Signatures were forged on a petition to create a controversial new water conservancy district in Cache County, say some residents of an unincorporated area whose names appear on the document.

C. Dennis Funk, a member of the committee that has pushed for formation of the district and sponsored the petition's circulation, agrees. "Some obviously are not valid . . ."There could be as many as 35 names that could be challenged."

Deputy Salt Lake County Attorney Gavin Anderson said is against state law to file or present for filing any government document with false information, when the document is prepared pursuant to a statutory process.

Such a felony is a third-degree felony, said Anderson.

Parts of three pages of the petition have been questioned, Funk said. But he believes more than 2,350 signatures remaining are valid, and that they will be enough to establish the district when Judge Gordon Low decides whether the petition meets legal requirements.

In January, another petition - opposing formation of the district - was thrown out by Low because it failed to gather owners of enough property value in one of the towns involved, Amalga, Cache County. That petition was circulated by environmentalists and others who don't want the water conservancy district.

After their petition was tossed out, anti-district forces focused critical attention on the petition that was originally filed to establish the district, which would manage an allocation of 95,000 acre-feet of water from a proposed project to build dams along the Bear River.

They uncovered some apparent irregularities. Low will hold a trial on July 8-9 to determine the validity of the pro-district petition.

Signatures under question are on a petition supposedly circulated in June and July 1990 in an unincorporated section of Cache County near the town of Paradise.

Some of the mistakes in signatures are ludicrous. For example, Jon Lee did not sign it, said his wife, Norene. Yet his name appears printed correctly on the petition, and beside that is the signature - spelled "John Leee."

Rick Black said he did not sign the pro-district petition, although his name showed up on it. "No, I opposed the whole issue," he told the Deseret News. In fact, he signed the petition that sought to prevent the district's formation.

"Then some of the people who were also opposing it were checking the petitions, and they noticed my name was on both of them, and they brought it to my attention," he said.

He examined the pro-district petition and found to his dismay, "it's my name, but it's not my handwriting, it's not my signature."

When he studied the page where his name appears, page 257, he noticed what he thinks to be evidence of widespread forgery: many of the signatures seemed to be by the same person.

"I was pretty irritated that somebody would stoop that low and use my name," Black said. "I was upset that somebody would have the nerve to do that."

Robert Crye said he and his wife signed a petition they received in the mail, the one opposing the district. But then their names turned up on the pro-district petition.

"Somebody signed our name on it," Crye said. "They keep calling it an alleged forgery, but it wasn't alleged. It's a fact. There were quite a few around here."

He wants an apology.

"If somebody forged my name on a check, that's a crime. If somebody forged my name on any kind of form, that's a crime. I'm not so much upset about whether they approve it (the water conservancy district) or disapproved it, I'm upset about their forging my name."

The handwriting for neither his name or that of his wife, Norma, comes "nowhere close" to their actual writing, he said. And some signatures of neighbors are actually misspelled in the petition. One man's name is backward, with his patronymic before his first name.

David K. Sorenson said, "It meant me, for sure. But they spelled my name terribly wrong." The petition has printed it "David S. Sorsen," and the signature seems to be spelled "David S. Sorinson."

His wife's name, Sandra, is the next in line. She didn't actually sign it either, he said.

"They ought to be severely reprimanded," Sorenson said. "That's pretty bad - forging somebody's name."

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Suspicious names

Suspect names on a petition to create a new water conservancy district in Cache County include:

- John Leee, for Jon Lee.

- Rick Black, who said he signed a petition to prevent the district's formation.

- Robert Crye and his wife, who say they signed a petition - the one opposing the district - that they got in the mail.

- Davis S. Soren, for David K. Sorenson.