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Allegations of slots petition fraud referred to state prosecutor

Thumbnail image for Inside casino.jpgThe Anne Arundel County state's attorney has referred allegations of "massive fraud" in a petition drive to block a slots casino to the Maryland state prosecutor.

The move follows the filing of a civil suit Tuesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court by Cordish Cos., which alleges the county elections board has overlooked problems with a petition drive seeking to derail the developer's plans to build a slots casino at Arundel Mills mall.

Given the "serious nature of the allegations," Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee referred the matter to State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh, said Kristin Fleckenstein, a spokeswoman for Weathersbee. Rohrbaugh's jurisdiction includes election law, Fleckenstein said.

Both a lawyer for the Anne Arundel elections board and a spokeswoman for the coalition gathering signatures have dismissed Cordish's allegations of fraud.

On Wednesday, FieldWorks, a company assisting the coalition with signature-gathering, also spoke out.

"This lawsuit has no merit," said FieldWorks spokesman Steve Rabinowitz. "This issue is headed for the ballot, and these fabricated allegations will not deter the will of the citizens of Anne Arundel County."

As of Tuesday, the elections board had verified 13,136 voter signatures presented by the coalition, which includes surrounding homeowners and the operators of Laurel Park racetrack, who would like to see slots there instead.

If 18,790 valid signatures are presented by March 8, the zoning measure will go on the November ballot in the county.

The Anne Arundel County Council approved zoning in December, the same month the state awarded a license to Cordish for the casino, which would be the state's largest.

By John Wagner  |  February 24, 2010; 5:20 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner , Slots  
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Something doesn’t smell right. I’m certainly open to correction, and I’m not a lawyer, but I play one here.

Here’s what I don’t get. If as stated, Cordish filed civil as opposed to criminal suit against the AA Elections Board, then wouldn’t the AAEB be represented by the AA County Attorney’s office, rather than the AA State Attorney’s office, they would normally be the go to people for criminal matters? This maneuver prompts more questions than it answers.

Did Cordish file incorrectly? Or did the AACA and the AASA offices look at the evidence provided by Cordish and conclude it was a potato too hot to handle?

The State Prosecutors office which has been pleading penury in Annapolis usually takes the lead on public corruption matters. Did the AA authorities refer to the State prosecutor because the evidence provided by Cordish against the AAEB was so overwhelming that it was warranted, or did they do it in the hope that the State Prosecutor would throw it out simply because they lacked the funds to effectively pursue the matter?

The law can be extremely political. I guess we need to read the claims filed by Cordish.

Posted by: countbobulescu | February 24, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

countbobulescu, I don't know precisely either. However, the county leadership is totally in hoc with the Cordish company. They want the casino at Arundel Mills because they want the revenue, whether it inconveniences the people who live in the area is totally irrelevant to people like John Leopold and the county council. They want to do everything to cast a cloud over the referendum. I don't know if Frank Weathersbee feels the same, perhaps he took a position on the casino and is recusing himself or this is simply a simple (and seemingly non-political on the surface) decision to help Cordish stop the signature gathering.

Posted by: RealChoices | February 25, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

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