Community Schools Initiative sues signature gathering company over $2.2M in fraud, ‘pages stained in bongwater’

Community Schools Initiative sues signature gathering company over $2.2M in fraud, ‘pages stained in bongwater’
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 4:49 PM PST
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - The Community Schools Initiative, a group focused on giving communities the power to secede from larger school districts, has filed a lawsuit against a Texas-based company it hired to collect signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative.

According to a petition filed by CSI in the District of Nevada on Jan. 12, Vanguard Field Strategies LLC breached its contract with CSI after they were hired and agreed to deliver signatures “at a 70% validity rate.”

CSI agreed to pay Vanguard more than $2.2 million for the signatures. However, when reviewed by the Nevada Secretary of State, it was revealed a number of the signatures obtained by Vanguard were invalid for the following reasons:

Many of the signatures were forged with the same name being used repeatedly. Many of the forged signatures used the correct first and last name but used obscenities as the middle name. A sizable number of the signatures were from out of state.

And some of the signature pages turned in by Vanguard “were burned and others smelled like ‘bong water.’”

CSI also alleged the following series of events:

CSI agreed to pay Vanguard $12 per signature - valid or not - with the requirement of at least 70% of signatures provided would be valid.

CSI was assured by Vanguard’s Vice President of Sales Scott Scheid frequently that the company would provide an 80% or higher signature validity rate during the gathering process.

Eventually, CSI asked if another signature-gathering firm needed to be hired but Scheid said it was not necessary. However, the Nevada Secretary of State found the validity rate at 53%.

According to the Clerk of Carson City, the validity rate for the signatures Vanguard submitted was “a meager 29.4%.”

After discussions with CSI, Vanguard promised to give a full refund to the organization and a call from Vanguard President Joe Williams would be forthcoming.

Williams never called as promised. CSI later learned Vanguard would not make good on its later promises to refund them.

“On Jan. 4, 2023, the Nevada Secretary of State’s office informed CSI that Vanguard had made a complete mess of the process and had submitted thousands of fraudulent signatures,” the petition reads.

Also, “By not hitting (or even coming close to) the agreed-upon 70% validity rate, or the indicated 80%-plus gathering rate, Vanguard effectively got an “F” when all it needed to get was a C.”

On Jan. 18, Judge Andrew Gordon ordered CSI to show cause why the lawsuit should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Subject matter jurisdiction is the requirement that a given court has the power to rule over matters in the area it oversees.

The order seems to stem from a lack of clarity as to who the real party of interest is for the lawsuit.

Failure for CSI respond to the order by Feb. 20 could result in the petition’s dismissal.

KVVU has reached out to Vanguard for comment on this report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.