Campaign sign vandalism, theft irks sheriff candidates
Davis, Ruark discourage any tampering with signs
Issues with campaign signs have affected both candidates for Barry County sheriff, and each candidate said they discourage such activity.
Former FBI Agent Gary Davis, R-Cassville, and Barry County Deputy Justin "Dave" Ruark, D-Cassville, each also said they would support prosecution of anyone caught tampering with campaign materials.
Questions about the signs arose when John Tiedeman of Washburn wrote a letter to the Cassville Democrat saying his "Vote for Gary Davis for sheriff" sign was stolen at the same time his mailbox was damaged by vandals who destroyed his mailbox by throwing a pumpkin at it, a crime the Barry County Sheriff's Office is investigating.
Tiedeman said his Davis sign, which had been on display for about two months, disappeared, and a nearby neighbor's sign supporting Ruark remained standing.
"I think there's nothing circumstantial about it when my sign is gone and the one up the street is still standing," he said. "It's also my understanding after talking to Davis that a few of his signs have been cut down, and some stolen."
Tiedeman said his neighbor's mailbox was not damaged, and it is on a side street where the vandals would have had to turn to hit it. Tiedeman said his sign was further back in his yard, but was moved up to behind the mailbox for better visibility.
"I recently got another sign and put it up, but I'm waiting for it to vanish," he said.
Ruark condemned the act, adding that it amounts to criminal activity.
"I do not support any criminal activity involving campaign materials," he said. "There are other ways to show support for a candidate without causing distress or damage to personal property. Anyone who knows me knows I do not support that, and I have sympathy for anyone whose property has been destroyed."
Davis said signs have been stolen or destroyed for as long as elections have been held, and some of it could be credited to mischievous youth.
"I've had three or four signs disappear," he said. "The posts are still there, but the signs are gone. And, I've has 12 signs in the past two weeks I'll credit to faulty zip ties where I'd have four, one in each corner, or even six on some signs, that were broken and the sign was laying on the ground. Those are still there, and it's just takes the time to go put them back up.
"I'm not spending time being upset or trying to figure out who's doing it. It's just a sad commentary on the people of Barry County to have to stoop to that level to support a candidate or to just be vandals, and vandals could be what we've got."
Ruark said his signs have also been the subject of thieves and vandals during his campaign.
"I have had my signs taken or destroyed, and I don't see it as much as a support issue as kids being mischievous," he said. "I had a sign in Exeter next to one of Davis' signs, and one week, his was taken down while mine was standing, then the next week, his was standing and mine had been thrown over into a ditch."
Both candidates said while they are not putting much time into finding prospective culprits, they would support the prosecution of anyone caught damaging campaign materials.
"My yard signs cost $5.15 a piece, and signs get more expensive as you go up in size," Davis said. "My 4-by-4-foot signs were $40, and I didn't get any 4-by-8 signs because the cost was too exorbitant. Some have been blown over or knocked down by accident. Stuff happens. But, if I catch anyone red-handed, I would prosecute."
"I express my condolences to anyone whose property has been damaged, and if we find out who's doing it, they should be charged for it," Ruark said. "As far as my campaign, a lot of my expenses have come out of my own pocket, and signs are very expensive. I bought 100 yard signs, and that cost me more than $300.
"So, to the people that are doing this -- stop. It's not necessary."
According to Missouri state statute, stealing, defacing, mutilating or destroying a campaign sign on private property if punishable by a fine of up to $2,500, up to a year of jail time or a combination of both.