State Prosecutor Charges ex-County Election Official with 5 Criminal Counts in Handling of Danielle Hornberger Campaign Filings; Court Case Testimony Cited

June 6, 2021

The Office of the State Prosecutor (OSP) has filed five criminal charges against the former deputy director of the Cecil County Board of Elections for perjury, misconduct in office and allegedly falsifying required documents for the candidacy of Danielle Hornberger in her 2020 County Executive campaign. The prosecutor cited Hornberger’s candidacy and finance report irregularities but no charges were filed against her.

Lora Walters, 57, of North East, the former deputy director of the Cecil County Board of Elections, was charged with five misdemeanor counts stemming from her role in the handling of financial disclosure statements filed by Danielle Hornberger in her candidacy in the Republican primary for County Executive.

The existence of an OSP investigation was disclosed in the county Circuit Court during trial of a civil case filed last year by former Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy, a Republican, who challenged the legitimacy of Hornberger’s candidacy due to false document filings in her campaign. The most serious charge filed against Walters—perjury, with a possible ten-year prison term– stems from her testimony in that civil court case, in which she denied falsifying the financial disclosure records for Hornberger.

The charges against Walters were filed in Cecil County Circuit Court on Friday, 6 /4/2020, according to the court docket. All five charges were listed as misdemeanors. All the charges related to alleged falsification of Hornberger’s financial disclosure statement.

But other evidence and testimony in the civil court case also disclosed alleged falsification of separate documents involving forgery of a signature of Hornberger’s campaign committee treasurer. The OSP charges did not address the alleged falsification of those materials, which were also required by law to be filed properly by a candidate for office.

The OSP is empowered under state law to investigate and prosecute violations of election laws as well as corruption or misconduct by public officials.

Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton T. Howard III said in a written statement, issued in conjunction with the filing of the charges against Walters, that “Election officials are expected to discharge their duties with integrity and transparency.”, The OSP “will investigate and where appropriate prosecute any allegation that an election official corruptly alters a public record and subsequently provides false testimony as to that alteration in a court of law.”

The OSP office also stated that “Ms. Walters was required to collect a financial disclosure form from all prospective candidates. Ms. Walters failed to collect the form from a prospective candidate when the candidate registered to run for office. When the absence of the required financial disclosure came to light, Ms. Walters altered a subsequently provided financial disclosure form to make it appear as though it had been filed eight months prior, at the time it was required. Ms. Walters then provided false testimony regarding her alterations to the form under oath in a civil court proceeding.”

Charging documents, filed as a “criminal information” rather than indictment against Walters, list the charges against Walters as:
–Misconduct in office, from 11/5/19 to 7/15/20— “in violation and perversion of her duties,” Walters altered the date of Hornberger’s financial disclosure statement to claim it was filed as required on 11/5/19 when in fact it was filed on 7/7/20. Penalty: “anything not cruel and unusual.”
–Perjury, witness in court—8/13/20—Walters testified that she did not alter the dates, but “said testimony being willfully corrupt and false.” Penalty– 10 years
–Public record, false entry—7/07/20—Penalty: 3 years and/ or $1,000 fine
–Public record, altered or destroyed – 7/7/20– Penalty: 3 years and/ or $1,000 fine
–Fraud, election officials– 7/7/20—Penalty: not less than $50- or 30-days imprisonment; not more than 3 years or $1,000 fine

The charges were filed with the local court by Lindsay Bird, senior assistant state prosecutor for election integrity. An initial appearance in the case against Walters was listed for July 20. No defense attorney for Walters was listed on the docket.

Walters’ lack of personal legal counsel was a key issue in her decision to testify in the Circuit Court case, despite warnings from the judge in the case and Timothy F. Maloney, the lawyer for McCarthy in the lawsuit, that she should not testify without consulting legal counsel. Maloney also told the court that “as an officer of the court” he was compelled to declare that he was aware that the OSP had opened a criminal investigation into the handling of document filings.

Nevertheless, Walters decided to testify and said she did not backdate or alter a Hornberger financial disclosure statement, required of all candidates for local office at the time of filing their candidacy papers. She said she found an original Hornberger candidacy document, dated 11/5/2019, in early July, 2020 after questions were raised by state BOE officials. She said she found it “in a file cabinet in my office” and the document was “in between files.”

Walters said it made no sense to claim she would have risked her career to falsify documents for Hornberger: and claimed that someone was trying to “frame” her

But documentation revealed by Maloney showed that the financial disclosure form placed in BOE files did not exist on the 2019 date on which it was allegedly signed and only included the wording of that form as of 2020.

[SEE CECIL TIMES report on the trial here: ]

In ruling on McCarthy’s lawsuit, Judge Thomas G. Ross, a retired Queen Anne’s County judge handling the case here on “senior status” in the state court system, cited “troubling” irregularities in Hornberger’s filing of required candidacy documents. But he concluded there was no proof that Hornberger conspired in the apparent falsification and forgery of several official documents.

The judge was critical of Hornberger’s nonchalance about compliance with state law in her candidacy and required document filings: “At best, Hornberger put her head in the sand and failed to exercise the due diligence that is expected of a candidate for public office,” the judge wrote.

The judge also held that Hornberger’s candidacy was flawed by violations of state election laws, and her “candidacy should not have been accepted and certified” by the Board of Elections until she complied with required financial and campaign treasurer documentary requirements.

But the judge ultimately ruled in favor of Hornberger, and against McCarthy, saying that McCarthy should have filed his lawsuit sooner.

McCarthy filed his lawsuit on 7/25/2020, ten days after learning that Walters had been dismissed from her local BOE job and inquiries were being conducted into her interactions with Hornberger.

But the judge said that although the 10-day standard for filing a complaint after learning of the problems was met, there was also a legal requirement that McCarthy also had to comply with an earlier deadline to file a complaint seven days after the primary election results were certified on 6/12/2020.

Hornberger testified under oath in the case and her responses have become known in local political circles as “the Whatever defense.”

Hornberger testified she was uncertain if she had filed a required financial disclosure form in November, 2019 when she formally declared her candidacy, as required by state law, and had no personal copies of the important documents. She told the court that she was informed by Lora Walters, on 7/6/2020 to submit a new form and that a document she filed on 7/7/2020 at Walters’ request would be “backdated” to 11/5/2019 so as to appear to have been filed on time.
Hornberger told the court she did not think the backdating was “fishy” and just thought it was “lingo” and reacted that the falsification was “Whatever.”

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report on the judge’s findings here: ]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Fine Maryland Wines
Proudly made in Cecil County