Napa Valley Updates

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

 
Prosecutors: SUPPORTER OF RECALL SIGNED TWO BALLOTS IN NOVEMBER VOTE


ST. HELENA RECALL LEADER CHARGED WITH VOTER FRAUD



By JESSE DUARTE For the Register Monday, February 8, 2010


Molly Morales, one of the original organizers of the campaign to recall four St. Helena School Board trustees, has been charged with two counts of voter fraud related to last year’s St. Helena school election.

The Napa County District Attorney’s Office alleges in papers filed Jan. 27 that Morales voted twice in the Nov. 3 mail-in balloting that resulted in Kevin Alfaro beating Roger Adams for a vacant seat on the school board.

Documents filed by Napa prosecutors in Napa County Superior Court say Morales received mail-in ballots under two names, Molly Morales and Molly LaPointe. According to the documents, “she marked both ballots and submitted them to the Napa Elections Department (by mail), voting twice in this election.”

An investigator for the district attorney’s office states in court documents that Morales “admitted her guilt” when confronted.

Morales faces a maximum of three years in prison if convicted of the felony charge.

She has pleaded not guilty.

Her attorney, Amanda Bevins, said that the Napa County Registrar’s office did not count two ballots for Morales, and so Alfaro did not unduly benefit from the alleged actions of her client.

“I think it is important to point out that only one vote was counted,” she said.

Bevins declined to comment on the statement in court papers that her client confessed.

The charges against Morales arise as the tumult over the St. Helena school board reaches a peak.

This month, Upvalley voters are deciding whether to recall four incumbent members of the school board. The election was spurred by citizen criticism of the board for its decision to hire a new superintendent, former assistant superintendent Robert Haley, without conducting a broad job search and for related compensation and retirement benefit decisions.

Last year one member of the board, Jim Haslip, resigned in protest of the decision to hire Haley. The candidates to fill Haslip’s seat were Alfaro, who favors the recall, and Adams, who was supported by those who want the current board to stay on. Alfaro won handily.

The recall vote for the four board members — Ines DeLuna, Cynthia Lane, Carolyn Martini and Cindy Warren — is ongoing, with balloting to close at 8 p.m. Feb. 23.

One person has sought to replace each of the four incumbents if the recall prevails. Sean Maher is running to replace DeLuna; Jeannie Kerr is running to replace Lane; Jeanne DeVincenzi is running to replace Martini; and Jeff Conwell is running to replace Warren.

Register Editor Bill Kisliuk contributed to this story.