Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Court dates have been set for the two individuals accused of committing election fraud during the summer’s failed change-of-government petition drive.

William Cockerham, accused of making a false statement on a required form, appeared in Arlington County Circuit Court today, was appointed an attorney, and was given a trial date of March 7, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Parker.

Convicted felon and petition drive contractor Cheryl Simmons, who was indicted on the charge of voter fraud on Monday, did not appear in court today, Parker said. She’s expected to attend a hearing on Jan. 3, at which time a trial date will be set.

Simmons and Cockerham both face between one and ten years in prison and up to a $2,500 fine if convicted.

Parker could not say whether additional charges are likely against other Committee for a Better Arlington (CBA) contractors. A group that opposed the petition effort, the Coalition for Arlington Good Government, raised questions over the summer about the conduct of four petition workers, including Simmons and Cockerham.

The Coalition issued the following statement this afternoon.

This summer the Coalition for Arlington Good Government (CAGG) published a report detailing serious irregularities in the collection of signatures for the change of government petition.  The report can be found at

Our concern, then and now, remains the integrity of Arlington elections, and protecting our community from unethical and illegal efforts that may have been organized by paid out-of-state political operatives to fabricate a local “grass roots” movement.  Yesterday’s indictments appear to confirm that the Change of Government effort violated the trust of Arlington voters. We welcome the continued scrutiny by the Commonwealth Attorney’s office of the way in which this petition drive was conducted.

Comments (90)

  1. When are they going to charge Zimmerman for supplying false information with a campaign contribution?

  2. Zimmie has reported a non-existant address for several campgain contributions. According to county records, that address doesn’t even exist.

    Here is a federal form showing that fake address:

    Here are more examples of him reporting the same bogus address:

  3. You’ve broken the story on… a typo? Call Wikileaks!

  4. A typo implies a mistake. He repeated this at least 3 times.

  5. So they copied the original mistake. Making a big deal out of tiny honest mistakes that aren’t meant as fraud only makes you seem petty and hurts your credibility.

  6. Well, just checking out what you linked…Google maps shows the address as existent and as the registered address of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. The PAC that is on the IRS form you linked is called “ARLINGTON DEMOCRATIC JOINT FEDERAL CAMPAIGN” as known as: This is a non-profit that takes donations through their website and gives the money to the candidate accordingly. Now, non-profits and for-profits are allowed to join the Arlington Chamber of Commerce as members, and I believe that since this is a non-profit without a general “home address” they might be able to use the Chamber as a sort of local address for reporting donations. I am not entirely sure how the whole process works, but with a little research this doesn’t appear nearly as menacing as you wish it were.

  7. FYI

    Arlington Chamber of Commerce
    2009 14th Street, North
    Suite 111
    Arlington, VA 22201

  8. I stand corrected. The suites don’t match. But I found this on the Arlington website.

    Peter Rousselot, Chairman
    2009 North 14th Street Suite 612
    Arlington, Virginia 22201-
    202-285-5365 (H) 703-276-1584 (O)
    [email protected]

  9. Shocking revelation…the Chamber of Commerce and the Arlington Democratic Committee operate out of the same office building. Perhaps this is part of the vast Democratic conspiracy in Arlington…or perhaps the rent is cheap (which it should be for a building in that condition).

  10. Also, I found this on a form when registering for a PAC. You don’t have to list an actual “headquarters” as you might think, but rather the address and contact information of the person who will be handling the filing of contribution statements. I wager if you were to check out other local politicians and their campaign contributions, a lot of them would have similar statements that come from PACs that are registered to local party headquarters.

    “List the name, mailing address, area code and phone number of the person who will be responsible for the committee’s records and Campaign Statement filings. If the committee treasurer will personally handle these responsibilities, leave this item blank. A person designated in this item may sign Campaign Statements but does not have the authority to sign the Statement of Organization forms in place of the treasurer.”

  11. TGEoA – your attempt to change the subject is laughable. I imagine that you’re frantically trying to redirect the conversation in the hope that people won’t notice that you and your Republican friends tried to pull one over on Arlington voters – but got caught. This isn’t the Fox News variety of imaginary voter fraud stuff – this is the real deal. I just hope the prosecutors go after the people who hired and supervised this massive fraud.

  12. I certainly hope that it isn’t left to settle all on the shoulders of these two. Given everything we’ve heard (and likely what we haven’t), it seems rather improbable that this was just the coincidental result of independent decisions made by the two named above.

  13. These are the sacrificial lambs.

  14. The inquiry should certainly keep pressing. For instance, according to the CAGG review, the same person notarized all of Cockerham’s petitions and nearly 80% of Simmons’. Since that person was also the campaign manager, it seems likely that she knew what was going on.

  15. Indeed, CJ. There’s a whole lot of information about the circumstances out there that doesn’t seem to be interesting to ACPD (or even local press, as best I can tell).

  16. The entire initiative was poorly covered, which is probably why it didn’t get the votes it needed.

  17. The county board members seem to get away with making false statements. Is the Commonwealth’s Attorney going to criminally charge Jay Fisette with making a false statement in connection with Mike Brown’s resignation/termination/firing? Citizens still have not been told the nature of the board’s “disagreement” with Brown.

  18. Please, internet lawyer, walk us through exactly which laws were violated, and how. Citations needed.

  19. Fisette violated the following Virginia, criminal statute.

    � 18.2-209. False publications.

