Candidate withdraws from race for council; admits falsifying campaign signatures

MORGANTOWN — Aaron Metz has withdrawn his candidacy for the 7th Ward seat on Morgantown City Council, admitting he “cut corners” in collecting signatures on his nominating petition.

As part of the filing process, council candidates must collect 75 signatures from residents of their ward.

Late last week, the city said it was working with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office to investigate a handful of signatures that appeared on the petitions for both Metz and his opponent, incumbent Barry Wendell, but appeared to have been written by different people.

The Dominion Post reached out to some of the 7th Ward residents whose names appeared on both petitions, including Paul and Frances Zepp. Frances Zepp said that neither she nor her husband signed Metz’s petition or were ever asked to do so.

In a statement issued Sunday, Metz said he chose to pull his name from the race due to the investigation and family health concerns.

“The stress from my wife being ill during her pregnancy coupled with other personal pressures lead (sic) me to cut corners and make a stupid mistake when it became clear to me that I would fall short of the signatures needed.

“I wasn’t thinking clearly and didn’t want to let anyone down by not making it onto the ballot. I should have sought help, but instead tried to do everything on my own. I have no one to blame but myself and hope this statement will put the issue to rest.”

Metz said he hopes removing himself from the race will save the clerk’s office the “unnecessary and wasteful” work of investigating his petition, before offering an apology to his friends, family, supporters and the city.

“Even though it will take much time and effort, I plan to work hard to gain the trust back of everyone that I have let down. I humbly ask to be given that chance.”

The signatures were called into question after all the candidate nominating petitions were obtained by 1st Ward resident Patrick Hathaway through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Along with the issues raised regarding some of the 7th Ward signatures, Hathaway also asked the city to look into the petition of 6th Ward candidate Jay Redmond, pointing to a handful of instances on Redmond’s petition in which, according to Hathaway, it appears as if one spouse may have signed for the other.

According to Morgantown’s charter, every signature must be signed in the presence of the petition circulator, who must then sign the petition attesting to the fact that every signature was provided by the person whose name it purports to be.

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BConley@DominionPost.com

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