Video Evidence: Sign Thefts

I’m glad the election is over. While it may not have been as heated as other elections in other areas, it was bad enough for Simi Valley. One of the most memorable moments for me will always be the theatrics surrounding sign thefts. The accusations from supporters on all sides, the letters to the editor, and the blog and forum comments on the topic were heated, to say the least. The editorial in the Acorn regarding the stakeout of the Huber for Mayor sign yielded an even number of people both agreeing and disagreeing with what happened with that incident.

I think its a fair assumption that considering the obvious support Bob Huber’s campaign had from the Simi Valley Police Officers Association, his signs were considered a bit more sacred to those on the POA. That’s something that has been hotly disputed, but the videos I found recently I believe are further evidence of that. I’d bet comfortably that the POA doesn’t have any video evidence of sign thefts of any other candidate. Admittedly, I have no details on how these videos were obtained.

A YouTube user named svpdpoa401 uploaded the following three videos. The quality is somewhat poor because it appears to be video shot of a video monitor playing the actual videos. The producer of the videos included amusing title cards and upbeat rock music. The origin and background of the video is unknown because the metadata on the uploads contains no detailed descriptions. However, you’ll clearly see hooligans swiping Huber signs and running away.

Sign Stakeout Letter Round-up

Letters to the editor of the Simi Valley Acorn always represent a wide range of thoughts and emotions on various topics. Themes will last for weeks at a time, or months at a time during the election season.

One of the most recent topics that seems to polarize the community is related to the issue of the Huber for Mayor sign stakeout. Detective Arabian has a solid reputation as a police officer and as a detective. Following the initial breaking of the news by the Acorn, the paper followed it up a week later with an editorial questioning whether or not the detective, an active supporter of Huber’s campaign, made an error by volunteering for the stakeout task.

There’s a heck of a lot more to this story that most of us probably don’t know. The letters to the editor this week begin to shed some light on that fact. What follows is a summary of letters on the topic. Read them all to draw your own conclusion…

Police have a duty to investigate – Writer believes police should investigate sign thefts as a top priorty to protect first amendment rights. Suggests a cost savings to the city of $2000.

Becerra got a call about his signs too – Writer shares details regarding a phone call to Councilman Glen Becerra. Also expresses concern about how this information was leaked to the press.

Huber should have done the stakeout – Writer suggests Huber should have conducted his own investigation regarding sign thefts and doesn’t believe it was effective use of law enforcement resources.

Involvement was a conflict of interest – Writer believes that the detective who is a known supporter of Huber, appearing in his campaigns, should not have conducted the stakeout as it represents a conflict of interest.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a middle ground on this issue…

Huber Sign Stakeout Gone Awry

For months, we’ve heard stories about lost campaign signs with some subtle and some not so subtle finger pointing toward the supporters of opposing campaigns. Last week, I posted an article about a property manager taking down Bob Huber’s signs claiming proper permission was not obtained. This week in the Simi Valley Acorn there’s a report of a police stakeout on a Bob Huber campaign sign at the McDonald’s on Yosemite Ave. where more signs were disappearing. The results of the stakeout concluded the signs were being removed by a McDonald’s employee:

Like clockwork, at 4:30 a.m. a man removed the signs—including ones for council incumbent Glen Becerra—putting them in the back of his pickup truck.

When Arabian confronted the man, he discovered he wasn’t a thief, but a property maintenance worker, clad in a McDonald’s shirt.

Though permission to post the signs had been granted, this worker was apparently just unaware.

It’s the nature of the crime that prompts a stakeout by the Simi Valley Police. The dollar amount of the damage combined with the identifiable pattern of the crime offers an investigator an opportunity to solve it. The signs were apparently expensive and enough were stolen to qualify this as a felony.

Santino said it’s been frustrating to see sign after sign taken down. At $65 a piece, it easily adds up to felony theft, which requires $400 or more in damages.

“We knew we were going to lose signs, but the frequency and the vast amount has just been a huge surprise,” he said. “In my opinion, some of our signs have been systematically removed because they don’t want our message out there.”

Though Santino didn’t say it, Huber’s supporters have insinuated that Sojka’s camp is behind the thefts. Sojka, who has also had dozens of signs removed, said that is “totally out of line and unfair.”

Naturally, the question I asked when I first heard this story was were they expecting to find a Steve Sojka supporter creeping around at night stealing their signs? I may never get a straight answer to that question. I can tell you that a few evenings ago, a Huber supporter was discussing his stolen signs on Facebook and is suggesting that his opponent’s supporters are the perpetrators.

And just when you think it can’t get any uglier, the phrase “inappropriate use of resources”  is heard. The Acorn article goes on to discuss the fact that an outspoken Huber for Mayor supporter volunteered to conduct the stakeout, and that his salary range and overtime pay resulted in a relatively expensive night.

Read the article at the Simi Valley Acorn by clicking here.

Was the stakeout a success? That may be a matter of perspective. The signs will likely stop disappearing now that the truth is revealed. No one pressed charges. And if you were hoping a Sojka supporter would be caught and arrested, then this was a stakeout gone awry.

As an added note, I also think City Manager Mike Sedell shows good judgment by choosing not to investigate this until after the election. While it’s easy to draw the conclusion of a conflict since the detective who chose to conduct the stakeout is a known Huber supporter, Sedell opts not to make it into an election issue. I appreciate that he can make that decision despite being a frequent target of criticism by Huber supporters.

