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Government and People
BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND ETHICS
In Re: December 28, 2004 Submission of Supplemental Petition Sheets in Support of The Video Lottery Terminal Initiative of 2004
RESPONDENTS: The Citizens Committee for the D.C. Video Lottery Terminal Initiative; PEDRO ALFONSO; VICKEY WILCHER; MARGARET GENTRY; and Johnny Clinton Hyatt.
BOEE No. 05-01
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF PEDRO ALFONSO, VICKEY M. WILCHER AND MARGARET GENTRY
The January 12, 2005 letter from Kenneth J. McGhie, Esq., the General Counsel of this Board, set forth the current schedule of events in response to this Board's Show Cause Order dated January 6, 2005.1 In late December, 2004, Pedro Alfonso, Vickey M. Wilcher and Margaret Gentry each resigned from their respective positions on the Citizens Committee for the D.C. Video Lottery Terminal Initiative ("Citizens Committee"). Mr. Alfonso and Ms. Wilcher, near in time, also resigned as Proposers for Initiative No. 68. The following only represents their collective responses to this Board's Order to Show Cause, as they are no longer affiliated with the Citizens Committee.
As this Board will recall, Mr. Alfonso was the Chairman of the Citizens Committee and a Proposer for Initiative No. 68, which sought to place on the city's ballot a referendum question, which would legalize the use of video lottery terminals in the District. Ms. Wilcher was the Treasurer of the Citizens Committee as well as a Proposer of Initiative No. 68. Ms. Gentry was the Custodian of Records of the Citizens Committee. Each individually was, and they collectively were, active in the endeavors which obtained a valid petition statement from this Board, circulated petitions in early summer 2004, submitted those petition sheets in July, 2004, and were very much involved in the subsequent hearings before this Board and litigation at the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
After the last decision effecting Initiative No. 68 was issued by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals on September 28, 2004, Mr. Alfonso, Ms. Wilcher and Ms. Gentry set about trying to close the affairs of the Citizens Committee. This involved, among other things, filing appropriate periodic forms with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance and trying to secure monies to cover the legitimate costs incurred by the previous endeavors. Their collective attention was focused on finalizing the affairs of the Citizens Committee.
PRE-CHRISTMAS, DECEMBER, 2004.
On or about Monday, December 20, 2004, Mr. Alfonso received a call from Rob Newell of North Atlantic Investments, LLC, a financial backer of the efforts undertaken by the Citizens Committee. Mr. Newell raised the issue of whether additional petitions could be filed with this Board to supplement the previous efforts of Initiative No. 68. He wondered if the window in which qualified petition sheets could be filed had not yet closed. Newell continued that the District of Columbia Code seemed, by its very terms, to grant a total of 180 days from the date a petition is cleared by this Board for circulation to allow a proposer to file a sufficient number of qualified petitions with this Board. Such a position, it seemed to Mr. Alfonso, ran counter to the regulations governing this Board. Regardless, Mr. Alfonso continued to support the concept that the citizens of this city should be permitted to express their individual opinions, through the ballot box, on whether video lottery terminals are to be legalized for this city. Mr. Alfonso wanted an opinion from counsel setting forth the legal basis supporting the filing of additional petition sheets with this Board. John L. Ray, Esq., former counsel to the Citizens Committee and a partner at Manatt, Phelps, Phillips, LLP here in Washington, D.C., was no longer available for this service. Instead, Mr. Alfonso asked Mr. Newell to seek a opinion from the attorney who had argued to Newell the legitimacy of a supplemental filing, or some other counsel. Mr. Alfonso said his review and consideration of the legal authority for a supplemental filing was a prerequisite to any official action by the Citizens Committee. Mr. Newell agreed to provide this to Mr. Alfonso. Although the need for, and the delivery of, a legal opinion supporting an additional filing was discussed more than once between Mr. Alfonso and Mr. Newell over the telephone during the next five or so days, neither a document nor an oral recitation from counsel was ever given to Mr. Alfonso.
In the December 20 phone call, Mr. Newell also specifically asked for the phone number for Norman Neverson and for Mr. Alfonso to contact Interactive Political Media, Inc. ("Interactive Media"). Both assisted with the signature process for the July 2004 submission. Before he gave Mr. Neverson's phone number to Mr. Newell, however, Mr. Alfonso sought permission to release that information. Neverson gave that permission and Mr. Alphonso provided Mr. Newell with the contact information he requested.
Mr. Alfonso spoke with an official at Interactive Media shortly after the conversation with Newell. They were interested in undertaking the task of obtaining the signatures for new petition sheets, when the balance for previous services were covered. Bait, Mr. Alfonso told the official that he would let them know if and when the process received the final approval from the Citizens Committee to move forward.
