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Former Morgantown City Council candidate charged with election fraud

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Misdemeanor charges have been filed against a former Morgantown City Council candidate who admitted to falsifying signatures a city council nomination petition, including a woman who passed away months earlier.

Aaron Metz

Timothy Aaron Metz, 44, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Monongalia County Magistrate Court after an investigation by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office concluded 21 of 92 signatures submitted had been forged.

Metz was candidate for Morgantown City Council Seventh Ward seat in January 2019. Morgantown’s city charter requires candidates to collect 75 signatures from registered voters in their wards to be placed on he municipal election ballot. Metz turned in eight pages signatures to the city clerk’s office on February 11, 2019, just minutes before filing deadline.

Among the signatures submitted by Metz, was the name, address and signature of Heidi Ann Saffel, who had supposedly signed the petition on January 12, 2019.

However, Saffel passed away in October 28, 2018.

The Secretary of State’s office also interviewed 20 individuals whose name, address and signatures appeared on the nominating petition, but all stated they had never signed the petition nor had seen Metz on the date the form indicated their information had been obtained.

Questions over the signatures were first noticed after all the candidate nomination petitions were obtained by First Ward resident Patrick Hathaway through a Freedom of Information Act request. The City Clerk’s office, which initially certified Metz as a candidate for city council, reviewed the petition and part-time City Elections Secretary Colleen Skotnicki recognized Saffel’s name and knew Saffel had died months earlier.

In March, Metz withdrew his candidacy for city council once it became clear a portion of the signatures he turned in were illegitimate. In statement Metz released in March, he admitted to cutting corners.

“The stress from my wife being ill during her pregnancy coupled with other personal pressures lead (sic) me to cut corners and make a stupid mistake when it became clear to me that I would fall short of the signatures needed.

“I wasn’t thinking clearly and didn’t want to let anyone down by not making it onto the ballot. I should have sought help, but instead tried to do everything on my own. I have no one to blame but myself and hope this statement will put the issue to rest.”

“Even though it will take much time and effort, I plan to work hard to gain the trust back of everyone that I have let down. I humbly ask to be given that chance.”

Tuesday, Metz was arraigned on two charges: unlawfully and intentionally, falsely make a certificate of nomination or file a certificate of nomination known the same or any part thereof to be falsely made; and unlawfully and intentionally, without the assent of another, sign the name of such other person to a certificate, statement or writing, required by Code, with the intent to mislead and deceive.

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