    Any person who knowingly and willfully states, delivers or transmits by any means whatever to any publisher, or employee of a publisher, of any newspaper, magazine, or other publication or to any owner, or employee of an owner, of any radio station, television station, news service or cable service, any false and untrue statement, knowing the same to be false or untrue, concerning any person or corporation, with intent that the same shall be published, broadcast or otherwise disseminated, shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

  20. LOL. Then please, by all means, if you believe the facts support your claim, do bring this to the attention of the Commonwealth’s Attorney and Ken Cuccinelli.

  21. Fisette outright lied to the Post and Gazette about Brown. Open and shut if anyone were to pursue it.

    Cuccinelli has better things to do than prosecute political vendettas against two-bit politicians.

    Sadly, the Arlington Commonwealth’s attorney who is creature of, by and for the ACDC has plenty of time to pursue political prey.

  22. Please, do dissect his statements, being clear in exactly detail what the lie was. We’re going to ignore the fact that the cited law is an unenforced (and likely unconstitutional) relic.

  23. I wish the Cooch would go after him, and put him in a cage.

  24. Sure I’ve cited a typically unenforced law, that is my point, it is a law typically ignored just like criminal laws pertaining to petition irregularities. Bad petitions and bad signatures get thrown out all the time without felony charges being brought against the petition gatherers. The normal remedy is to disqualify the petitions or signatures and move on. What we have here is a politically motivated prosecution against people who ultimately harmed no one and who are unable to afford quality representation.

  25. Actually, the right term is probably “unenforcable,” which is another way of saying it’s unconstitutional or conflicts with federal law, not just routinely ignored.

    I think this law actually is enforcable, but if it were invoked in every case someone lies to the media, our prisons would be teeming with inmates.

  26. What were the false statements?

  27. By the way, I looked up this law – another part of it apparently protects women from false accusations of being a slut. This is Virginia after all.

  28. Ditto my comments above to TGEoA – nice try at changing the subject. You and your Republican friends got caught try to pull a fraud on Arlington voters. You can be sure that the two people charged weren’t the only ones in on the scam – so who hired them and told them it was ok to sign?
    BTW – when you treat the voters with contempt by defrauding them, is it any wonder that the GOP consistently loses by huge margins in Arlington?

  29. Nice try. What evidence do you have that the two people pictured above are Republican operatives?

  30. The Republicans endorsed and supported the change of gov’t effort – and have been conspicuously silent on the petition fraud issue – except for trolls like TGEoA who consistently spout Republican lines and vitriol all over this site, and try (see above) to change the subject from the fraud that was perpetrated.
    The organization and operation of the petition drive was run by a Republican operative who runs R campaigns, and the firms hired to collect signatures had strong ties to right wing republican causes. So the people who were running the show were most definitely republican operatives – and I hope that the long arm of justice reaches them.

  31. The only people that were harmed were the registered voters who signed this petition, thinking their petition would receive due process. The same voters who hold the CB and their ACDC cronies in contempt.

  32. So, first you say he made a false statement, then you say he has made no statement. Interesting.

  33. Who cares about the backgrounds of the petition collectors…it is the signatures that count or didn’t in this case.

  34. Well the law says the sumbitters of the petition have to meet certain requirements. They didn’t and the votes got tossed. That is why these two are getting charged — as they should be.

  35. I know that but, that requirement is illogical. Why should where the petition gatherers call home matter ??
    It is the signers that should be residents.

  36. To prevent outside interests, such as, for example, a developer, county contractor or employee union from threatening the government with overthrow by simply buying enough signatures to get some weird thing on the ballot. The point is that if such radical change is really needed, you ought to be able to at least find people in the County willing to be hired to collect the signatures.

    For the same reason, foreign campaign contributions are forbidden in US elections. You could say “What does it matter as long as foreign governments don’t get to actually vote in the US election?” But we recognize that propaganda created by outside interests probably isn’t likely to be “educational” for voters, but instead will tend to be deceptive — and expensive to counter.

    All three steps in the process of selecting Arlington’s government should be taken by Arlingtonians themselves: 1) proposal, 2) petition, 3) election. Letting outsiders do any of the steps on our behalf eliminates an important protection. Let that happen and the next thing you know non-Arlingtonians will dominate our community blogs and letters to the editor to “inform us” that “we” are unsatisfied with “our” government. Oh, wait…

  37. NotAsParanoidasYou

    of course developers, county contractors or union people may actually LIVE IN ARLINGTON, right? Shoot they might even (like the “union” people even be democrats.
    Your accusation that these types of people are “outside interests” is absurd, un-American and paranoid and fear-mongering babble.

  38. It’s just too bad that we don’t disallow foreign interests to lobby our elected officials. Who needs campaign contributions when you can just take money/gifts/favors all year long?

    I don’t see where having hired a firm outside of Arlington makes this a fraud. That’s like saying that hiring someone to run a protest for you because you don’t know how to do it means that you don’t really care about what you are protesting, which is kind of stupid sense nobody would put up money, time and effort for something they don’t care about. According to what I’ve read, the only fraud that was committed is when these two signed statements saying they were eligible to collted these signatures and the fact that they signed off on signatures they didn’t wittness.

