A Fairbanks woman has been charged with submitting fraudulent signatures for the Alaska Coastal Management Program initiative.
Deborah A. Carroll faces five felony and misdemeanor charges, including forgery, unsworn falsification, and perjury.
Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho is chairman of the Alaska Sea Party – the group behind the coastal management initiative. He says group officials noticed the forgeries the night before submitting their petition books to the state Division of Elections.
“It was quite evident just as a lay person looking through that the signatures – indeed the handwriting throughout – looked suspiciously similar. So, we withheld it,” says Botelho. “The following week, I delivered this booklet to the Office of Special Prosecutions, and they in turn delivered it to the State Troopers for investigation that resulted in the criminal complaint.”
The charges were originally announced by Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell’s office, which erroneously said Carroll was hired by the Sea Party.
Botelho says the group did not have a direct relationship with Carroll. She was employed by consultant Scott Kohlhaas, who organized much of the group’s signature gathering effort in Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Mat-Su.
Botelho says one isolated incident should not diminish the efforts of dozens of volunteers, who collected nearly 30-thousand valid signatures in less than a month to put the coastal management initiative on this year’s ballot.
“Throughout the process I frankly had expected that our signature gatherers would bring integrity to the process and 99.5 percent of them did,” Botelho says.
Carroll is scheduled to be arraigned in Fairbanks on Friday, April 13th.
Before closing last year, the Alaska Coastal Management Program gave local communities greater input into development on federal land in their backyards. It also streamlined the permitting activities of various state and federal agencies.
Legislation introduced this year to reauthorize the program with similar language to the initiative appears unlikely to pass.