The controversy over a last-minute write-in campaign that ousted a longtime Town of Chevy Chase council member will continue after the town’s Election Board said it couldn’t certify the results.

In a recommendation released Thursday, the Election Board said it couldn’t make Fred Cecere’s surprise write-in victory official because Cecere provided a required financial disclosure statement within an hour of polls closing Tuesday, possibly violating rules about when such statements must be submitted by candidates.

Cecere beat out Vice Mayor Pat Burda for one of two open seats on the town’s council. Only Burda and fellow incumbent John Bickerman officially filed for the race.

“After somewhat lengthy deliberations, the board unanimously concluded that it is unable to certify the election results because there is substantial evidence that Dr. Cecere may not have complied with legal requirements relating to filing of financial disclosure statements,” read the opinion of the Election Board.

“Although it appears that Dr. Cecere had agreed to become a write-in candidate several days before the election and in fact recognized his obligation to file a financial disclosure statement, he may not have complied with legal requirements that write-in candidates submit such statements for public inspection prior to the election,” the opinion read.

The Election Board has forwarded its recommendations to the town’s Ethics Commission, which will have to determine whether Cecere complied with financial disclosure laws. If the Ethics Commission decides Cecere failed to comply, the council could nullify Tuesday’s election results and schedule a new election as soon as possible.


The council is set to meet on Wednesday. Cecere told Bethesda Beat this week that he expects to be officially installed as a council member at the meeting.

Burda said she didn’t know there was an organized write-in campaign until 7 p.m., an hour before polls closed.

The longtime council member led the town’s efforts to enter into a contract with a Washington, D.C., firm to lobby against the light-rail Purple Line. She also helped organize nearby communities concerned with high-density development that may be allowed in the new downtown Bethesda sector plan. And she led the town’s creation of a plan for a new park on two Montgomery County parking lots on the town’s edge.


While residents are debating the election results on the town’s private listserv, little has been said publicly about the motivation behind Cecere’s write-in campaign. Someone on the listserv started an online poll on whether the town should repeat the election after all candidates “submit a public position paper and participate in a moderated ‘meet the candidate’ forum.”

Some residents in the town of about 2,800 told Bethesda Beat the stealth write-in campaign was aimed at ousting Burda and stemmed from a dispute over a building code variance decision that went against a homeowner who was not Cecere.