Lack of proof closes probe into poll fraud

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

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.

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