Orange County’s former assessor, Webster Guillory, knew he was lying on an affidavit that declared he had circulated nominating petitions for his re-election bid, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday, but the retired politician’s attorney said evidence will show his client simply made a mistake.
Guillory had two employees with whom he was friendly circulate petitions to get his name on the June 2014 primary ballot so he could win a fifth term. Anyone who circulates a nominating petition has to sign an affidavit on the form declaring they witnessed the signatures.
Guillory and assessor’s office managers Mike Hannah and Shaw Linn helped gather signatures from coworkers on nominating petitions, but Guillory illegally signed the affidavits declaring he saw the voters sign the documents, according to Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon.
“He knew he had not witnessed those signatures, but he filed them anyway,” Zimmon said.
According to attorneys, Guillory had initially decided in February of last year to retire.
Hannah decided to run for the assessor’s job, so he moved into an Orange County apartment to establish residency, while his wife and kids remained in Los Angeles County, Zimmon said. But Hannah decided two days before the March 7 filing deadline that he didn’t like being away from his family, so he decided not to run for the job.
That prompted Guillory to mount a last-minute run for another term, Zimmon said. Just 3 1/2 hours before the Registrar of Voters was set to close, the assessor picked up the paperwork to get his name on the ballot, Zimmon said.
Registrar of Voters official Christina Avila gave Guillory the paperwork with instructions on how to obtain signatures legally, Zimmon said. Guillory received a candidates’ handbook that outlined how a circulator of a nominating petition must sign the affidavit that they witnessed the affixing of the signatures, Zimmon said.
Guillory only needed 20 valid signatures, but he filed about twice that number, Zimmon said.
Guillory collected nine signatures, including his own, on two nominating petitions while Hannah and Linn gathered the rest from their co-workers, Zimmon said.
But Guillory broke the law when he signed the affidavit declaring he had witnessed the signature-gathering on the petitions circulated by Hannah and Linn, Zimmon alleged.
Guillory’s attorney, John Barnett, countered that his client was busy running his office while also trying to gather signatures the afternoon of the filing deadline.
“He’s answering phones, he’s conducting business and he’s signing documents, and he’s signing a lot of documents during this time period,” Barnett said.
By about 3:30 p.m., Guillory and Linn were in a conference room of their offices organizing the petitions, Barnett said. In all the confusion, Guillory mistakenly signed nominating petitions Hannah had circulated, the attorney added.
“Did Mr. Guillory sign as a circulator when he knew Hannah was the circulator or did he sign mistakenly believing he was the circulator?” Barnett said. “That’s the issue in this case.”
The defendant has “got no reason, no reason at all to affix his name to Hannah’s petition papers and we know that because of where Mr. Hannah was at the time,” Barnett said.
Hannah was about 150 feet away in the office, Barnett said.
“And we know that (no law was broken) because of the clock,” Barnett said. “He’s got 48 signatures and 48 minutes to go (before the deadline to file), so he’s not rushed.”
All Guillory had to do was go get Hannah, who was nearby, and have him sign the documents, Barnett said.
“He did not intentionally, falsely sign those petition papers,” Barnett said.
If convicted of the two misdemeanor counts of filing false nomination papers, Guillory, who lives in Newport Beach, faces a maximum punishment of two years in jail and a $2,000 fine, Zimmon said.
Claude Parrish, a former chairman of the state Board of Equalization, defeated Guillory in the November general election last year.
—City News Service
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