On Tuesday, December 21, 2004, Mr. Alfonso had a discussion with John L. Ray, Esq. Mr. Ray raised further legal concerns about a supplemental petition drive. These concerns were subsequently passed on to Mr. Newell. Mr. Alfonso- continued to need a legal opinion on this matter.
In phone conversations over the next two days with Mr. Alfonso, Mr. Newell emphasized the time limitation facing the efforts to gather and file additional petitions. It was estimated by Mr. Newell that the 180 days would expire on or about December 28, 2004.
On Wednesday, December 22, 2004, Mr. Alfonso received multiple phone calls from the official at Interactive Media. The corporation wanted approval to commence work. Each time Mr. Alfonso told them that the matter remained under legal review. Electronic correspondence was exchanged between the corporation and Mr. Newell, sometimes with copies sent to Mr. Alfonso. In the late afternoon of the same day, Mr. Alfonso learned from the corporate official that a contract had been signed by Mr. Newell with the corporation. The previous contract for services with Interactive Media had been executed between Mr. Alfonso, in his official capacity as Chairman of the Citizens Committee, and an official for the corporation.
On Thursday, December 23, 2004, the official at the corporation asked Mr. Alfonso for a list of local persons who assisted with the petition drive during the summer of 2004. Mr. Alfonso declined to release the Citizens Committee's internal records, but did send, by facsimile, a copy of the Financial Report, a public document, which disclosed those who received payments from the Citizens Committee for those services. No new contract was signed, by Mr. Alfonso. No funds were expended from the Citizens Committee bank account2 here in Washington, D.C. for any new activities by Interactive Media.
As the Christmas holidays closed in and vacation travel neared, Mr. Alfonso, Ms. Wilcher and Ms. Gentry talked. In a phone conversation on December 23, 2004, the other two learned of the most recent conversations Mr. Alfonso had with Rob Newell within the last three or so days. During this same period of time, Mr. Alfonso began to worry that no legal opinion on the legitimacy of an additional filing had been received, and that actions were being taken on behalf of the Citizens Committee, which he had not specifically authorized. It was decided that all three would resign from the Citizens Committee and that Mr. Alfonso and Ms. Wilcher would also withdraw as Proposers for Initiative No. 68.
POST-CHRISTMAS, DECEMBER, 2004.
On Monday, December 27, 2004, Mr. Alfonso advised Mr. Newell that he, Ms. Wilcher and Ms. Gentry would be resigning from the Citizens Committee. They were, however, willing to cooperate with a transition. Mr. Alfonso suggested Norman Neverson as someone who should be considered as his replacement, but Mr. Alfonso had no first-hand knowledge of Mr. Neverson's actual interest. Regardless, Mr. Newell was advised by Mr. Alfonso that he should probably seek persons to replace all three: Mr. Alfonso as Chairman and Proposer, Ms. Wilcher as Treasurer as well as Proposer, and Ms. Gentry as Custodian of Records.
As she returned from her vacation by car in the early evening hours of Monday, December 27, 2004, Ms. Vickey M. Wilcher was listening to a local radio station, WHUR (Howard University radio). She heard an advertisement promoting the signing of additional petitions for Initiative No. 68. She was uncertain, but she thought she heard the tag-line acknowledging payment for the ad by the Citizens Committee with Johnny Clinton Hyatt as Treasurer. Ms. Wilcher thought she was still the Treasurer of the Citizens Committee. She had not resigned. Additionally, she knew she had not spent Committee funds for the ad. She also had not discussed this ad with anyone, nor authorized its use.
Shortly thereafter and while still driving home, Ms. Wilcher spoke with Mr. Alfonso and Ms. Gentry on a conference call. Ms. Wilcher explained what she had recently heard and asked if any of the others were aware of this ad. They were not. Before the conversation was concluded, the radio ad ran again on the same station. All three heard it and determined that they would promptly submit letters of resignation from the Citizens Committee to the Office of Campaign Finance. Mr. Alfonso and Ms. Wilcher decided to simultaneously withdraw as Proposers for Initiative No. 68. This was accomplished over the next two to three days.
Francis D. Carter, Esq.
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
This is to certify that a copy of the foregoing Written Statement of Pedro Alfonso, Vickey M. Wilcher and Margaret Gentry was hand delivered this 8'h day of February, 2005 to the offices of:
KENNETH J. McGHIE, ESQ.
GEORGE W. JONES, JR., ESQ.
1. This Board, on January 26, 2005, issued Supplement to Order to Show Cause. This document, however, addressed other issues and did not impact upon the timetable as modified by the January 12th letter from Mr. McGhie.
2. When the initial activities of the Citizens Committee were undertaken, a checking account was opened at a local branch of Wachovia Bank. The account was under the name of "Citizens for Jobs, Education & Healthcare Initiative Committee, c/o Vickey M. Wilcher, Treasurer." The name on the bank account was never changed to reflect the current name of the Citizens Committee.
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