Local Democrats are claiming political signs have been stolen - and one supporter, a Huntington Street resident, filed a police report on Monday, Sept. 23, concerning those stolen from his property this past weekend.

Sebastian Barneby filed the report, and Erin Cummins, who lives with Barneby at the Huntington Street home, said the three signs, supporting Democratic candidates, on her property were taken Sunday, Sept. 22, between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

“A volunteer drove by and noticed that our signs were gone at 3:30 and placed one new Harmon sign that he had in his car on the lawn,” said Cummins. “At 5:15 p.m., Matt McGee sent me a message that he'd just placed a new ‘Fund Education’ sign on the lawn. When we checked at 6:20 p.m., only the Fund Education sign remained. Somewhere between 3:30 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. someone came onto our property and stole the second Harmon sign.”

“I know this seems like a minor thing and the signs are of minimal value, but I find it disturbing that someone or multiple people would take something from my property … not just once but twice in the same day,” said Cummins. “I see signs that I disagree with all the time, but I don't take them or deface them.”

Democratic Town Committee Chair David Gioiello said at least eight signs have been taken through this past weekend, but it is not the cost associated with the loss but the attempt by some individuals to deny free speech that is most concerning.

“What the act of stealing the signs means is that someone wants to deny someone else their First Amendment right to free speech,” said Gioiello, a Board of Education member seeking re-election this November.

“A political sign is an expression of political belief and each of us is given that right in our Constitution,” added Gioiello. “It would be wrong to prevent any citizen from freely expressing their support for a cause whether you agree or disagree. “

Gioiello said that, many years ago, the ACLU defended the rights of the Nazi party to march not because the organization agreed with their message but their right to express that message. When a sign is taken a person's right to express his or her support of a cause is being denied.

“The stealing of signs goes on every election here in Shelton,” said Gioiello. “While I don't know who is stealing them, it is odd that only those signs in opposition of the current administration in town are stolen.”

If someone is arrested for stealing a sign, the charge would be larceny. Larceny in the sixth degree is a Class C misdemeanor — a person is guilty of larceny in the sixth-degree when he commits larceny and the value of the property or service is $500 or less.

If someone is arrested for vandalizing a sign, the charge would be criminal mischief in the third degree. Criminal mischief in the third degree is a Class B misdemeanor — a person is guilty of criminal mischief in the third-degree when, having no reasonable ground to believe that such person has a right to do so, such person: (1) intentionally or recklessly (A) damages tangible property of another, or (B) tampers with tangible property of another and thereby causes such property to be placed in danger of damage.

This is the latest such police report concerning the removal of political signs from local properties. The Here for Shelton group’s candidates - all of whom had primary challenges against the Republican Town Committee-endorsed candidates earlier this month - also filed a police report claiming signs were stolen. Some of those stolen signs were found dumped at the Nike Site.

Among the signs taken this past weekend were those promoting Democratic mayoral candidate John Harmon and Shelton High senior Matt McGee, who is running for a Board of Aldermen, Third Ward seat on the Democratic ticket.

“Visiting Shelton voters at their homes and posting campaign signs on the property of voters who request them are important elements of the Democratic campaign effort,” said Harmon. “I can’t say who is removing our signs nor can I say why. But I can say that it is illegal, considered theft or vandalism under Connecticut law. And the practical affect is to suppress information that Shelton voters might want in order to make an informed decision at the polls.”

“They won’t acknowledge us by name, but they’ll take our signs,” said McGee. “They’re scared. We’re going to win.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact

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