The Orange County district attorney's office is now reviewing a video to determine whether political consultant Brett Barbre committed election fraud in his mad dash last month to file nomination papers for a county clerk-recorder candidate at the filing deadline.
The candidate, Los Alamitos Councilman Troy Edgar, was ultimately disqualified that night by OC Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley because after receiving a complaint, Kelley reviewed the lobby video and concluded that Barbre was getting signatures after the 5 p.m. deadline imposed by the state.
Barbre loudly complained, comparing Kelley’s call to a “ticky-tack” foul and alleging that county supervisors had potentially conspired to get Edgar’s nomination disallowed.
Barbre pointed to the fact, backed up by video footage, that two supervisors’ staffers — Dennis Bilodeau and Chris Nguyen — were at the registrar’s office that day.
Edgar failed in an attempt to have an Orange County Superior Court judge reverse Kelley's decision.
Yet the video continues to draw a unique audience along with unintended consequences.
The fact that top-ranking county department staffers, such as OC Community Resources executive Brian Probolsky, and supervisors’ staff were seen on the registrar video — which features coverage from 4:45 p.m. onward — hanging out at the lobby during business hours has reportedly drawn the attention of prosecutors.
Barbre, whose video performance now faces the closest review from prosecutors, is being looked at for potential election fraud over the question of whether he was in a position to attest to all the signatures that he certified in writing he collected because a woman was visibly helping him get signatures.
Susan Schroeder, chief of staff for District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, confirmed that a complaint about Barbre’s actions had triggered a review.
“We will be reviewing the matter with our special prosecutions unit,” Schroeder said.
Orange County prosecutors have a unique history of filing charges over nomination form flaps.
The highest-profile case involved county Chief Operating Officer Mark Denny, who himself pled guilty to election fraud back in the late 1990s while he was a staffer to then Assemblyman Curt Pringle.
Denny pled guilty to a scheme that involved him circulating nomination papers during a last-minute scramble to get a decoy candidate into an Assembly race.
While prosecutors in that case went after Denny instead of the candidate who ultimately signed the nomination petitions, they have also filed charges against candidates in the past.
In late 2001, Orange County prosecutors filed charges against a teacher union official and vocational teacher, Raymond Busch of Orange, who attested that he had gathered signatures for a school recall, though others had actually done the signature-gathering.
Barbre said he’s confident his actions would withstand any review.
“I know what I did, and I’m comfortable with how I’ve acted,” Barbre said. “If a DA comes to me and asks about it, I’m happy to discuss it.”
Barbre said he complied because “the form says did you witness the people signing the forms? Yes, I did.
“These were all people who were know to me and I saw signing the forms,” Barbre said, acknowledging that a woman helped him gather signatures.
“I was two or three feet away seeing people,” he said. “I had two forms going at one time.”
But ultimately, Barbre insisted, he complied with the law.
“I wouldn’t have signed if I didn’t gather the 20 signatures,” he said.