UPDATE: Orange County Assessor Webster J. Guillory pleaded not guilty today to three felony counts alleging he filed false nomination papers in his re-election bid in the March primary election. He's next due to appear at a preliminary hearing on Nov. 20, although before that the Newport Beach 70-year-old has the Nov. 4 general election to contend with.
The update at the end of this post has Supervisor John Moorlach and defense attorney John Barnett blasting the district attorney's case against Guillory.
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 9, 4:26 P.M.: Webster James Guillory filed false nomination papers in his current re-election bid for Orange County assessor, according to charges filed today by the Orange County District Attorney's office.
The 70-year-old, who was first elected to the four-year office that assesses county properties in 1998, is seeking a fifth term in November, when he will be challenged by Claude Parrish, former chairman of the state Board of Equalization.
To appear on the ballot for county assessor, each candidate had to submit to the registrar of voters nomination forms signed by 20 registered voters. The registrar cannot accept any nomination form where an affidavit at the bottom is not signed by the person who collected signatures, swearing to the document's authenticity. Signatures do not have to be collected by the candidate, but whoever collected the signatures must be the one who signs it.
According to the district attorney's office, Guillory really took it down to the wire for the 5 p.m. March 7 filing deadline for the 2014 primary election that had the incumbent goinh on to receive 47.1 percent of the votes to Parrish's 43.4 percent.
"On the afternoon of March 7, 2014, Guillory collected signatures on two petitions, nine on the first and two on the second," reads the prosecution statement. "Guillory is accused of also receiving petitions circulated by his associate, who gathered and collected three full pages of 10 signatures each.
"Knowing that he had not personally collected the signatures or witnessed them being written, Guillory is accused of signing his name on two of the 10-signature petitions collected by his associate under the affidavit that reads, 'I circulated the petition and witnessed the signatures on this section of the nomination paper being written.' He is accused of requesting another colleague to falsely sign the third petition."
Guillory filed the papers before the deadline, but the untrue statements he filed amounted to fraud, the district attorney's office is essentially saying with the charges. "The Orange County District Attorney's Bureau of Investigation received a confidential complaint and investigated this case," reads their statement.
The Newport Beach resident faces three felony counts of filing false nomination papers at his expected arraignment hearing Friday, when he will likely be released on his own recognizance. A conviction could result in possible sentences ranging from probation up to four years and four months in jail, according to the OCDA.
Guillory's annual salary as tax assessor is $173,100.
UPDATE, SEPT. 9, 7:15 P.M.: As you'd expect, county Assessor Webster J. Guillory's defense attorney has blasted the case filed against his client.
"The circumstances surrounding the filing will clearly show there was no knowing filing of an inaccurate document," John Barnett, who is well known on this site for representing (and often winning not guilty verdicts for) cops facing criminal charges, told City News Service. "It's just that simple, really. He didn't file a document knowing it had any errors on it."
But Guillory also got a shot of support from county Supervisor John Moorlach, who explained to the same news service that the veteran county assessor planned to retire, was pressured by party leaders to go for another term because challenger Claude Parrish is "quirky" and rushed to gather signatures "two days before the filing period."
Moorlach reserved criticism for the Orange County District Attorney's office.
"Is this the kind of stuff we should be going after? ,,, I just see a guy who's very, very professional who's done a great job as assessor. This is no way for someone who contributed to the community to come to the close of his career. It's kind of a clerical thing. It's not like he took public funds and it's not like he benefited personally."