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Grand jury to probe 2010 GOP committeemen race

District Attorney Seth Williams has launched a grand jury investigation into irregularities in last spring's elections for Republican committeemen.

District Attorney Seth Williams has launched a grand jury investigation into irregularities in last spring's elections for Republican committeemen.

Curtis Douglas, deputy district attorney in charge of special investigations, confirmed that the investigation, which was first reported last April, was being done by a grand jury.

"I can't say a whole lot," Douglas said, when asked for specifics on what the grand jury was considering.

Williams' interest stemmed from stories last spring in The Inquirer and Daily News that detailed questionable signatures - including one from a dead woman and another from a committeeman candidate who apparently was not a real person - on election documents.

A grand jury can compel witnesses to testify and to produce documents.

Generally, prosecutors use a grand jury when they do not have enough to arrest and charge someone and potential witnesses are reluctant or refusing to talk to investigators. The grand jury sessions are secret.

Last spring's forged election documents surfaced as Republican City Committee leader Michael Meehan was fighting to maintain control of his party. Committeemen are the lowest-level party workers, collecting signatures on ballots, getting out the vote on election day, and doing other nuts-and-bolts political work. But committeemen also elect ward leaders, who in turn vote for party leadership.

At the time, Meehan blamed ward leaders whom he would not name for the problems. He did not return a call Thursday seeking comment on the grand jury investigation.

Republican City Committee Chairman Vito Canuso said he was not aware that there was a grand jury investigation.

"I have no way of knowing that," Canuso said. "I am not involved."

In January, the Daily News reported that Williams' office had sent letters to GOP committeemen asking how candidates collected signatures on their petitions and whether they had personally appeared before notaries when they got those petitions notarized.

The Inquirer last spring reported that Jennifer Jandrisitz, who works for Republican City Councilman Jack Kelly, said not all the candidates whose petitions she notarized had appeared before her. Pennsylvania law requires notaries to confirm the identity of the person presenting the documents to be notarized, and that person must be present during the process.

Five petitions that Jandrisitz notarized were from candidates who could not be located. Two listed their addresses as homeless shelters. Two others could not be located. And the fifth, Joan Chapman, did not live at the address provided on her petition and seemed to be a fictional creation.

Jandrisitz was on vacation from Kelly's office when she did the notary work for Republican City Committee. After acknowledging that not all the candidates had appeared before her, she referred further questions to Meehan and Canuso, who declined comment.

Jandrisitz did not return a call Thursday for comment on the grand jury investigation. Jandrisitz is no longer a notary.

Another notary, PPA employee Jeanine DiGiannantonio, told The Inquirer that she did not keep a log book detailing information about documents she notarized. One of those was a petition for Edward McPherson to run as GOP committeeman, but he told The Inquirer that he did not even know he was running for office and that he had never appeared before DiGiannantonio.

DiGiannantonio said she had no comment on the grand jury investigation.