Should Philadelphia GOP Boss Michael Meehan Be Disbarred?
It’s no secret that Philadelphia has a long and proud history of political corruption.
Once-powerful state senator Vince Fumo has donned prison orange after being convicted on all 137 counts of political corruption. Former City Treasurer Corey Kemp is doing hard time for fraud, extortion, welfare fraud, and filing false tax returns. And Rick Mariano, former City Councilman, still calls federal prison home after his conviction on honest services fraud.
But fraud and corruption are not just limited to public officials. It’s been a Philly tradition that dead people vote on a regular basis.
While that feat seems to defy the laws of nature — one which would seem impossible to top — we do indeed have a situation that does just that.
Believe it or not, the deceased have retained legal counsel to challenge the petitions of people running for Republican Ward Committee posts.
I’m not sure what’s more fascinating — the deceased figuring out which lawyer to hire, or the attorney brilliant enough to so creatively expand his client base.
And just who is the uber-barrister responsible for this miraculous act?
Michael Meehan, General Counsel and de facto head of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee, who also chairs the powerful five county Southeast Republican Caucus.
Meehan’s powers apparently don’t stop with the dead. He seems to have an incredible talent for communicating with the living in very unorthodox ways, using this unique ability to find clients without ever actually talking to them.
But a look at Philadelphia court records of numerous election law cases last month shows that Michael has not perfected the living-people-telekinesis-thing yet. Seems that for the vast majority of cases, Meehan’s communicative powers were a one-way street.
Turns out, Meehan was not only representing people he had never spoken to, but who had never even met or heard of him — and who had never signed any petition challenging those running for Republican Committee.
You don’t need hypertechnical legalese to call a spade a spade. That kind of action, even by Philadelphia standards, smacks of fraud and deceit.
Here are the facts of this case:
On March 19, Meehan filed 44 petitions challenging candidates for Republican Ward Executive Committee (ward Committeemen), primarily in minority areas of the city. If successful, the challenges would have removed the candidates in question from the ballot. At the hearings, Meehan was accompanied by the Chairman of Republican City Committee, Vito F. Canuso, Jr., also representing some objectors to the candidates.
Why the top two Republican officials in Philadelphia were challenging members of their own Party, including some who were running unopposed to fill vacant Committee slots, is for another column.
At the hearing, Matthew Wolfe, representing one of the challenged candidates, noted to the judge that there were significant irregularities with some of the alleged objectors, including the one who challenged his client. He requested two things of the judge: that the hearing be postponed for three days until more information could be obtained, and that the signature of the alleged objector, Nakia N. Andino, be compared to the one on file with voter registration. (This would have been extremely easy since the hearing was held in the City Commissioner’s office, the repository of election records.)
Canuso objected to both requests, the judge sustained his objections, and the candidate was removed from the ballot.
The obvious questions that jump out is why, with the ability to verify Andino’s signature literally at the Court’s fingertips, Wolfe’s motion was A) objected to by Canuso, and B) sustained by the judge. Those actions defied logic, common sense — and fairness.
However, the battle had only just begun.
Over the next few days, Wolfe and a team of investigators would uncover widespread fraud in the majority of challengers’ petitions, eventually leading Meehan to withdraw some of the challenges.
It was discovered that the bulk of the challenges filed by Meehan were done so without the knowledge of the person named as the objector, and that the objector’s name was forged on the official document. Only seven of the objectors could be confirmed as valid.
Which brings us to our dead person somehow retaining Meehan’s legal services.
Objector Rita Wootten died in April of 2009— almost a full year before her challenge (although, to be honest, she still had excellent handwriting skills).
Twenty-three alleged objectors were found to have had no knowledge about the election litigation, had not consented to being represented by Mr. Meehan, and had their names forged on the petition. They signed affidavits testifying to such.
Seven were not living at the address listed for them.
Four objectors did not appear in court for Mr. Meehan, who was forced to withdraw their respective challenges.
Out of 44 petitions filed by Mr. Meehan, at least 32, and as many as 37, were forged and fraudulent.
The proof is in the pudding. Clicking on the link at the conclusion of this column will provide documentation of the fraud, including the affidavits of objectors demonstrating that they had not, in fact, signed the petitions, and were wholly unaware of the entire affair.
Based on the back-breaking investigative work of Wolfe and his team, justice prevailed. The prior court’s ruling was overturned, and all but seven of the challenged candidates are on the ballot.
Who says you can’t fight City Hall?
While one chapter may have closed, the one on Meehan is just beginning. In the words of Ronald Reagan, "You can run, but you can’t hide."
This type of widespread fraud cannot be permitted to stand. Such corruption is not just committed against Philadelphians, but each and every American. If the challenges filed by Meehan had stood, then, by definition, free, open and fair elections would not have taken place.
This was not a simple mistake. It wasn’t an "i" not dotted or a "t" not crossed. Nor was it a single, isolated incident. Quite the contrary, these actions were systematic and widespread, and can only be described as deliberate and willful deceit.
So what should happen to Michael Meehan? Should he, at the very least, be disbarred, as some have advocated?
Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but in my opinion, Meehan and Canuso must have their day in court — criminal court. This is much too important and far-reaching to be brushed under the rug because the candidates are back on the ballot, and Meehan and Canuso are politically well-connected.
Accordingly, this Freindly Fire column, along with all pertinent documentation and affidavits, will be sent to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, Attorney General Tom Corbett, and United States Attorney Michael Levy. In addition, the Disciplinary Board of the State Supreme Court will be notified, along with the election watchdog Committee of Seventy.
Comment will also be sought from Meehan, Canuso, the other four Southeast Republican Caucus leaders, and Eckert Seamans, Meehan’s law firm.
Never "one and done" when it comes to investigating important stories, Freindly Fire will be following up with those mentioned above, and reporting back with their specific responses and plans of action.
And let us never forget: Fiat justitia ruat caelum —-"May justice be done though the heavens fall."
Click on the following link to view the court documentation and accompanying affidavits (at the conclusion of the column just above the bio):
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com
Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes numerous other television and radio appearances. He can be reached at [email protected]