By Chris Lisinski
TOWNSEND — Leaders of a movement to recall two Townsend selectmen claim more than 20 of their group’s political signs have been stolen from front lawns in recent weeks, though police are apparently only investigating three incidents.
Kelly Kelly, one of the founders of the campaign to recall Selectmen Gordon Clark and Carolyn Smart, said 22 signs had gone missing from local properties between March 22 and Monday.
On Wednesday, Officer Thaddeus Rochette, who is investigating the case, said 23 signs had gone missing. In three of those incidents, a police report was filed.
However, Rochette said there could be a variety of reasons behind the mass disappearance, including recent high winds and snow.
“Could the wind have taken some of them? Yes,” he said. “Could the plows have taken some of them? Absolutely. Could somebody be stealing them? Absolutely. I have not ruled out anything or anyone.”
If Rochette does determine that someone has been stealing the signs, he will charge the individual or individuals. Charges could range from larceny to vandalism to felony destruction of property, he said.
Kelly said she is frustrated by what she believes to be a concentrated effort against her group.
“We should be allowed to have a part in the political process,” she said. “There’s nothing offensive about our signs. They’re just out there to get the word out.”
Smart said missing signs are a normal part of an election cycle.
“I’ve been involved in elections before,” she said. “You end up missing signs … I wouldn’t report them to our police.”
Kelly said several homeowners reached out to police to report the incidents.
Kelly said the signs have disappeared from homes across town in waves over the past two weeks. On the night of March 22, the first sign went missing; on March 28, four more signs disappeared from two properties; on the night of March 30 alone, a further 16 vanished; and then another one allegedly disappeared on March 31 some time between the owner leaving the house and returning for lunch.
Several members of the “Townsend Recall of Clark and Smart” Facebook group posted on the page that they had signs go missing.
Most homes that were affected each had a single sign in front, Kelly said.
“They’re very upset that someone would come on to their private property and remove their sign that they’re allowed to have,” she said.
She expressed concern that some residents may not speak out in support of the recall for fear of repercussions. Some of the “more vocal” members of her group have received angry letters in their mailboxes, Kelly said.
The signs that went missing will all be restored, however. Before the alleged thefts began, the group had already ordered another 50 signs, and Kelly recently put in a second order for another 100. Anyone who lost a sign will receive another one.
“Each sign cost us somewhere between $4 to $5,” Kelly said. “While that’s not a large amount of money, adding that up, that’s a substantial amount of money when we operate on donations.”