October 30, 2013

No campaign sign thefts reported but laws limit placement

Rachel Brown

— As Election Day nears, local officials say that so far this year they haven’t had any reports of stolen campaign signs, which are often a hallmark of election season.

The only locally contested races this year in Murray and Whitfield counties are in the cities of Cohutta, Dalton and Varnell.

In Cohutta, Greg Fowler, Ben Manis and Wesley Mahan are running for Town Council, with the top two vote-getters elected.

Steve Laird and Pablo Perez are vying for a seat on the Dalton Board of Education while incumbent Gary Crews and Jafar Ware are each seeking the Ward 4 seat on the Dalton City Council.

In Varnell, Jan Pourquoi faces Michael Willocks for Seat 2 on the City Council while Anthony Hulsey and David Owens are running for mayor.

Election Day is Nov. 5.

Cohutta Police Chief Ray Grossman said there haven’t been any sign thefts he’s aware of. Stealing campaign signs usually falls under the category of misdemeanor theft because the dollar value of the signs is relatively low. Misdemeanor convictions typically don’t result in jail time — if any — longer than a few months.

Officials in Varnell said they haven’t had any reports of thefts recently, even though they often do during an election year.

Dalton Police Department spokesman Bruce Frazier said no thefts have been reported in Dalton either.

“Some signs have been removed by city public works because they were put up on public right of way, which has to do with the Dalton sign ordinance,” Frazier said.

The ordinance prohibits signs on public rights of way as well as signs erected on any tree, rock “or other natural feature.”

Putting signs on public rights of way, guardrails or city-owned property is illegal in other municipalities too, officials said.