As the Nov. 5 general election approaches, several Liberty Township candidates are pointing fingers at their opponents, accusing them of stealing campaign signs.
“They are really worried about us winning,” said Liberty Township Fiscal Officer Nancy Denutte in reference to her opponent, Rick Karr, fiscal officer candidate. “I had 130 signs removed from Sawmill Parkway roundabouts and corners.”
Denutte, who first took office in 2016 as the township’s fiscal officer, said it isn’t the first time her campaign signs have been taken.
“That is twice now that they have taken my signs,” she said. “None of them were on private property, they were all legally placed.”
Denutte not only accused her opposition of removing her signs, but also stated they are now “bullying people into taking down my signs” when campaigning in her neighborhood.
In his own defense, Karr told The Gazette, “That never happened. I have only stated documented facts about her at any time.”
Dan Schade, a township resident, was with Karr going door-to-door in Denutte’s neighborhood. He said Karr never intimidated or pressured anyone into taking down a Denutte sign.
“We explicitly avoided any house that had a Denutte sign in the yard,” he said. “We even avoided the road Denutte lives on completely.”
As for Denutte’s missing signs, she said while out knocking on doors campaigning, she came across a gentleman who told her that he knew where her signs were.
“Do you want to share that with me?” she asked the man. “He then told me, ‘Probably in someone’s garage.’”
Looking to take more concrete actions on the theft of her signs, Denutte filed a report with the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office. A sheriff’s deputy met with Denutte on Saturday, Sept. 28, about her concerns and filed a report.
“Upon investigation, it was determined the signs were illegally placed, and it is unknown who may have taken them or where they are currently located,” the deputy’s report states.
“The sheriff is remiss in his duty to protect this election,” Denutte said.
Jurisdiction of Sawmill Parkway’s right-of-way belongs to Delaware County.
“The only time we remove campaign signs is if they are an obstruction in the line of sight, a distraction or hazard,” Delaware County Engineer Chris Bauserman said. “We have removed signs in the roundabouts on Sawmill Parkway. We take real estate signs, garage sale signs and campaign signs.”
Bauserman, however, added, “We don’t remove them if it’s just a fact that they are in the right-of-way.”
Denutte isn’t alone when it comes to having her campaign signs suddenly disappear.
Karr said his larger signs at the intersection of Powell Road and state Route 315 up on the hill have been cut down during the night.
“It was a miscommunication between the owners of the property,” he said.”It’s been resolved, and we have permission to place the signs on the hill by the owners.”
Liberty Township trustee candidate Scott Donaldson said he has had “quite a few” signs taken.
“Perhaps 80 or more,” he said. “I don’t plan on doing anything about it, because it’s something that goes on in every campaign.”
Donaldson said it’s his first time running for a political office, and he is still learning the ropes of running a campaign. He said he had checked with the township to see if it had picked up any of his signs.
“They didn’t have any of them,” he said. “Right now, I’m trying to focus on other things.”
A post on the Liberty Township website states, “Liberty Township Zoning Resolution states that no signs are permitted in any road right-of-way within the Township, however, political signs are very different from other types of signage (such as advertising signs). Only those political signs placed in the right-of-way and which interfere with vehicular or pedestrian traffic will be removed by the Township Zoning Office … Removal of political signs by individuals without the authorization to do so is not permitted; removal of political signage for which you are not authorized is a crime.”
Bryan Newell, Liberty Township trustee candidate, said in the 2016 general election he had several of his signs stolen.
“I’m still looking for my missing signs from the last election,” he said.
Since there are many campaign signs along state Route 315 and U.S. Route 23, Brooke Ebersole, Ohio Department of Transportation District 6 spokeswoman, spoke on the following guidelines for such signs.
“ODOT does not allow any signage, political or nonpolitical, to be placed in the right-of-way,” she said. “However, our crews will not actively remove signage unless they are in the area doing routine maintenance (litter pickup, mowing, etc.) or if it becomes a sight distance issue.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.