The question of who is behind a bid to stop Nan Nesvig from running for Scottsdale City Council came closer to being answered on Friday, but still remains something of a mystery.
A complaint that a third of the hopeful candidate’s petition signatures are invalid was filed by Scottsdale resident Karl Kulick.
But three council incumbents are the only people who requested electronic copies of her petitions before the complaint was filed, said City Clerk Carolyn Jagger. The copies were used to inspect the validity of the signatures, she said.
Councilman Bob Littlefield said he has yet to even pick up the petitions.
Councilman Wayne Ecton said that the morning after he received a copy of the documents he left for a nine-day trip to visit family in Singapore. Ecton said he has reviewed the petitions himself — and doubts Nesvig collected a sufficient number of signatures — but never passed them on.
Councilman Kevin Osterman told the Tribune on Friday he was suspicious of Nesvig’s petitions shortly after they were submitted and passed the documents, on compact disc, over to a "friend" to review.
He refused to disclose who that individual is.
"I knew in my heart she didn’t have enough signatures," Osterman said.
Asked if his friend was involved in the effort to block Nesvig from the ballot, Osterman said: "Oh, it’s quite possible."
However, Osterman said he does not know for certain what, if any, role the unidentified person had in the complaint filed with Maricopa County Superior Court on Dec. 23.
While she submitted petitions carrying 1,899 signatures, the complaint argues that more than 500 lack all of the required information, were doubles or are forgeries. To be included on the ballot, a prospective candidate must submit 1,652 signatures.
Unlike county or state elections, petition signatures for city races are not verified unless challenged.
The complaint listed Kulick, a senior deacon at Good Shepherd Metropolitan Community Church in Phoenix, as the plaintiff.
Osterman said he does not know who Kulick is and can’t explain his motivation for opposing Nesvig, a 43-year-old legal consultant.
Nesvig and her supporters question whether Kulick — an activist pushing to legalize same-sex marriage in Arizona but largely unknown in Scottsdale political circles — is ultimately responsible for the challenge. She has said the complaint is to block her from the ballot.
Kulick declined comment Friday, deferring questions to his lawyer, Tom Irvine, who did not return calls.
A hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday to determine what kind of review Scottsdale must perform of Nesvig’s petitions.
Election day is March 14.
Tony Nelssen, a north Scottsdale activist, and Nesvig are the only candidates challenging the incumbents.
Nesvig and her supporters have worked since Tuesday to disprove the allegations in Kulick’s complaint, poring over voter registration information at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.
After four days of checking, Susan Wood, a Nesvig supporter and volunteer, said many signatures were wrongly deemed invalid in the complaint.
"There were so many that were checked off as invalid that were blatantly perfect," Wood said. "The person was registered, names were clearly written, they live in Scottsdale. There was nothing wrong."
Nesvig has not said whether she had found that enough of her signatures were valid to remain on the ballot. Don Peters, her attorney, said no decision would be made before the weekend on how the campaign will contest the challenge.
But that hesitancy did not stop Nesvig’s campaign and her opponents from political maneuvering Friday afternoon.
In a letter to City Attorney Deborah Robberson — which was obtained by the Tribune — Wood formally requested an investigation to determine whether the complaint was initiated by a group that is illegally operating as a political action committee and not disclosing its role.
"I . . . feel disenfranchised by the lack of disclosure swirling around the entire Kulick effort," Wood’s letter states.
In response, Irvine wrote to Robberson that Wood’s request is a "political stunt" for the media that tried to turn the focus away from Nesvig’s petitions.
"The desperation tactics of a person who filed sloppy petitions which are woefully lacking in lawful signatures could not be more obvious," he wrote. "The city should ignore a stunt such as this, which is being pulled a few days before the court hearing at which Ms. Nesvig’s name will be removed from the ballot."
Irvine, a Phoenix lawyer specializing in election law, also released his letter to the media.
Nesvig emerged as a candidate in the fall after grappling with city officials over the construction of water tanks beside the Arizona Canal. She has campaigned as a candidate for more open government.