Following up to the Railroad Beer & Wine story that I published yesterday, I have continued investigating the validity of the information within the application. I have been contacted directly by two people who both claimed to have never signed any such petition. I have also received numerous messages from other Brunswick residents, going something like “Person XYZ would never sign this!” Just a casual observation here, all the attestation signatures are all on the same 3 streets in Brunswick, 4th Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and East H Street. Seems strange for such a small cluster of individuals to be present on the application.
I wanted to compare signatures of the individuals involves with the signature on the petition. However, the biggest problem (as I highlighted yesterday) is finding signatures that I can confirm happened BEFORE the current events. On the suggestion of one of the fake signatories, I requested the voter sign-in sheet from the 2016 Brunswick City election. Using these files, I was able to compare the signature of each individual on the license with a known signature from August 2016. Below are my results from four out of 12 signers (Note: The liquor board application signature is on the top, voter sign-in on bottom):
Note: This picture above is from Tom Wyrick’s signature on my application to run for City Council in 2016 that was featured in yesterday’s article. You can see that this signature does not match the license application, but does match the voter sign-in sheet.
Mr. Lescure also provided me a picture of his driver’s license, which has a signature that he wrote in July 2016. Both the voter sign-in and driver’s license signature are similar in font, format, and style. Also note that Mr. Lescure’s last name is misspelled on the liquor license application.
I was unable to find public record signatures for the rest of the signatories, however I have been informed that at least 2 other people claim that they did not sign the application.
The question everyone is asking, “Why fake signatures for such a simple application?” It’s only 10 signatures!” Frankly, I have no idea why anyone would forge such a small number of signatures. There’s no logic or reason behind these actions. I guarantee you that I could walk through the town of Brunswick on any given Saturday and find 10 people to sign just about anything.
For any interested parties, the current hearing for the license will be held on October 30th, 9 AM, at Winchester Hall in Frederick. If you or someone you know has had their signature placed on the application without their knowledge, I would encourage you to e-mail a statement to firstname.lastname@example.org before the hearing, those written statements will be included as part of the Liquor Board hearing.
I reached out to Jesse Pippy, member of the Liquor Board and candidate for delegate in District 4, which includes Brunswick. I received no response. UPDATE: Upon publishing, Jesse provided me with the correct phone number. That’s on me 🙁
Pippy stated that the board is aware of the signature issues and has received correspondence from folks concerning the Railroad Beer and Wine application. Because the Liquor Board is a public entity, there is a process that they have to go through. This includes due process, time periods for response, and fair and transparent evaluation.
Pippy also went on to say that the allegations are alarming and more investigation is required. From his past experience on the board, the board has taken similar issues seriously, especially in regards to false statements or actions that lead to mistrust from the public. He assured me, many times, that the board will be fair in dealing with these issues in an open and transparent manner.
I also reached out the license applicant, Bhavisha Bhakta, on October 5th for comment. I received no response.
A source informed me this morning that the new storefront had started moving into the first floor of the Kaplon building. Zed also seemed like he needed a quick walk.
Another source at Winchester Hall has also informed me that a swarm of lawyers have descended upon the Frederick County Liquor Board. It is unclear what exactly is happening over there. Perhaps they are trying to lawyer their way out of forgery and fraud charges? Perhaps they are trying to re-submit the license application? Your guess is as good as mine.
First off, I disagree with the entire premise of liquor licensing and crimes without a victim. Far as I am concerned, if I wanted to grow hops in my backyard, ferment them into beer, and set up a beer stand at the MARC parking lot to sell “Ragnarok: The only beer that will end YOUR world” in a bottle that has a striking resemblance to a drinking horn, then it should be my right as a free American to do so. It should be your right as a free American to purchase or not purchase my product. I also believe that the stigmatizing of alcohol consumption has a counter-productive effect, that glamorous age of 21 magically makes you mature enough to imbibe. Other cultures without the alcohol consumption stigma do not have the same problems we do with underage drinking and irresponsible consumption.
That being said, the real issue that I have with #SignatureGate is that the applicant, based on the preponderance of evidence which I have presented here, felt it necessary to forge signatures on a simple government application. This has done nothing more than cause the community of Brunswick to doubt the ethics and morality of these new store owners. Do we want businesses in downtown? ABSOLUTELY! Do we want businesses that cannot even be honest on a liquor license application?