    I believe that all of these signatures were legitimate and the petition workers (for lack of a better term) were simply careless and lazy when it came to running the process. I have no idea why it seems so foreign to some of you that a lot of people dislike the fact that the person running the excutive branch is not elected, is appointed and can be fired by the legislative branch (where are the checks and balances here?), has no term limit and makes almost as much money as the President of the United States does. This is not a Republican versus Democrat issue; it’s a government versus the people issue. I really fail to understand why everyone in this town seems to want to run left or right on every issue concerning how we are governed and start pointing fingers back across the middle; it’s really childish.

  39. “To prevent outside interests, such as, for example, a developer, county contractor or employee union from threatening the government with overthrow by simply buying enough signatures to get some weird thing on the ballot. The point is that if such radical change is really needed, you ought to be able to at least find people in the County willing to be hired to collect the signatures.”

    I don’t see why it matters where the collectors come from. If people sign, they sign. It’s not “buying” their signatures just because you hire someone outside the county to collect them.

  40. @mehoo, I agree with you, but the sad fact is that Virginia Law states that the circulator must be a resident and must witness all signatures; therefore, I stand corrected in my earlier statement that hiring an outside firm to collect the signatures for you does not constitute fraud. I amend my statement to: “I don’t believe that it should be fraud and would like to see the law changed.” My personal opinion is that his law was written to make petitioning for referendum as difficult as possible. There was a time when the circulator could sign the form for the supporter if they were illiterate or had simply verbally indicated their support of the petition. With the laws in this day and age of rampant identity fraud force petitioners to walk up to each person who signs the petition and ask them for their name, address, signature and of all things social security number (although it’s not required, it’s on the form and probably scares people off), I’m not sure any type of grassroots referendum has a decent shot at making it to the ballot.

    The bottom line is that these people did break the law. Here is a link to the form so people can read it for themselves:

  41. Zoning Victim wrote”: “It’s just too bad that we don’t disallow foreign interests to lobby our elected officials.”

    Foreign interests? What, people from el Salvador, or Falls Church?

  42. Nice try (again). But initiatives to change from at-large to district seats has long been a remedy sought by minority groups, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, to increase the chances of minorities being elected.

    Have you noticed how many African-Americans there are on the Board?? A large reason for that is that white Arlington won’t elect them in an at-large system.

  43. It’s because the ACDC hasn’t put a black person up for election recently. Don’t let the Nazi flyers fool you. This isn’t Mississippi.

  44. Charles Monroe did just fine, and I suspect he’d still be there, but for his unfortunate death.

    It’s precious, really, the way the folks on the side of this position bring up minority representation as if it’s something they ever actually gave a shit about. Next up: Haley Barbour Asks Why We Can’t All Just Get Along

  45. “Have you noticed how many African-Americans there are on the Board?? A large reason for that is that white Arlington won’t elect them in an at-large system.”

    Um, Charles Monroe?

  46. You do know that he’s dead? Been dead for a while now. I know that doesn’t stop Dems from counting their votes, but he doesn’t show up for the Board meetings anymore.

  47. When will the CAGG guy who pushed his cart between myself and a voter wishing to sign the petition, or the lady who yelled complete falsehoods in the ears of every citizen interested in signing the petition be charged with voter intimidation?

    If anyone has broken the trust of Arlington Voters it is Alan Howze, CAGG, and the ACDC that endorsed voter intimidation, violated voter’s first admendment rights to petittion their government and lied about both the effects and timing of the petition.
    Alan should turn over his list of volunteers to the Commonwealth’s Atty for investigation and indictment on voter intimidation charges. Since what they did would’t be allowed within 50 ft or even a mile of a polling place why should it be allowed in farmer’s markets and in front of grocery stores?

  48. Matt Wavro,

    Since you attacked me personally I feel compelled to respond. I see that several months of reflection on the petition effort loss have not tempered your thinking. That is unfortunate. You, like your fellow right wingers on this site, are trying desperately to change the subject and conflate and confuse the issue. But a judicial trial is not a blog, and I am confident that the full extent of the fraud will eventually be revealed.

    I stand by my actions and my work with the Coalition for Arlington Good Government (CAGG –, and I am proud of the efforts of the hundreds of community volunteers who, once alerted to the danger that the petition posed to Arlington’s tradition of good governance, rose up to defend our County. Did you think that an effort that would overturn decades of work to make Arlington a great place to live, work and raise a family would not be met with a stiff challenge?

    Make no mistake about it, I fight hard for the principles I believe in, and there is nothing more fundamental that the right to alter or abolish the form of government. But the right to choose a government is mine just as much as it is yours. I believe that Arlington has a form of government that, today, serves residents well – not perfectly – but well. I will continue to try and shape the future of our community because my family’s quality of life, and the education of my children, is directly tied to the performance of our local government. I am willing to defend that government from those who would take it in a radically different direction. So, while I didn’t start the change of government fight, once enjoined, I fought to win. I believed then, and believe even more now, that the change of government effort was an ill-conceived power grab, and that the right course of action was to stand up and defeat it. For that I make no apologies.

    During the petition effort, I stood near you at multiple occasions, without incident or ill-will, to educate voters. Sometimes my point of view won out and sometimes yours did – but that is the nature of civil discourse in a democracy. At one location you even took my picture and posted it on your website. Did I whine about intimidation? No, I laughed and took it in stride. When you showed up at the Cherrydale debate and tried to disrupt the proceedings by yelling from the back of the room did I whine about intimidation? No – I answered the question and I stayed until they closed up the building in order to answer additional questions. When you appeared at a League of Women voters event this fall and asked pointed questions during the Q&A did I whine about intimidation? No – that’s the rough-and-tumble of political debate – so I answered your question honestly for the benefit of everyone in the room. And when it became apparent that the change of government effort was using illegal out-of-state petition collectors and attempting to buy a new form of government did I whine? No – but we did patiently and carefully document and publish the facts for everyone to see and to draw their own conclusions.

