Petition signature gatherer sues Gascón recall committee

A company that gathers petition signatures for state and local ballot measures sued the committee attempting to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón Monday, alleging in federal court that recall organizers owe the signature-collecting firm at least $469,596 for unpaid work.

Let the Voters Decide alleges that the Committee for the Recall of District Attorney George Gascón contracted in February with the Florida-based company to obtain enough signatures to force a recall of the district attorney, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.

According to LTVD's lawsuit, the company was hired to work at the committee's direction by using its network of signature collectors to initially assist in gathering 400,000 signatures at a 75% validation rate, for a total of 300,000 validated signatures, by May 4, for the recall effort.

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"LTVD was to be paid per signature obtained, pursuant to terms that were initially outlined in the (contract), but that were subsequently amended by the Parties once LTVD (had) accomplished the terms" of the contract, according to the suit.

However, the lawsuit alleges, the defendants "made one false step after another, but continued to guarantee LTVD that the Committee would uphold their promises and obligations to LTVD. They failed to do so."

Tim Lineberger, a spokesman for the Gascón recall campaign, said the LTVD lawsuit is "frivolous."

"Beyond that, we will not comment on potential pending litigation," he said. "Our sole focus is ensuring the removal of George Gascón from office."

According to the suit, the Gascón recall committee "made multiple strategic decisions related to the collection of signatures that were directly against LTVD's recommendations as to how to proceed."

"For example, against LTVD's recommendations, Defendants lowered the price they were willing to pay signature collectors during a time where the market demanded that, to prevent those individuals from leaving, Defendants maintain or increase the prices paid," the suit alleges.

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The committee also allegedly refused to pay the market rate for signature collectors, "rationalizing that it did not need to do so given the number of petitions that were being circulated at the time," according to LTVD.

Allegedly as a result of "failed strategic decisions" by the committee, the recall effort "fell substantially behind" in collecting signatures on a schedule that would allow it to submit the sufficient number of signatures to be successful.

"Despite the Committee's on-going failures, LTVD still collected the amount of signatures, including validated signatures, and completed the terms set forth in the (contract)," the suit alleges.

LTVD contends the recall committee owes the company at least $469,596, before accounting for all unpaid field bonuses, according to the lawsuit.

On July 14, the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters announced it had completed the initial verification of a sample batch of signatures and will proceed with a count of all 715,833 signatures submitted by the recall campaign. The random sampling of 35,793 signatures found 27,983 of them to be valid, or roughly 78%. If 31,179 of them had been validated, the recall would have been immediately certified.

County officials have until Aug. 17 to determine how many of the 715,833 signatures are valid. If the rate of valid signatures found during the random sampling remains unchanged during the full validation process, the petition drive would fall just short of the 566,857 valid signatures required to force a recall election.

Gascón has been under fire since taking office in December 2020, when he issued a series of directives critics  blasted as being soft on crime. The directives include a rule against seeking the death penalty, a ban on transferring juvenile defendants to adult court and prohibitions on filing sentencing-enhancements in most cases.

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Gascón has repeatedly defended his policies, saying his stances were well-known during his campaign and his election signified public support of his agenda.