Sign-stealing has apparently become a popular summer activity in Washougal.
Washougal mayoral candidates Paul Greenlee, Rochelle Ramos and Derik Ford have reported incidents of placard theft in the past several weeks, a disappointing turn of events for the League of Women Voters of Clark County organization, which asked the candidates to sign its “fair-campaign pledge” at the start of the primary election season.
“By doing so, they have agreed to focus on the issues and their qualifications as well as to avoid unfair attacks on opponents and distortions or misrepresentations of fact as they campaign,” League president Nancy Halvorson wrote in a letter to the Post-Record. “Despite this positive start, we are witnessing a negative turn in this race.”
None of the candidates have publicly accused the other aspirants of theft, however.
“That all of the candidates pledged to conduct themselves in an upright and honest manner makes us conclude that this behavior must be that of overly zealous supporters whose actions are without the knowledge or support of the candidates,” Halvorson wrote.
The act of stealing a candidate’s signs is illegal under Washington state law 29A.84.040, which states: “A person who removes or defaces lawfully placed political advertising, including yard signs or billboards, without authorization is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Greenlee told the Post-Record that “six to eight” of his signs have been taken.
“Sign-stealing, as often as not, somebody will pick up a sign and throw it into a ditch or something,” he said. “Sometimes signs get moved or taken down simply so that crews can mow (grass). That’s just part of what happens. I don’t feel particularly attacked as far as that goes.
“(The sign-stealing) is certainly worse than it was when I ran for council, but it’s a mayor’s race,” he continued. “There are certainly some signs at 39th Street and Evergreen Highway that I put up that disappeared very quickly, and I don’t know what that was about. The ones I have on Shepherd Road, just on the edge of the city limits, now that I’ve put zip-ties on them, they stay there. That’s one of the places that signs would get pulled out and thrown into a ditch. But that goes back a dozen years.”
In a July 22 Facebook post, Ramos wrote that 20 of her signs have been taken “off of personal property of friends and businesses that gave me permission to put them there.”
“So I know it’s not because I’m putting them where they’re not allowed,” she wrote. “I’ll replace some, but not all (of them) at $7 a pop, I’m not going to throw thousands of dollars at yard signs. (It’s) wasteful spending since you just toss them all later. I’ll focus my efforts elsewhere and not litter the city with signs; I’ve always hated that anyway. If you see any candidates’ signs go missing, report it. If you have a video, post it. If you’re taking them, grow up.”
Ford wrote in a June 16 Facebook post that “four kids” stole one of his large signs from private property near a roundabout at 32nd Avenue, posting what appears to be a photo taken from a security camera of the alleged theft.
“Reward offered. We would like to find these people,” he wrote. “That sign cost us $100.”
Ford wrote in a July 22 Instagram post that he has lost “nearly 100” of his signs.
“My ‘sign guy’ records every sign and location with a picture and documentation,” he wrote. “We even have videos of people stealing our signs. Signs are a part of campaigning, so if you see anything, please report it.”