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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Disappearing sign mystery partly solved by camera; But county board member says signs in right of way are wrong


By Record News | Oct 31, 2018

Signs don't vote. But people who put them up - and ones who take them down - do, and evidently both involved in a local dust up are passionate about what's on them.

St. Clair County Board member Bob Trentman, who represents District 14 in Belleville, doesn't deny it was him captured in a photograph before dawn on Oct. 25 removing a political sign from right of way property on Lebanon Avenue near its T-intersection with Hartman Lane in Shiloh.

"It probably was me," he said.

Another sign being removed from area near Lebanon and Hartman in Shiloh.

Trentman said that the "No Judge Gleeson Retention" sign he removed was improperly placed on the right of way - at a substation for phone company Illinois Bell. 

But the person who put up the sign, Guy Don Carlos of Belleville, said that doesn't justify removing the sign, especially when others were not taken.

Don Carlos, who describes himself as an "unaffiliated constitutionally conservative crusader" opposing the retention of Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson, argues that removing the sign was an act of theft and violated a political participant's right of expression.

Under Illinois law, stealing a campaign sign not exceeding $500 in value is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.

"People involved in the political process have every right to expect they can participate in a campaign without the defacing and stealing of their property," he said.

He argues that only municipal or county officials are allowed to remove signs if their placement violates code, but in any case, signs that are removed must be taken to the controlling law enforcement office for the property's safekeeping.

"Do you abandon your car when it is parked in a public parking lot?" he said.

So far, approximately 100 signs have been stolen and approximately 25 have been "defaced" with a white and red "Yes" sign being placed over "No," according to Don Carlos.

"Repairing" the "vandalized" signs has involved spraying "No" red paint over "Yes," he said.

"It actually works pretty good."

Don Carlos said he placed cameras in various locations near the signs out of frustration in order to identify persons stealing or defacing them. He said that if theft continues, he will report to law enforcement.

He asserts that "pro-Gleeson" signs are not being stolen or defaced, but if they were, he said he would expect the full force of law against wrong-doers going up against Democrat candidates.

He said doesn't know who dropped "a bunch of signs" on his porch recently, but he took it upon himself to place them in locations throughout the judicial circuit in St. Clair, Monroe, Perry, Randolph and Washington counties.

St. Clair County GOP chair Barb Viviano said she "guarantees" the county Republican organization did not pay for or produce the signs. 

As to whether sign stealing is an effective campaign tactic, this pundit weighing in on the Capitol Fax blog, wrote Oct. 26:

"Setting aside for the moment matters of ethics and legality, stealing yard signs and campaign literature is *tactically* wrong because it does not affect the outcome of elections...A person whose yard sign is stolen will still vote for your candidate’s opponent. And you know what else they do? They talk to everybody they know about how their yard sign for your candidate’s opponent was stolen by one of your candidate’s supporters."

Trentman, a Democrat, faces Republican challenger Bert Hampton, of Swansea, in next week's election. Trentman explained that part of his frustration has been what he describes as the illegal placing of political signs for opposition candidates on state property "all over the place," and that he gets phone calls from neighbors asking why opposition signs are on his property.

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