Lack of proof closes probe into poll fraud
A petition for Maori representation on council which was found to have more than 100 fraudulent signatures cannot be progressed by police.
The situation came to light early last year when council staff noted inconsistencies throughout several of the bundles of signature sheets dropped off to the South Waikato District Council as part of the Maori representation poll demand. On further investigation it was discovered that more than 100 signatures appeared to be written by the same hand.
Concerned for the validity of the poll, the council referred the matter to the police.
During its investigation of the sheets in question, the police found further forgeries on more sheets received by the council.
‘‘ The investigating police officer reported that it is clearly evident that the forgery of names and signatures has taken place,’’ council electoral officer Richard Fisk said.
‘‘However despite questioning most of the people involved in organising the obtaining of the signatures, there is no evidence pointing to any one person in particular as the perpetrator; so prosecution is not an option.’’
Mayor Neil Sinclair found the fraudulent signatures ‘‘distressing for council’’.
‘‘From the outset when the suspicion of fraud arose this has been distressing for council and indeed it must be distressing for those people who were obtaining the signatures in good faith; and the many people who signed the demand, again in good faith.
‘‘ The current processes around obtaining signatures for a demand for a poll are reliant on the honesty and integrity of all participants. It is unfortunate that some people involved have breached this obligation of honesty and tainted the poll demand in such a way.’’
The current poll is still active with 614 validated signatures.
The council has now referred this matter to the Department of Internal Affairs and Local Government New Zealand. Internal Affairs is responsible for administering the legislation governing local authorities.