Candidate claims opponent stole signs
The Republican candidate for Kanawha County assessor is accusing his Democrat opponent of stealing his campaign signs, and he claims to have video to prove it.
About 3:30 a.m. Monday, a truck bearing Sallie Robinson campaign signs stopped at a local business along MacCorkle Avenue in St. Albans, said Forest Carper, the Republican candidate for assessor.
Robinson, a 28-year employee of the Kanawha County Assessor's office and a Democrat, is running against Carper in the November general election.
Another employee at the assessor's office, Clyde A. Bare Jr., was driving the truck. Video provided by Carper shows Bare leaving the truck and walking in the direction of the guardrail where one of Carper's campaign signs was posted.
Although the camera does not show Bare taking the sign, it was missing early the next morning, Carper said.
"He took my sign," he said.
Bare, who is a field appraiser with the county office, could not be reached for comment.
However, Robinson denied that Bare, who supports her for the office, stole anything. Robinson spoke to Bare and he said he was the person who appears on the video.
However, Bare told Robinson he stopped to remove debris from his truck tire. When asked why Bare was in the area at that time of night, Robinson said she did not know.
"What Mr. Bare does on his private time is none of my business," she said.
Robinson is convinced Bare did not steal the sign. She reviewed the surveillance video, which Carper obtained from the business owner, and she pointed out that it does not show Bare taking the sign.
"He was out of the truck for like 30 seconds," she said.
Robinson says Bare removed a furring strip with a nail from his tire. A furring strip is a small piece of wood and metal used in construction to support a finished surface.
The video shows Bare throw the furring strip in the back of his truck, she said.
"I don't see where he had a sign in his hands," she said.
Caper said this is not the first of his signs to be stolen. He said 50 to 75 of the small paper signs have disappeared around the county, especially in the South Charleston area.
Carper believes Robinson is behind the theft of most of the signs.
Robinson believes Carper's accusations are just an attempt to destroy her credibility before the November election.
"I've had a lot of my signs stolen, too," she said.
Robinson said about $1,200 worth of her signs have been taken. One was placed on Washington Street West in Charleston and cost about $85, she said.
"The first night they cut my face out of the sign," she said. "And then two days later, the sign was gone.
"I don't condone the theft of anything."
Carper said his small paper signs cost $4.30 each. He currently does not have signs to replace the ones that were stolen but has ordered another 100 that should arrive by the middle of next week.
"That's another $400 plus the cost of gas to go out and put the signs back up."
Robinson said the employees in the assessor's office have never been asked to support her and those who do are doing so of their own free will and on their own time, she said.
"I've never asked anyone to support me," she said. "It's their choice to campaign for me."
The theft of signs on private property can be a misdemeanor offense of petty larceny, said Mark Plants, Kanawha County prosecuting attorney. Those caught defacing signs on private property could be charged with destruction of property, which is also a misdemeanor.
However, the law is unclear about the legality of defacing or taking signs left on public property, such as along a roadway, he said.
Anyone who believes a sign has been stolen from public or private property should contact police so an investigation can begin, he said. The determination of whether the act was illegal would be made during the investigation.
Stealing campaign signs is not an offense in state election code, said Sheryl Webb, deputy secretary of state. However, it is something that happens on a regular basis.
"Allegations of stolen campaign signs are made during every campaign," Webb said.
The case of the stolen campaign signs may not be at an end in this instance, Carper said. He plans to talk to Plants to see if criminal charges can be filed.
"We're definitely going to pursue legal action," Carper said.