Last week, the Craig County District Attorney's office opened an investigation into the validity of signatures on a recent petition to empanel a grand jury.

“Our office received allegations that some of the signatures on the petition may have been forged,” said District Attorney Gene Hayes. “I sent an investigator to speak to some of the people whose signature was in question.”

The petition in question was filed be a group of Welch citizens who petitioned to recall a school board member.

Hayes said there was no intent to file charges with regard to the allegations and his office has not made any determinations on the issue.

“Some of the signatures did appear to be signed by the same person - perhaps a wife signing for her husband - that's not uncommon,” Hayes said. “However, it is illegal and if those signatures were used to impanel a grand jury it could certainly affect the outcome if there was an indictment.”

Hayes said his office is investigating the signatures to gather information for future reference.

“We don't expect the issue to go any further with regard to alleged forged signatures,” Haynes said. “We just want to make sure that people know it is against the law to sign a petition on behalf of someone else in case the organization decides to refile the petition and seek the required number of signatures.”

Trudy Hankins, a spokesperson for Welch petitioners said allegations that the group falsified signatures on the petition are “ludicrous.”

“I, nor anyone I know of, signed anyone's name to the petition other than our own,” Hankins said.

Hankins said she is willing to lead the group in refiling the petition if that's what the citizens of Welch decide to do.