BERRIEN COUNTY Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic announced Thursday that he has charged Edward Pinkney, 65, of Benton Township, with several election law violations.
Pinkney is charged with changing dates on five petitions related to an effort to recall Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower.
According to a press release from the Prosecutor's Office:
On November 6, 2013, the Berrien County Election Commission approved language filed by James Cornelius to recall Mr. Hightower "for voting 'No' to not allow the city income tax to be placed on the November 5, 2013 ballot."
Thereafter, Mr. Cornelius had to collect 393 signatures to proceed with a recall election. The proponent of a recall has 60 days to file petitions from the date of the first signature.
Mr. Cornelius submitted sufficient petitions to the County Clerk on January 8, 2014 and a recall election was subsequently set for May, 6 2014.
The Berrien County Sheriff's Department eventually investigated allegations of irregularities in the filing of the petitions.
Their findings led to Pinkney being charged with five counts of changing dates on five petitions to a new date later in time.
Election forgery is a felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
As a circulator of petitions, Pinkney is charged in six counts of allowing the same person to sign more than one time and asserting in the circulator's certificate that he did not permit that to occur, each a 90 day misdemeanor.
Also charged is James Cornelius, 59, of Benton Harbor, with one count of permitting a signer of a recall petition to sign more than once, as well as for permitting signers on his petition to sign out of his presence, a 90 day misdemeanor.