Mashburn Sign Statement

Keith Mashburn's sign attached to a fence on LA and Stearns

Everyone loves political sign season! Right? No? Maybe it’s just me. At any rate, I’m having a good time spotting the signs as they appear throughout the city. For those that believe challengers have trouble getting their signs posted, drive around town and tell me if you can spot the signs for Mike Judge and Keith Mashburn. I sure have.

You may notice a couple of Keith Mashburn signs have disappeared. It turns out that a couple of small yard signs for Mashburn at the corner of Madera and Los Angeles Avenue were unauthorized, resulting in this statement from the Candidate:

I was notified by a representative of Casden Properties, Daren Embry, that they had removed my signs from their property at the corner of L.A. Ave. and Madera.  I did not place the signs there and had not requested permission to place any there.  Casden Properties made it very clear they were only supporting the incumbents for city council.  I regret any harm that this has caused Casden Properties and can assure them that it is my policy to only place signs where I have permission.

When I asked Keith how the signs appeared there, he indicated that some of his supporters may have put them in place without his knowledge, answering me as follows:

I can only guess that to be the case. I have no idea how they got out so early but I don’t think someone printed up Mashburn signs and placed them.

They were official Keith Mashburn signs, so if it wasn’t his campaign, it may have actually been an over-zealous supporter. Either way, the matter appears to have been settled. Thanks to Keith for providing the statement.

Shameful Sign Vandalism

This troubling statement was released from Team Huber this evening regarding sign vandalism:

Unfortunately, the negative side of the campaign season has reared its ugly head, and we need your help.  Over the last 24 hours we have had five of our large campaign signs stolen and as many have been knocked down and vandalized.

We need your help to be the eyes and ears of the campaign.  If you have any information or see anything suspicious regarding campaign signs, please let us know ASAP so that we can assist the police with their investigation.  In addition, please let us know if you see any signs vandalized or missing.

A lot of money, time and effort goes into putting up these signs.  Your help in preventing future thefts/vandalism is greatly appreciated.

Vandalized sign

Frankly, I find this practice disgusting. I was a volunteer on a campaign for an underdog in an election and when you are a single person putting up signs, every last one of them means something important to you. To have even one of them stolen or damaged feels like a personal assault.

The time and the cost involved to put these signs up throughout the city represent a significant effort by passionate volunteers. It’s my belief that if you take the time to read this blog it’s because you appreciate the political process and that you do not participate in vandalism.

UPDATE: I requested a comment from the Steve Sojka for Mayor Campaign on this incident and received a reply from Councilman Sojka directly.

Being on vacation, I was unaware of this incident and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. I personally take this very seriously. We recently issued a statement to our supporters to respect our opponent’s signs as follows:

“Just a friendly reminder to all our Team Sojka supporters… as campaign season kicks into high gear, please remember that tampering with our opponent’s signs is illegal and will not be tolerated by the Sojka for Mayor campaign.”

Bob Huber Signs Are Up!

Bob Huber's Campaign Sign on Madera near LA.

Bob Huber’s signs are up, according to the following campaign announcement:

We are excited to let you know that this morning, as you drive through our beautiful city, you will finally see our multitude of campaign signs.  As you read in one of our previous communications, we waited until we were 90 days from the election to put up signs, out of respect for the citizens of our fine community as there had previously been so many signs during the June primaries.  If you didn’t get a sign in your yard and would like one, please reply to this email and one will be promptly delivered to your home.

I believe signs are an important tool in a local election. Bob Huber opted to wait a few weeks after Steve Sojka put his signs up throughout Simi Valley. He indicated that he was doing so out of respect for the community, explaining that citizens don’t want to see signs up for too long or too close to the completion of another election. We are now at the 3 month mark before election day.

I’ll cruise around this evening and take a few pictures. For me, the signs represent an important time for Simi Valley voters and I enjoy seeing them posted.

Huber Campaign Holds Off on Signs

Despite the city ordinance allowing signs  to be posted at this point before the election, the Huber for Mayor Campaign says it won’t do it according to this release:

Thank you to all of you that have inquired on the status of our campaign signs.  We are extremely grateful for your continued support and interest in our campaign.  While the City ordinance allows for 120 days prior to the election to display political signs we are concerned the citizens of Simi Valley would resent looking at them for four (4) full months prior to the election.

The opinion section of the July 9 Acorn states “We hope future candidates will have the courage to just say no to these billboards of blight and instead focus on the issues, not on name recognition”.

While we will not be able to ignore the significance of putting up signs in the near future we hope you share our view of keeping our City free of extra signs as long as possible out of respect for the feelings of our citizens.

When the time comes please let us know if you are interested in volunteering to put up signs, talking to the businesses you frequent about putting up a sign, or placing a sign in your yard.  Please feel free to reply to this e-mail or contact us at 805-526-9008.

The Huber folks make reference to this quote in the Simi Valley Acorn:

We hope future candidates will have the courage to just say no to these billboards of blight and instead focus on the issues, not on name recognition.

I agree.  I hope both sides can do this, and I’d propose including endorsements in this as well.  Endorsements are as meaningful as name recognition, but so far both have been the basis of most discussions about these candidates.

Cheers to Bob Huber for holding off! I’ll be curious to see if this is a move that pays off for his campaign.