A candidate for Tuolumne County supervisor is looking for a solution to a problem that comes up every election season.
Supervisor John Gray, who is running for a second term as the District 4 supervisor, is sick of people taking and tampering with his and other campaign signs scattered around the county.
Gray announced last week that he is offering a $250 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone who vandalizes or steals campaign signs for any candidate.
“It’s against the law, and it’s just not the right thing to do,” Gray said.
Gray made the announcement after losing “quite a few signs” placed in his district along the Jacksonville Road, Twist Road and Old Wards Ferry Road areas. Then Gray said last Sunday he received a call from a sheriff’s deputy informing him that about 20 signs were found on a piece of property. The signs included some of his, as well as other local candidates, he said.
“It’s not so much the cost of the signs. It’s all the time it takes to get out there and put them up,” Gray said.
Stealing or tampering with a sign that is authorized to be placed on private property is considered vandalism, according to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department. It’s not a new problem by any means, and District 5 Board of Supervisors candidate Jason Frye publicly lamented his campaign signs being stolen earlier this election season.
Liz Bass, a supervisor who is also running for the District 1 seat, said in an email last week that she’s also had sign issues. Though Bass said that she’s experienced more instances of people knocking them down or defacing them than losing the signs altogether.
Campaign signs without any candidate are not immune, either. According to the Sheriff’s Department, a number of campaign signs were vandalized over the weekend in Groveland, including signs supporting a special tax for the area’s fire department.
Jeff Wilson, of the county Sheriff’s Office, said last week the department doesn’t often get a lot of tips when they receive calls about campaign signs. When they do get “suspect information,” they investigate the report just like any other crime, he said.
“Most of these things are kind of drive-bys,” Wilson said. “We have gotten information in the past, and we do pursue them when we can.”
However, just because a sign disappeared doesn’t mean it was stolen. If you place any sign, campaign or other, in a state right-of-way without an encroachment permit, Caltrans will remove it. Angela DePrato, a spokesperson for Caltrans, said that Caltrans collects between 20 and 40 unauthorized signs in the area every week. That number jumps to between 50 and 60 during campaign season, DePrato said.
“If you don’t have it (an encroachment permit), your sign goes,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what type of sign.”
Caltrans will hold the signs for up to 30 days before getting rid of them. DePrato said anyone suspecting their sign may have been picked up on a state right-of-way should contact the local Caltrans office.