GRANBY — A Granby couple charged last week with a series of election-related crimes allegedly submitted improper political petitions that contained forged signatures of deceased individuals.
State police and the state Attorney General charged Granby Town Councilor Cheryl A. Holmes, 70, and former Granby Republican Committee Chairman Leslie K. Holmes, 75, last week with a multitude of crimes related to electoral designating petitions filed in July 2018. Individuals seeking to contest the overwhelming majority of elected offices in New York state, from town and village boards to judgeships and even the governor’s seat, are required to collect signatures from voters in their intended constituency to earn a spot on the ballot.
Court records reviewed by The Palladium-Times this week show the charges against the Granby couple are related to the submission of bogus designating petitions for Cheryl Holmes’ run for Granby Town Council in 2018, which according to law enforcement contained forged signatures including some forgeries of deceased individuals’ signatures.
State police charged Leslie Holmes with seven counts of second-degree possession of a forged instrument, a class D felony; one count of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing with intent to defraud, a class E felony; four counts of making a punishable false written statement, a class A misdemeanor; four counts of misconduct in relation to election petitions, an unclassified misdemeanor; and one count of primary election violations, an unclassified misdemeanor.
Four of the criminal possession of a forged instrument charges against Leslie Holmes are related to his alleged possession of “a Designating Petition with the forged signature of a deceased individual,” according to the indictment, with three counts related to the possession of simple forged signatures.
Cheryl Holmes, a Republican elected to a one-year term on the town board in 2018 to fill a vacancy, is facing one count each of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing with intent to defraud, making a punishable false written statement, misconduct in relation to election petitions and primary election violations.
The felony charges the Holmeses face for first-degree offering a false instrument for filing is related to prosecutors’ alleging the couple knowingly provided designating petitions to the Oswego County Board of Elections that contained false statements and information.
Charges they are facing for making a punishable false written statement are related to their alleged false statements on the witness portion of the designating petition.
Both individuals were also charged with an unclassified misdemeanor at, or in connection with primary elections, caucuses, enrollment in political parties, committees and conventions. According to the indictment, those charges are connected to the pair’s fraudulent or wrongful acts “tending to affect the result of the 2018 primary election for a Town of Granby Town Council seat.”
For more than a year, the couple was under investigation for the alleged improprieties, and a 19-count indictment from an Oswego County grand jury was filed Dec. 13. The indictment details the alleged crimes, but does not offer significant supporting documentation.
Law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case said an initial complaint of petitions including signatures from individuals outside the district and individuals signing more than once was initially brought to local law enforcement and turned over to the state Attorney General.
The Granby couple were arraigned Friday and released on their own recognizance after entering not guilty pleas, according to court records. The Holmeses are scheduled to return to court 10 a.m. Jan. 6 at the Onondaga County Courthouse.
The state Attorney General’s office is prosecuting the case, according to court records. Reached earlier this week, officials in the Attorney General’s Syracuse regional office declined to comment citing agency policy.
Documents obtained by The Palladium-Times show irregularities and inconsistencies in the designating petitions submitted for Cheryl Holmes. Leslie Holmes served as a witness for the majority of the signatures, which include individuals signing multiple times and signatures from non-residents.
Above the witness signature line on the petitions, which both Holmeses signed, is a notice that states the material “will be accepted for all purposes as the equivalent of an affidavit and, if it contains a material false statement, shall subject (the signer) to the penalties as if (the signer) had been duly sworn.”
In November, Cheryl Holmes was re-elected to the town board for a two-year term, which would start Jan. 1, as one of two candidates running for two open seats on the board.
According to New York State Public Officers Law Article 3 Section 30, public offices shall be vacant upon the office holder’s conviction of a felony or a crime involving a violation of the oath of office. The Holmeses have been charged but not convicted and are innocent until proven guilty.