    You should do the same if you have any proof of your baseless allegations. Of course you don’t, so instead you resort to personal attacks, and in the process demonstrate once again why I am so glad to have fought hard against your efforts to seize control of the levers of our local government.

    Now you have to face the fact that your attempt to foist a fraud onto all of Arlington has gone very, very awry. So don’t blame your opponents for your side’s failings. CAGG had nothing to do with the choices made by the change of government supporters that led to this week’s indictments. CAGG didn’t hire out-of-state petition collectors to bolster a failing petition effort. CAGG didn’t screen the hired collectors to make sure they met the legal requirements. CAGG didn’t hire the indicted robo-signers to falsely sign-off on petition sheets. CAGG didn’t notarize the petition sheets as being lawfully collected. And CAGG didn’t submit suspect petitions. These were all choices made by the change of government effort, and now you and fellow petition leaders have to live with the consequences of your choices.

    Since you were intimately involved with the effort let me ask you a few questions that would help the public and the prosecutors get to the bottom of the story. Were you there when the signatures pages were being falsely signed and notarized? Do you know who told the indicted collectors that it was OK to sign the petition forms? Who hired them? Were the change of government leaders aware of the fraud or did they just pay the money to the out-of-state firms and then turn a blind eye? Perhaps you knew that voter fraud was being committed, but you thought that the rule of law didn’t apply to you, or it was just a minor technicality, or you chose to disobey the law because you disagree with it, or that the end justifies the means? Whatever your rationalization, I encourage you to now do your civic duty and provide all that you know to the Arlington Police or the Commonwealth Attorney’s office.

    I’m willing to stand up and take responsibility for the honorable and assertive actions of CAGG and its volunteers to educate and inform the community. How about you? Do you take responsibility for being party to the voter fraud that has been committed? Maybe its time for you, in the immortal words of former Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharon Angle, to “MAN-UP” to the mistakes that your side made, and accept the fact that your side lost, and betrayed the public trust through irresponsible and perhaps illegal actions.

  49. Oh snap!

  50. +1 on both Alan’s post and the “oh snap!”

  51. Would you please tell me why you think not having an elected official at the head of the executive branch is the right way to go without trying to attribute all of Arlington’s success to the fact that it’s this way? Do you really think that having a county manager who would have to attempt to please the citizens of Arlington County instead of just the County Board and having districts vote would create this massive swing toward conservatism and ruin the county?

    I’m not asking to start an argument; I just do not understand why anyone would want to be governed by an unelected official. The only arguments I’ve seen against changing our form of government are: “Arlington is great” and “it’s a power grab by the horrible conservatives who will destroy our great county.” Both of those arguments strike me as, well, pathetic.

  52. @Zoning Victim – let me turn the question back around to you. Can you explain how changing to the one that you describe would make Arlington better? Would it improve our schools? Our roads? Our infrastructure? Our trash and recycle pickup? Our parks? What is your measure of success? And if you reply that it would make local government “more accountable to the people” please describe – in real-life detail – what that means – and how that differs from how we hold Board members accountable today (elections)? I wouldn’t claim that a County Manager form is the pinnacle of local governance – but the Manager is accountable to an elected Board, is insulated enough from local politics to make decisions that are in the best long term interest of the community (see Montgomery County MD’s budget woes for an example of how having an elected executive can create unintended problems). So, for me, the argument that Arlington works well as it is organized today is compelling.

  53. That’s pretty much what I expected. I’ve never considered it a good argument since I can find plenty of counties and cities that are in shambles that use the same system. Additionally, the county boards still vote on their respective budgets in many cases, so it’s hard to blame the form of government for the budget woes of a city. Arlington’s spending increases have been epic over the last ten years. According to the Wikipedia article on the topic, “In a 1996 study, 62 percent of responding council-manager communities indicated that they granted the office additional powers such as appointing officials or vetoing legislation or elected their mayors directly.” So obviously there are plenty of people out there that think their CM should be elected.

    How would it be better if we elected a Mayor or County Manager (CM)? Well, we wouldn’t have appointed an interim CM, then imported a new CM who knows nothing about Arlington County, then fire that CM and give him $100K to go back home, then lie about firing him and then appoint the previous interim CM as the new permanent CM. If she wasn’t good enough to be the CM to begin with, then why is she now? Seems like a compromise to me.

    Further, there would be one person responsible for the way the government interacts with the people of Arlington. As my chosen name on this board might suggest, I’ve had a number of run-ins with the zoning administrator, and I’m far from the only one. She is infamous for being difficult to deal with, making up rules and not treating people fairly; she believes this is okay. I’d like to think that if there was a CM who is responsible for hiring the ZA (and other department heads) who also needs to be reelected to keep his/her job that they wouldn’t hire a ZA that obviously thinks it’s fun to piss people off for fear of being run out of office. At least if an elected CM did make the mistake of hiring as bad of a ZA as we have now, I’d hope they would quickly fire them as the complaints rolled in.

