and Tina Harn, owner of Tina’s Tots Two, each said they are sure they did not sign a petition to recall either Kardinal or Blunt. Harn said she remembers signing a petition to support a candidate for the 2018 town council election, but she is sure she did not sign a petition against the two sitting council members. Sullivan said she is absolutely sure that although the signatures on the petitions look like hers, she did not sign either of them.

“I’m a Canadian. I can’t even put my name on a petition,” she said. “I didn’t sign it… I need to find out who did this… The only thing I think I’ve ever signed was the referendum for the library, and you didn’t have to be a citizen to sign that... which was about six years ago.”

The signatures of Wright, Sullivan and Harn apprear on page 5 of both petitions. Also on page 5 are the signatures of Melissa Haymore and Patricia Van Pelt. Haymore, a former resident on Madison Street, passed away on Aug. 22, 2017, and her obituary ran in the Sun that week, however her signatures on the petitions are dated March 15, 2018. Van Pelt, a former Wickenburg businesswoman also died last year, and her signatures on the petitions are dated March 12, 2018.

When Hartwell was asked by the Sun if she was aware of the allegations of false signatures, she said she was not. When Hartwell was told that Wright had filed a complaint, and was asked how a signature appearing to be Wrights had been placed on the petition, Hartwell said, “I honestly don’t know... I wouldn’t make up her signature. I wouldn’t know what her signature is.”

When asked how the signatures of persons deceased in 2017 could have been dated March 2018 on the petitions, Hartwell said, “Oh my God. That I don’t know, unless I went to the house and they, somebody, signed it. I honestly don’t know. That’s weird. That’s crazy because we went to every door. I knocked on doors, and we stood at the post office.”

Hartwell emphasized that she believes all signatures on the petitions are valid. “I spent probably three weeks going out and getting the signatures... The only thing I can think of is if there was somebody else in the house.” Hartwell explained she sometimes waited outside while the person signing took the petitions inside because of the heat. “I couldn’t validate if somebody was alive or not,” she said.

Simultaneous to Wright’s complaint arriving at the AG’s office, the Maricopa County Recorder’s staff was reviewing the signatures for each of the petitions. For a recall to be triggered, each petition required 304 valid signatures. Of the 317 submitted for Kardinal, the Recorder’s staff found 271 to be valid in accordance with voter registrations, and 282 to be valid on the petition for Blunt. In both cases, the petitions do not contain enough qualified electors’ signatures, according to Recorder Adrian Fontes.

Regardless of the fact that neither recall election will move forward, Wright said she intends to continue to demand an answer. “She still used my signature fraudulently. I did not sign that piece of paper, so how did my signature get on there?”

Kardinal is hopeful that the investigation will continue to move forward. “I am saddened and dismayed that there have been violations of this sort. I highly respect that all registered voters have the right and opportunity to be involved in recall petitions. I am hopeful that any disruption in our election process will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” she said.

Blunt also expressed disappointment over the alleged false signatures. “I’m shocked. I don’t even know what to say. You hear about this stuff from Chicago and New York. Who would put this kind of lying and deceit in to small town politics?”

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