Campaign Sign Theft and “Re-Location” Tarnishes Race for District 25 Board in Arlington Heights
The official Facebook account supporting the re-election of Anisha Patel for District 25 School Board (Facebook.com/ElectAnisha) alerted followers with a Thursday, April 1, 2021 post, that there were reports that Re-Elect Anisha signs had been stolen. However, there was no mention that some of her supporters are alleged to have removed a large number of signs of her Arlington Heights Forward slate opponents in mid-March 2021.
District 25 board Arlington Heights Forward candidate Todd Witherow on March 18, 2021 reported to police that on March 17, 2021 signs supporting Arlington Heights Forward candidates Gina Faso, Rich Olejniczak, Katie Rausch and his own signs were removed from the Walgreens property at Northwest Highway and Dryden Avenue, and the Mobil gas station property at Northwest Highway and Vail Avenue in Arlington Heights. Witherow reported to police that 56 signs were removed or stolen.
Video surveillance captured evidence of engaged supporters removing Arlington Heights Forward signs around town at undisclosed locations. A male adult was allegedly identified as one of those engaged supporters. According to police, the male adult, admitted taking the signs, but claimed he contacted the managers at the Mobil and Walgreens sites and told the managers it was illegal to place campaign signs on private property without permission, and that it was also illegal to place campaign signs in parkways with or without permission. The alleged engaged supporter then apparently selectively removed the signs of Faso, Olegniczak, Rausch, and Witherow.
The male was not charged with theft, as the action was considered a civil matter. On Thursday night, April 1, 2021, candidates’ signs were in place at the northwest corner of Northwest Highway and Vail Avenue. The Faso sign appeared to have been intentionally bent down with the metal supports bent to a sharp angle, and therefore was not effectively displayed. There were no signs displayed on the Walgreens property at Northwest Highway and Dryden Avenue Thursday night.
Patel shared on her campaign Facebook page that 14 of her signs were taken from the area across the street from Village Halls.
“How unfortunate that we have been getting more and more reports from our supporters that their Re-Elect Anisha signs have been stolen off their property and that these thefts have been reported to the Arlington Heights Police Department. We have also replaced the 14 signs that were taken from across village hall. If your yard sign has been stolen, please let us know ASAP and one of our volunteers will come replace it.
I am saddened by this behavior: I know Arlington Heights is better than this. That people feel the need to resort to trespassing and theft is so disappointing: what example is this setting for our kids?”
Thank you to the hundreds of residents who have shown support by hosting a yard sign, and to the many local businesses as well.
Arlington Heights, we are better than petty crime. Sincere thanks to our supporters and intrepid volunteers: we can do this!
— Anisha for School Board April 1, 2021 10:18 a.m. on Facebook
Witherow commented on Patel’s page, responding to Patel’s post, explaining his previous direct message to Patel that described that upwards of 100 Arlington Heights Forward signs had been removed without permission.
“Anisha: It has been a terribly windy week in Arlington Heights and signs are losing the battle against Mother Nature consistently. I have repaired over 200 signs that were blown away by the wind, including trustee signs, a few of your signs and others.
I agree the continuing issue of sign stealing is unfortunate. As you may recall, I reached out to you privately over a week ago about an outward supporter of yours caught on camera removing opponents signs. I asked for your proactive support in communicating a private, positive message to ALL supporters.
I am grateful to be only days away from election day so that we do not have to worry about signs any longer.
I will be out this evening repairing more signs and am happy to team up with you if available.”
— Reply by Todd Witherow April 1, 2021 1:54 p.m.
Witherow also explained some of the details of the March 17, 2021 incident as a reply on Patel’s page.
“For transparency I wanted to share a copy of the email but I am unable to load a picture. This is the referenced email I sent on March 18 to all candidates.
Anisha, Deb, Melisa and Greg:
We are reaching out today, as we want to continue to work with you for the betterment of our community and our schools. We’d like as much as possible to maintain positive communication amongst the 8 of us. To that end, we – Gina, Rich, Katie, and I – have been alerted to recent video evidence of engaged supporters removing our signs around town, and leaving yours up. Upwards of 100 signs have been removed without permission, and we ask that you please encourage your supporters to return them to us at [removed address] by the end of the night so that we may re-stake them starting tomorrow morning and into the weekend. Please have the signs left on the front porch.
The police have contacted us to pursue a course of action. We have asked the Arlington Heights Police Department to hold off in good faith to get the signs returned to us. I hope we can handle this among the 8 of us. I look forward to your response on this matter.
PS: I will send this message separately over DM as well to ensure you have received it as I am not sure which you check more frequently.”
Reply by Todd Witherow April 1, 2021 1:54 p.m.
Another person replied on Patel’s post about the missing signs describing, “Yeah, it was really bad when hundreds of AH Forward candidate’s signs went missing less than 24hrs after many volunteers spent their weekends delivering them to those who requested them. Any idea who was doing this?”
As of Friday April 2, 2021, there was no mention of any sign incidents on the “Arlington Heights Forward” Facebook page that collectively supports candidates Gina Faso, Rich Olejniczak, Katie Rausch, and Todd Witherow.
Daily Herald reporter Christopher Placek, announcing a virtual candidate forum in a Daily Herald article published March 12, 2021, described the “Arlington Heights Forward” slate as consisting of pro-reopening candidates, and described four independents (Melisa Andrews, Anisha Patel, Greg Scapillato, and Deborah Tranter) as candidates who favored a more cautious approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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