    As for districting, Arlington has some very diverse sections that shouldn’t be treated the same. Years ago Arlington decided to put an end to people parking their boats and trailers on the street because there was so little parking. The thing is there wasn’t a parking problem in my part of Arlington, just in North Arlington where the rich folk live. So someone was upset that they had to park their Mercedes half a block away to walk to their house with no garage or driveway and complained to the County Board, and they decided that everybody in Arlington had to stop parking their boats/trailers/RVs on the street. Perhaps if there were districts, the elected official who ran mine would have helped us out since most people in my neighborhood didn’t care about each other’s boats and trailers because we have plenty of parking. Maybe they could have done something really smart like make the parking restrictions by zone so the places with people who cared about that kind of stuff could petition to have it changed and the districts that didn’t care could continue to have their boats on the street where there is plenty of room.

    Districting allows better representation for the different neighborhoods and fosters a sense of treating them different since they are different. Otherwise, group think gets in the way of common sense solutions to regional problems. I really don’t see why my section of Arlington should be treated the same as Rosslyn/Ballston/Clarendon. We are not the same and we do not have the same types of people living here. We deserve separate representation.

  54. “Would you please tell me why you think not having an elected official at the head of the executive branch is the right way to go without trying to attribute all of Arlington’s success to the fact that it’s this way? Do you really think that having a county manager who would have to attempt to please the citizens of Arlington County instead of just the County Board and having districts vote would create this massive swing toward conservatism and ruin the county?”

    Go look up the history of the city/county manager system. The point is to run the county professionally, free from political interference. You know, “more like a business,” like conservatives like to say.

  55. Oh please, drop the ridiculous conspiracy theory. The general advice in petition drives I’ve been involved in is to cast a wide net to get as many signatures as possible, to ensure there are enough signatures, so that whatever number are disqualified there remain sufficient numbers to qualify the person or the issue for the ballot.

    It has been understood there would be problems and irregularities along the way as might be expected in a any once-in-a-blue-moon enterprise.

    Please grow up and move on instead of insisting on incarcertating representatives of political opponents who didn’t cross every “t” and dot every “i” as you would have it.

    This prosecution is ACDC sponsored political thuggery.

  56. This is not about dotting “i”s and crossing “t”s. Based on CAGG’s information that Cheryl Simmons’ and Natasha Robinson’s petitions were all falsified and this week’s revelations that William Cockerham’s petitions were likewise all falsified, it appears that the vast, vast majority of CBA’s petitions were never solicited and collected by Arlington’s residents, and that hundreds of petitions were probably brought in an organized way to a back room where people swore in writing to tell the truth, but were lying.

    And it is not about political thuggery. A grand jury of Arlington citizens just handed down two felony indictments, and there may be more we don’t know about yet. The very purpose of a grand jury is to intervene and make sure that a prosecutor cannot bring charges except if ordinary citizens would agree there was a real crime committed.

  57. Or that a real ham sandwich did, in fact, exist.

  58. I haven’t seen anythying that indicates that the signatures they gathered were actually falsified. Do you have a source for that statement?

  59. There is no evidence I’m aware of that a significant number of the underlying voter signatures were forged. However, the -validity- of those voter signatures is now completely in question, since by law the very first assumption a Virginia voter is entitled to make about a petition collector is “I’m your neighbor and I think this is a good idea.” (This goes back to the “information costs” issue I mentioned elsewhere on this thread — it takes a lot of time to actually explain in a balanced way the full implications of the change of government. The state legislature says voters are entitled to have a shortcut which is that one of their own neighbors is already committed enough to the idea to ask for them to sign.)

    In other words, most of those dudes collecting the signatures are now shown to be liars and manipulators, and so we have to question anything else they may have said to the voters in order to procure the voters’ (real) signatures.

  60. Okay, but the signatures being invalid because they were not witnessed by the person signing off on them and were gathered by the wrong people in some cases is not the same thing as them being falsified.

  61. I said the -petitions- were falsified. Which a grand jury believes they were. A petition, in this case, is a complete document circulated and witnessed in writing by a person qualified to be an Arlington voter, in which the witness promises, in front of a notary public, that they were the person who was there when each and every individual voter signed. It is not sufficient in Virginia, on purpose, to just turn in pages with voters’ signatures alone, real or otherwise without unless there is also that sworn attestation. Those two final, certifying signatures (witness and notary) are essential parts of each petition page. A person qualified to vote in Arlington has to promise they saw it all happen and be accountable on the record for the collection. This is not a technicality but an essential legal protection to prevent just exactly what CBA did — pay money for out-of-staters to drive in to Arlington and manufacture a fake “grass roots” movement that tricks voters into thinking their own neighbors are trying to put something on the ballot. This was not just a violation of the letter of the law, it was an apparently willful defiance of the exact requirement — Arlington residents doing the collection — that the law is meant to ensure.

  62. Alan Howze,
    I volunteered to collect signatures for the Committee for a Better Arlington because I believe Arlington residents deserve more representation and accountability in County government.

    I don’t think it is good for democracy or our political discourse that Chris Zimmerman could miss two yearly safety audits as a member of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority without the accountability of an election.

    I am proud of the thousands of conversations I had with Arlington voters and visitors who cross bridges and political boundaries to do their Saturday and Sunday grocery shopping. I had thousands of great and always civil, at least on my part, conversations about representation, accountability, governing structures, the budget process, and local political history. I enjoyed meeting two political scientist that whole-heartedly endorsed the initiative and said they doubly endorsed the initiative when they finished reading the CAGG materials and their shopping.

