Election Board Member Resigns after Pressure

Anthula Gross, one of the three members of the Town of Chevy Chase Election Board, has resigned. Apparently, she was subjected to very strong private pressure, including from a current sitting member of the Town Council. that went so far as to warn of personal legal liability, in the wake of the election (emphasis added):

Much to my dismay, at the close of the election on Tuesday, May 5, several supporters of the write-in candidate questioned our integrity and ability to provide a fair and accurate vote count, even though the responsibility for that count lay in the hands of the impartial League of Women Voters who had no ties to the Town. We were there to oversee them and certify the vote count which we did.

After we certified the vote count, we realized that we could not certify the election immediately because of the discrepancy in the requirement of the State mandated financial disclosure statement. There is an inherent conflict between the requirements and limitations placed on a declared candidate and those of a write-in candidate in the Town’s election procedures. The procedure for the ability of Town residents to vote for a write-in candidate predates the requirement of the State mandated financial disclosure statement and no adjustment to the Town Charter had been made. Therefore, we requested the Ethics Commission to clarify the situation and be the final arbiter.

In the interim, while the final decision was in the hands of the Ethics Commission, I did not appreciate calls and e-mails from Town residents urging immediate certification of the election, that we had exceeded our mandate, and that we were suppressing voters’ rights and trying to overturn an election. One present member of the Town Council also urged immediate certification and that we could be in violation of Federal Law (The Ku Klux Klan Act). It was not our intention to suppress anyone’s vote or to deny anyone of his First Amendment Right. We just needed clarification.

I was further disheartened at the first Town Council meeting following the election where more talk was raised of the possibility of legal liability on the part of Town volunteers, hardly an incentive to make one want to volunteer.

Despite Anthula Gross’ willingness to stay on the Board until it submitted its recommendations after the election, Mayor Lang accepted her resignation and moved to fill the vacancy.

Replacement Involved in Election Dispute?

Mayor Al Lang appointed Robert Charrow to fill the vacancy with the support of Councilmembers John Bickerman and Fred Cecere. Besides serving on the Council, Lang is also the CEO of Coteva, Inc. while Attorney John Bickerman is a professional mediator who heads the two-person Bickerman Dispute Resolution firm and teaches dispute resolution at Cornell. Fred Cecere is a retired physician.

Some are wondering if Charrow gave advice to Ed Albert’s stealth write-in campaign that led to Cecere’s election and Bickerman’s reelection during or after the election. Charrow was quoted on the Town’s unofficial listserv as stating “It’s none of your business” in response to question on the matter–an answer that seems unlikely to quell suspicions.

In short, there is now open speculation (at least on the Town listserv) that Lang with Bickerman and Cecere’s support has now appointed a lawyer who gave legal advice that helped result in our new Council and Mayor to the Town Election Board–an action described as reducing “confidence” in both institutions.