Your Local News | Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Easton News

Taiba Sultana makes primary ballot, but legal issues over phony signature may not be over

Taiba Sultana.jpg
Taiba Sultana for Pa.
Taiba Sultana

EASTON, Pa. — Easton City Councilwoman Taiba Sultana officially is on the ballot for state representative, but problems over an apparently fraudulent signature may just be beginning.

Northampton County District Attorney Stephen Baratta declined to comment Thursday on a potential investigation into Sultana's candidate petition, saying through a staffer he did not want to interfere with any findings.

Sultana is challenging state Rep. Robert Freeman, a Democrat seeking his 20th term, in the April primary for Pennsylvania's 136th House District.

Last week, she handed in her official paperwork to appear on the ballot. It included a petition with more than 600 signatures, which is more than double the amount needed.

But Freeman and state Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton/Lehigh, accused her of knowingly turning in a faulty document.

Just two slots below Sultana's signature appeared a "Lisa Boscola" residing at a nonexistent address. Boscola, among the best-known politicians in the region, said she's the only Lisa Boscola in the Northampton County and there's no way the Sultana campaign could have legitimately thought it was her signature.

Boscola, a Bethlehem Township resident, does not live in the 136th District and has endorsed Freeman.

Sultana said Thursday evening she was unaware of any criminal investigation into her petition. If Boscola or Freeman took issue with her petition, she said, they should have filed a formal objection with the state.

"All those signatures are accepted," Sultana said. "There is no objection, there's no challenge. I'm excited to have my name on the ballot."

She noted that she drew the top spot of the 136th District's ballot at a county lottery Wednesday.

Legal consequences

The people who collect the petition signatures are required to affirm the contents of each sheet turned in, saying they are true and correct to the best of their knowledge. The sheets contain a warning that failing to comply violates state law.

Making an unsworn falsification to authorities is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

The sheet with the Boscola signature was affirmed by Nadeem Qayyum, Sultana's husband and a former candidate for Northampton County controller.

"I take great issue with our local gerontocracy trying to convert this into some kind of world-ending calamity."
Taiba Sultana

In a text this week, Freeman alleged that 296 of the signatures Sultana collected would not hold up under legal review. He said he did not challenge the form, however, because the remaining 350 or so signatures would still be enough to make the ballot.

Seven of the petition sheets Sultana's campaign submitted were photocopies of the original document and thus not acceptable under state law, Freeman alleged.

One of the sheets on her petition is a duplicate — that page bears Qayyum's signature both as the circulator and as a registered voter supporting Sultana.

Last week, Sultana accused Freeman and Boscola of encouraging their supporters to provide her campaign with fake signatures. The pair, who have served a combined 64 years in Harrisburg, have resorted to dirty tactics to maintain their grip on power, Sultana said.

"I take great issue with our local gerontocracy trying to convert this into some kind of world-ending calamity," Sultana said, using a term for a form of government in which the elderly rule.

When asked by a reporter, Sultana said she had no evidence to support her claim that her opponents encouraged their supporters to derail her campaign.

Even if nothing comes of a potential investigation into the candidate petitions, Sultana is already facing legal problems. She spent a night in Northampton County Prison last year after a domestic assault incident. She is scheduled for trial on April 1 on charges of simple assault and harassment.