The topic signs on public property in Greenwich has been top of mind since the run-up to the Nov 3 presidential election.
It seemed there were more political signs than ever, and a gentleman’s agreement that candidates wait until two weeks prior to the election (Oct 19) to put up signs was breached by late summer.
Despite police warnings in mid October that that taking a sign without the owner’s permission could result in a charge of Larceny 6, political signs continued to vanish and be defaced.
In one incident, numerous signs supporting Greenwich Police were spray painted with a crude graphic.
In separate incidents, two residents were arrested. A patrol officer witnessed an individual take down and remove a political sign. The officer arrested a 25 year old Greenwich woman and charged her with Larceny and Criminal Mischief.
Also, a Greenwich man charged for vandalizing political signs in the intersection of Fairfield Ave and North Street. The signs had fresh black “X’s” spray painted on the back. Police say the man handed over a can of black spray paint and claimed he he had been expressing his First Amendment rights.
A group called Greenwich Voices for Democracy said upwards of 100 of their anti-Trump signs were stolen and that an eye witness had seen DPW workers removing them and then seen them in dumpsters at the DPW shed at Exit 4.
On Oct 30, police announced they had completed an investigation of the stolen Voices for Democracy signs and submitted their findings to the State’s Attorney’s Office in Stamford.
They said they spoke to witnesses, canvassed video footage, inspected the signs in question and interviewed the Public Works workers and their supervisors.
The topic of the signs and the investigation did not come up at the Nov 12 Selectmen meeting, but during his Friday radio shows the past two weeks, First Selectman Camillo referred to the situation with signs as both a circus and the wild west.
He also talked about the possibility of an ordinance banning some or all signs.
“We definitely want to address what many consider to be a blight problem that has led to some criminal acts,” he said. “Everyone’s signs were stolen. We were getting Republicans calling and Democrats calling.”
Camillo said he had started a conversation with the town attorney and leaders of both the RTC and DTC about a solution going forward.
“It’s not just political signs,” he said. “We don’t think it would hold up in court if you just banned political signs and let other ones stay.”
“It’s not as easy as saying we’re going to ban (just) political signs,” he added. “You set yourself up for a court challenge.”
On Nov 13 a caller to Camillo’s WGCH radio show asked about the status of the investigation into the missing Voices for Democracy anti-Trump signs.
“I understand one of the reasons you’re looking at a ban of signs on public property is because of the sign defacing and the stealing of signs. That’s obviously wrong no matter who does it,” said the caller, Mary Ellen Markowitz. “But DPW employees were seen taking signs, on town time, with town trucks.”
Markowitz said town employees were seen by an eye witness taking signs, and the signs were discovered at the Exit 4 DPW depot dumpster.
“So if there is an investigation, I want to know the status of the investigation,” she said.
Camillo said, “As far as the two DPW employees, there was an internal investigation – the police did the investigation. We sent it up to the state’s attorney’s office. I’ve seen it (the investigation), but for me to comment on it… There is a lot of misinformation. I would tell people, including public officials, not to post inflammatory statements on Facebook and Twitter.”
“We can’t really say too much until the state’s attorney’s office has looked at it and gotten back to us,” he added. “We want to respect the process…It’s not what people think. I don’t want it to get out of hand with a narrative that’s not true.”
A second caller to Camillo’s radio show said she had heard that the DPW instructed their employees to remove signs.
“You said it was up with the state’s attorney, but I heard they bounced it back because it was an incomplete investigation,” she said.
“That’s total misinformation,” Camillo replied. “When the police chief said there is an investigation that’s been done and sent to the state’s attorney’s office, you can believe it and take it to the bank. This misinformation being put out there by some people, and that they were instructed by DPW to take the signs down – in fact one former town official accused me and the DPW commissioner of taking the signs down. And when I confronted him, he lied to my face.”
Reached by email on Sunday former Democratic Selectman Sandy Litvack, the chair of Greenwich Voices for Democracy, insisted he had not accused Camillo or DPW Commissioner Amy Siebert of taking the signs down.
Rather, he said, “I did not lie to him at all. He, like Trump, just wants a distraction. The truth, which he cannot and does not deny is that DPW removed our signs and only our signs. Why? He does not say but of course we know why and indeed the DPW employees told the person who caught them doing it.”
“Why? because, they said, they were ‘offensive,'” Litvack added. “When asked ‘offensive to whom,’ they said, ‘Talk to our boss.’ What has he or anyone done about that? Instead of talking about ‘lies,’ of which there were none on our side, he ought to be a man, face the facts and deal with them.”
Toward the end of his radio show on Friday, Camillo said, “It doesn’t take a lot for people to accuse without facts or pass on misinformation. It has not been kicked back (from the state’s attorney to Greenwich Police). We’re waiting for it to come back. I’ve seen it. There’s a narrative that I don’t think is anywhere near true. We have to let the process play out.”
Still, Litvack said on Sunday that prior to their press release, Greenwich Police had never interviewed anyone from Voices for Democracy.
He added that Camillo’s denial the matter was referred back to Greenwich Police by the State’s Attorney was false.
Litvack went on to provide acopy of an email he received from the State’s Attorney in response to receiving the Voices of Democracy “Statement of Facts,” which he said was also sent to Police Chief Heavey.
The State’s Attorney wrote to Litvack on Nov 2:
“Although my office does not routinely conduct criminal investigations, I will contact Chief Heavey today [November 2] so that Greenwich Police can follow up on your concerns to ensure a complete and fair investigation.”Paul J. Ferencek, State’s Attorney, Stamford
“How can he say the investigation was not referred back to the police to ‘follow up and investigate?’ It plainly was, and by the way, that is what we are told is happening,” Litvack said. “After it was sent back, the police have in fact contacted Greenwich Voices for Democracy, and presumably are going about conducting a real inquiry, which they plainly did not do when they rushed to put out the statement they did.”
Litvack likened the entire episode to an incident in 2019 referred to as “Spygate.”
Back in 2019, Litvack’s wife Joanna Swomley and former town employee Melissa Evans, both Democrats who had rented the Cone Room in town hall for a closed door private meeting to work on Litvack’s campaign for First Selectman, found their photo taken from town cameras in the Cone Room posted on the Twitter feed of former RTC chair, Ed Dadakis.
No one was ever found accountable for the photos.
Litvack said like Spygate, he suspected, “there was no will to investigate because the Town knows the facts and doesn’t want them revealed.”
“The tactic of talking about alleged lies, falsehoods etc. instead of dealing with the facts and accepting the truth, is so Trumpian as to be pathetic,” Litvack added.
For his part, Camillo, on Friday said he had faith the truth would come out and that, “Everyone will see what was investigated and what was decided.”