    I still maintain that the special character of Arlington is in its residents and not in any specific form of government. I pledged to work with anyone willing to make any changes to the form of government that could not be addressed in the intervening year between the successful adoption of the referendum and implementation.

    Your pledge to Arlington voters seems to be much different, that you will continue in your partisan attack politics working to crush any civic activity that does not advance your political career or policy agenda.

    I am saddened that your ideological rigidity and uber-partisanship prevents you from acknowledging well intentioned and honest work done in the public interest by myself and CBA volunteers.
    I thought it much more important to talk to voters instead of standing by and video-taping every minute of signature collection. The Alan Howze trained volunteers always took advantage the opportunities to intimidate voters when no-one was video taping, but they always seemed to start behaving when the video camera showed up!

    It was you Alan, who set the tone among your volunteers and the expectations for their behavior. While our one-on-one conversations were always civil, the incivility expressed in your rhetoric then and now gave license to your volunteers to shout down petition gathers with lies about the ballot initiative process and lies about the volunteers collecting signatures and block petition signatures.

    Specifically, your rhetoric lead to a lady yelling at every Arlington voter interested in the petition that it was illegal to sign the petition until I signed the affidavit on the bottom of the page attesting to a blank sheet of signatures. I declined her offer with the truth of the process, but that didn’t stop her shouting. Another volunteer yelled at every voter that I was from Souther Virginia and not “one of us”. In another incident your irresponsible rhetoric lead to a CAGG volunteer pushing his cart in-between me and a voter who wanted to sign the petition. I took this to be part of the rough and tumble you spoke about in your letter and only complained to the extent that everyone needed to know the tactics you were endorsing. I was and still am more interested in talking with voters about my values than criminalizing the exercise of first amendment rights in Arlington, like you seem to be.

    It is unfortunate that several months of refection on you actions during the petition effort hasn’t given you a better understanding of the ballot initiative. This is evidenced by your repeated wrong claims that the ballot initiative process would somehow be a power grab or usurpation when what was being pursued was getting an intitative on the ballot that would start a great discussion about needed electoral reform in Arlington. A reform that would protect civil society from the type of machine politics that you seem to excel at. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this considering that you ignored all legal analysis that didn’t fit the narrative you were pushing about the ballot initiative.

    I am willing to stand up for my actions, conversations and pledges made during the Committee for a Better Arlington efforts. It is unfortunate that you are using the political power you amassed during the ballot initiative to further a political prosecution designed to punish your political opponents instead of using that political capital to make Arlington an even better place to live. I wasn’t involved with the hiring of signature collectors, but your choices in this area should be scrutinized too.

    I think everyone should remember, especially when speak publicly in civic/political debate your choices in the months since the ballot initiative. When given political capital here in Arlington, you chose to use that political capital to push the prosecution of a homeless woman trying to put her life back together after legal troubles instead of working to build an even better Arlington. I hope all voters remember your choices next time you want to join in political discourse and discount your message appropriately.

    On the same note, the next time I join in political discourse, I hope my friends and neighbors remember my smiling greeting when I saw them on the street, my concern for the governing structure of Arlington, my concern for the provision of core public safety services in our county, and my concern for the ability of citizens to petition their government.

    Matt Wavro

  63. “…you chose to use that political capital to push the prosecution of a homeless woman trying to put her life back together after legal troubles instead of working to build an even better Arlington.”

    My God, Matt. YOU are the insider with the power to tell the police everything you know about who put Cheryl Simmons up to this crime, and make sure those people are held responsible for further ruining her life. Please do so now! Alan Howze did not pay that woman to commit perjury over and over and over again. You may know who did, or help the police to figure it out. If you truly feel this way about her, you can help.

    I believe you honestly think you were helping Arlington. I think you are wrong, but sincere. Your co-workers were neither. Don’t protect them.

  64. Thes,
    I was completely on the volunteer side of the Committee for a Better Arlington. Thank you for acknowledging my sincere efforts to make Arlington an even better place to live. I appreciate that.

  65. Matt,

    You give me far too much credit. Arlington is a strong organized progressive community. It was my great good fortune to be able to utilize the community organizing of those that had come before me in CAGG’s effort to defeat the referendum proposal. Likewise, neither I nor anyone else has control over the actions of the police or prosecutors or grand jury. I will repeat again that the actions that led to the indictments were the results of decisions made by the change of government promoters and the responsibility for those actions rests with that effort’s leadership. If you were not among the leadership of the group I don’t know why you continue to defend their indefensible actions.

    In multiple posts over the past 6-8 months I have not cast aspersions on your motivations or your character – because I don’t know you well enough to judge – and because it cheapens and undermines our political discourse to resort to personal attacks. All that leaves me is your words and your actions. I take you at your word that you engaged in this effort out of a genuine desire to affect change – the same desire that drew you to work on other Republican campaigns in Arlington. And your actions to collect signatures and recruit volunteers tell me that you were, while perhaps ineffective, at least sincere in your efforts.

    You and I disagree over the wisdom of the referendum effort. No amount of discussion is likely to change that, and the issue has already been settled for now, so let’s not waste further time and energy debating a dead proposal. That said, I respected your right to petition your government and encourage you to engage in future political activity if you choose to do so. But don’t expect that you can engage in political activity from the comfort of a bubble where opposing viewpoints and voices can not be heard or where everyone who disagrees with you, or offers an alternative viewpoint, is a “liar.”

