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Milwaukee County Supervisor charged with falsely certifying nomination papers

Supervisor Shawn Rolland was charged with the misdemeanor Thursday

Milwaukee County Courthouse
The Milwaukee County Courthouse, home to the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds. Kenneth C. Zirkel (CC BY-SA)

Milwaukee County Supervisor Shawn Rolland has been charged with falsely certifying nomination signatures before the spring election last year.

He now faces up to $1,000 in fines, up to six months in prison, or both.

A criminal complaint said that 31 nomination papers were reviewed by investigators with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, 17 of which Rolland claimed he personally circulated.

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“In reviewing those papers and interviewing the signatories therein, it was determined that, on at least four pages, Rolland falsely certified that he personally obtained each signature when he did not,” the complaint said.

Candidates for public office must file nomination papers to be placed on the ballot. In Milwaukee County, candidates must receive at least 200 but no more than 400 signatures, which can be collected months before the election occurs.

A certification of a qualified circulator is required to be included with each nomination paper, the complaint said. State law says the circulator must be present for each signature and that papers cannot be left unattended.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office received a complaint that Rolland had used an unsupervised drop box to collect signatures in front of his Wauwatosa home.

The complaint said Rolland, who represents residents of the city of Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, posted a photo of the dropbox to his personal Facebook page. Comments on that post showed people discussing how to sign the papers, with at least one person commenting they had signed them.

Rolland told investigators he was home the entire time the dropbox was outside his home and that he witnessed everyone sign on his ring doorbell. But he also told investigators there was one instance where a neighbor took the papers inside her home to have her daughter and husband to sign.

“Rolland noted a second instance where he witnessed a man sign, who then took the form to his wife to sign outside Rolland’s presence. Rolland admitted to signing the certification of circulation for both instances,” the complaint said.

In a statement sent to Wisconsin Public Radio, Rolland said he was “sincerely sorry for this mistake.”

“I have always told my kids that if they make a mistake, they should apologize, learn from it and don’t make the same mistake again. This is my opportunity to practice what I preach,” Rolland said in the statement.

Rolland said he collected more signatures than he needed, but he admitted that in two instances he didn’t witness the signatures actually being signed.

“That was a mistake, and I intend to resolve this matter promptly so that I can get back to doing the work of the county,” he said.

“I’m sincerely sorry for this mistake, and the distraction it will cause from the good work being done across Milwaukee County. The best apology anyone can make is to not make the same mistake again — with actions not words — and that’s what I will do moving forward,” the statement added.