After forgery arrest, Keyser canvassing firm is rethinking its hiring policies

Steve Adams, head of canvassing firm Black Diamond Outreach, said today his company is reviewing the way it hires and works with petition gatherers after the arrest of employee Maureen Moss Wednesday.

Moss, who allegedly forged petition signatures that helped U.S. Senate Republican candidate Jon Keyser get onto the June 28 primary ballot, appeared in Denver District Court Thursday to be advised of the charges facing her for those petition signatures. 

Moss was arrested Wednesday on 34 counts of forgery, and released Thursday on a personal recognizance bond.

An affidavit for her arrest, filed Tuesday by Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, claims Moss was hired by Black Diamond Outreach to collect petition signatures, and turned in at least 34 forgeries.

That doesn’t include a signature that, according to the Secretary of State, was from a deceased voter from Broomfield. According to a published report, Judy De Santis died January 25, but her signature on the Keyser petition is dated February 28. Any charges related to that signature would have to come from District Attorney Dave Young of the 17th Judicial District, according to the Secretary of State.

Black Diamond fired Moss on May 11, after KMGH reporter Marshall Zelinger uncovered the first batch of allegedly forged signatures.

Moss also collected signatures on behalf of Black Diamond for a ballot measure to allow the sale of full-strength beer and wine in grocery stores in Colorado. Those signatures have been set aside by Black Diamond and Adams says they don’t intend to turn them in.

Moss brought in another 33 petition signatures for Jim Smallwood, a Republican candidate for Colorado Senate District 4. That work was done for another company, Equinox Strategies. If charges are likely, they would come from George Brauchler, District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District.

Tuesday’s affidavit said Moss was hired by Black Diamond in February and collected petition signatures in February and March for the Keyser campaign. The affidavit said the company began raising questions about some of her signatures in mid-March. 

Adams spoke to The Colorado Independent Thursday about the efforts to check Moss’ petition signatures. Black Diamond employees began raising questions about her signatures about halfway through the petition campaign. Moss was asked three times whether she forged signatures. Adams said she told the company, “I would never do that to you.”

Adams said the company will do several things differently in the future. “We’re a legitimate canvassing firm,” Adams said, and “will be smarter” about this in the future.

The company is currently reviewing its policy on background checks. Moss reportedly has a criminal history, which the company was aware of at the time they hired her.

The company questioned Moss about the signatures for the third time as the deadline for turning petitions in was approaching, Adams said. Even after she was warned that turning in forged signatures was a crime, Moss continued to deny that the signatures were phony. “We were pressed for time,” he explained. Had they had more time, Adams said they would have either called or personally visited some of the voters whose signatures were questionable to verify that they had in fact signed the petitions, something they’ve done in the past.

“She was a calm and cool character” when questioned, Adams said.

Each of the felony fraud charges carries possible jail time of between one and three years and/or a fine of $1,000 to $100,000 per count.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Creative Commons, Flickr 

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.