    And just to correct another misstatement in your post, I have, on multiple posts on this site, expressed my belief that you and other volunteers for the change of government effort were done a great disservice by the fraud committed under the efforts name. A few of those quotes are provided below to refresh your memory:
    “Matt, I’m sure you are frustrated that all your hard work has been undermined by the mistakes and misrepresentation made by out-of-state petition firms…The CBA and its consultants owe the public, and hardworking volunteers such as yourself, an explanation.” July 27, 2010
    “Matt – let me repeat that the CBA and its consultants owe the public, and hardworking volunteers such as yourself, an explanation.” July 27, 2010
    “Your name (Matt W) appears on the list of circulators (with a high petition count – you clearly worked hard on the effort) and those like yourself who legally collected signatures have nothing to hide.” July 27, 2010

    However, after your more recent posts and strident attacks, it is not clear to me whether you were in fact just a volunteer or if you were in a leadership role and were more complicit in the fraudulent activities alleged in the indictments?

    To rebut another of your claims, the referendum issue wasn’t about partisan politics – at least it wasn’t for me and many of the CAGG volunteers I spoke with. The issue featured a number of strange political bedfellows and it united a number of groups in opposition to the referendum whose missions don’t normally overlap. That’s because people recognized the threat posed by the referendum to their values, to their quality of life, and to Arlington’s tradition of good government.

    As to why you got involved and where you stand, perhaps you can clarify for us which of your words reveal your actual position: “Exerted the political pressure necessary to save 25 public-safety officer positions in the county budget necessary to maintain core services.”
    “I volunteered to collect signatures for the Committee for a Better Arlington because I believe Arlington residents deserve more representation and accountability in County government.”
    You sound conflicted. Were you working for the greater good of Arlington? To promote accountability, democracy, motherhood and apple-pie? Or exerting political pressure for the benefit of a narrow set of special interests who were in financial negotiations with the County?

    Perhaps in future civic/political debates it will be noted that you were party to an effort that was more than willing to hire and exploit a “homeless woman trying to put her life back together” by convincing her to commit perjury so that your side might gain advantage in negotiations over hiring and compensation. If you’re willing to stand-up for people who exploit the homeless and the downtrodden among us, and you don’t mind aligning yourself with those willing to bend the truth and the law when it suits their political agenda, then you can be certain that I, and many others, will be standing to oppose you.

  66. What this boils down to is:

    a) A significant number of people will sign whatever is put in front of them, whether it has merit or not.

    b) Knowing this, the state legislature requires a large number of voter signatures to be personally gathered by bona-fide residents of the County who actually want it in order to something as radical as change the whole form of government.

    c) So few people thought Arlington’s form of government needed to be changed that the organizers realized they had no hope of gathering the required number of signatures, because they weren’t finding enough volunteers.

    d) The organizers tried to buy their way out of the problem by hiring paid petition collectors.

    e) Even after offering cash money to Arlingtonians in order to induce them to go out and collect signatures, not enough willing Arlingtonians could be found to help.

    f) For whatever reason, the organizers didn’t just drop it, but decided to pretend that they had actually found four Arlingtonians who wanted to collect all those signatures (which seems to be a felony crime).

    g) By the way, EVEN AFTER apparently committing felony crimes in order to try to provide the required number of signatures, they still couldn’t get enough interest by Arlington voters to have qualified for the ballot.

    Arlington police and fire union money paid for the foregoing effort.

    I salute the Arlington police for being honest enough to at least conduct an investigation and bring charges against those who were, in effect, their own employees. It starts to restore my faith in our public safety officers, in whose name this drive was conducted. The touchy question is whether their investigation included their own elected union chief. What did he know and when did he know it? And if he didn’t know, will his poor management skills affect his re-election as union chief?

  67. Thes,
    Don’t forget that the voter harassment and voter intimidation by CAGG/ACDC dissuaded people from collecting signatures in public because of their preference not to be yelled at or lied about when exercising their first amendment rights. You really have to hand it to CAGG/ACDC for effectively shutting down debate through incivility.

  68. Hey Matt, You really need to respond to Alan’s post, above. You’re not exactly representing your cause very well, right now.

  69. Matt W,

    Your own words on your public LinkedIn profile lay bare what this effort was really all about (see bullet #3 below from your profile): getting more money for the fire and police unions by exerting budget pressure on the County board. Your effort to blackmail county taxpayers through the referendum process was cynical and manipulative. You reap what you sow.

    “Volunteer – Community Outreach
    Committee For a Better Arlington
    (Government Relations industry)
    February 2010 — July 2010 (6 months)

    “Trained new volunteers on the ballot initiative process and the committee’s case for giving voters more of a say in how the county is run.

    “Ranked #1 among Volunteers in collecting signatures from citizens interested in increasing the accountability of local elected officials.

    “Exerted the political pressure necessary to save 25 public-safety officer positions in the county budget necessary to maintain core services.”

  70. We did save 25 public safety positions that were set to be cut when we started collecting signatures in earnest. It was the right decision for Arlington or are you advocating that we need less public safety?

  71. NotAsParanoidasYou

    Thes you just don’t get it sometimes.
    A. some people believe that EVERYTHING has a right to go before the general public. i’ll sign almost any petition. i want to hear and learn.
    B. the state legislature did this so black people can’t get enough votes and are kept down. this is exactly why our 2010 re-districting will be reviewed by the Federal Government. Richmond has a history of keeping people down.

