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Connellsville primary candidates told missing signs possibly wind-related, pranks or thefts

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Campaign signs suddenly missing from where they are displayed are a concern and a frustration to new candidates, while those who have sought election before know it's just the way it is.

The three Democratic candidates running for Connellsville mayor in the May 21 primary have all had their campaign signs go missing.

Candidate Gregory Lincoln said he had about 20 signs disappear and believes they could have been stolen.

“It's very frustrating,” Lincoln said, adding that his signs have been taken from private property as well as along highway rights of way. “I don't see any other signs being removed other than mine.”

Part of Lincoln's frustration is the cost of the signs, which run from $10 to $15 each.

Lincoln said most of the missing signs aren't lasting for any more than 24 hours and added that none of his signs have been recovered.

“They just totally disappeared,” Lincoln said. “You raise money for campaign signs, and people are taking them left and right. Anyone who sees anything should call 911 or police.”

Lincoln said he has had more signs stolen around the South Side and West Side of Connellsville.

“The wires are there, but the signs are gone,” he said.

Connellsville Mayor Charles Matthews said he knows that he has some missing campaign signs, but said it isn't enough to be concerned.

“I have so many out, I'm definitely missing some,” Matthews said, who also had signs out when he ran for City Council before he became mayor. “I've run before, so I expect it.”

One possibility is that signs are placed on public works projects and that workers remove the signs to cut grass and but don't put them back in place. And there's the possibility that the signs were stolen.

“There have been kids that have stolen them and lined them up in yards as a prank,” Matthews said, adding that he doesn't make an issue of the missing or stolen signs unless the act is something malicious. “Some people call and complain to get their name out there.”

Matthews said he expects the weather can play a role in the missing signs, such as winds blowing them out of the ground. If a sign is placed at a location that a candidate believes is public — such as Five Corners — the owner can remove the signs if permission was not asked.

Candidate Joshua DeWitt said he has had about 10 to 15 signs go missing. He believes they were stolen or taken by the wind.

“That's normal,” DeWitt said. “The more you have out, the larger amount will go missing.”

“It's kids being kids,” said DeWitt's campaign manager Charles Lowery. “They think it's funny, but it's not.”

Connellsville police Chief Jim Capitos said the department received no reports of any political signs stolen or damaged.

“Every election cycle, you have signs being stolen,” Capitos said. “In the residential areas, it's normally kids horsing around.”

Capitos said police can't investigate possible thefts unless they receive phone calls pinpointing the sites, so that patrols can be increased there.

“They should call the police if they see anything,” Capitos said, adding that suspects can be charged with criminal mischief, theft by unlawful taking and possibly trespassing.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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