  72. “A. some people believe that EVERYTHING has a right to go before the general public.”

    The petition IS what is going before the general public. That’s when you start debating it and learning about it.

    The reason it must get a certain number of signatures is because having every whacky idea someone comes up with put on the ballot is a waste of money and time. You learn LESS about them if there are hundreds of them thrown on the ballot to consider.

  73. We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a republic. In fact the US Constitution guarantees to each state a “republican” not a democratic form of government. This recognizes the fact that there are significant “information costs,” as political scientists would use the term, to voters in learning about and deciding on each and every issue. It actually costs a huge amount of money to educate each and every voter about the implications of, for example, the implications of the change-of-government petition for its effects on Arlington’s civil service system, contracting policies, and long range planning accountability. Our government officials at the local, state and federal level spend hours and hours holding hearings and hiring researchers to learn about how to vote on the things they decide. Virginia, unlike California, has decided that is a better system than putting 46 items on each November ballot for voters to decide based on a 50-word summary.

    Unlike the reasonable ideas John Andre proposes on this blog, the specific proposal on the petition drive was so silly as to be pointless. It did not deserve to be put before the voters, because it was not worth the cost in voters’ time and other people’s money to get them up to speed on how bad it was. This is also why not enough actual Arlington residents, volunteers and paid, could be found to collect the signatures.

  74. I am going to shock your world…Democratic Republic… BAM

  75. Nonetheless, speaking as a Democrat, Arlington County ought to consider a change of government.

    At the least, we should consider increasing the size of the County Board from five to eleven or fifteen members. The current small size of the County Board lends itself very easy to “Stalinist-style” one-party domination. True, the current County Board seems to display little outward evidence of corruption, but the small size of the Board lends itself easily to dominance by machine politics [e.g. Marion Barry in the District of Columbia not so long ago]. A larger County Board would be more likely to include representatives of both major parties, particularly if organized by single-member districts rather than at-large elections.

    In addition the County should consider switching from county to city government. Arlington’s population is large enough to function as an incorporated city. Some people seem to oppose this idea on the grounds that Virginia cities have more taxing authority than counties. Personally I think the idea of county government for a jurisdiction the size of Arlington is a relic of the horse and buggy era. It’s time for Arlington to move into the 21st century, perhaps by reorganizing as a city under Virginia law.

  76. Hi John, thank you. I knew there had to be at least one other preson in Arlington who understands that whether or not you support a change in Arlington’s form of government isn’t a partisan issue. It amazes me that most of the posts on here are just people bashing each other’s political idology with very little reasoning as to why they feel one way or the other. Calling something a Republican or Democratic conspiracy is not a debate; it’s a deflection and probably a symptom of being uninformed about the issue itself other than what one’s favorite party tells their “followers” to think.

  77. We get alot of advantages by remaining a county. In any event, a larger board is a good idea – maybe with a mix of at-large and district members, like DC has.

    There are some good ideas for changing our structure, but the recent petition drive wasn’t one of them.

  78. What are the advantages? I see this stated time and time again without any basis on what advantages it provides.

  79. I can’t remember any more. I think the state foots the bill for more services, like in other states. Anyone else know the details?

  80. Thes – Thanks for the summary.

    Matt W – If voter harassment exists in Arlington and you capture it on video, you’ll have your macaca moment.

    John Andre – Interesting points. I’ve often wondered why Arlington (population 200k) is a county while Falls Church (120k) and City of Fairfax (25k) are cities.

    Does anyone think the 2 people pictured are the root of the issue? It seems likely that they were handed forms to sign (in order to make a few bucks) by organizers who may or may not have known the law. While ignorance of the law is not a defense, it doesn’t seem logical to think that they devised this scheme on their own. Any reason to think the organizers will also be held accountable?

  81. Fairfax County has a million residents. It’s the largest jurisdiction in the area, but it’s a county.

    The reason is Virginia’s convoluted system of local government.

  82. Alan Howze lied in his above open letter to me posted above.
    He should retract his statement immediately and apologise.
    I did not attend the Cherrydale debate. I cannot begin to address the other flaws and inaccuracies in Alan’s arguement until he corrects this slanderous lie.

  83. Matt – if that was not you, but one of your fellow referendum supporters, who yelled disruptively from the back of the audience at the Cherrydale debate, then I stand corrected. From where I sat on the stage, it looked like you. Perhaps you could check with your compatriots and provide the right name of the disruptive audience member in order to correct the record?
    As for my post, I firmly stand behind it.

  84. Alan,
    Perhaps you should be certain in your allegations before making them. What other allegations are you not sure of and would stand corrected if someone stood up to you and your tactics?

  85. Have him arrested and prosecuted for making a false statement! Scroll up for details.

  86. Why do you refuse to even begin to respond to his letter? I mean, if I felt I was being wrongly represented here, I would surely respond. It goes a long way in showing how your “cause” is garbage.

  87. Chad,
    Please see above.

  88. So does your response mean you did everything but the Cherrydale thing? Your response has been pretty lackluster, especially after reading Alan Howze’s well written defense/attack (which looked to be in response to your ad hoc attacks).

  89. South Arlington, I think the statement, “I cannot begin to address the other flaws and inaccuracies in Alan’s arguement until he corrects this slanderous lie.” Qualifies as a no to your question.

  90. We’re closing comments on this story.


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