Gilbert Activist Accused of Stealing Campaign Signs

Posted: May 13, 2011 in Anarchists & Communists, Battlefield Arizona

by Parker Leavitt and Nathan Gonzalez – May. 12, 2011 12:40 PM
The Arizona Republic

A prominent Gilbert community activist will likely face misdemeanor charges after witnesses saw her stealing political signs that she said were illegal and “negative” in their message, police said Thursday.

 About 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, two witnesses called police saying Roberta “Bobbi” Smith, 49, of Gilbert, was cutting down campaign signs and placing them in her van, police Sgt. Bill Balafas said.

Responding officers didn’t have to travel very far: the signs were being removed across the street from police headquarters at Palm Street and Civic Center Drive.

Smith is chairwoman of the town’s parks board and president of Gilbert Leadership, an annual Gilbert Chamber of Commerce program with a curriculum centered on personal development, local government and service.

“The signs were in the back of her (van) in plain view,” Balafas said. “She told witnesses they were illegal and she didn’t like the message. That it was negative.”

Police allegedly found 12 signs in Smith’s possession. Four signs were identified as owned by the Committee to Restore Integrity to Gilbert.

Committee Chairman H. Steven Johnson was contacted and requested charges be filed against Smith, Balafas said.

Paul Marchant, a campaign supporter of challengers Jordan Ray and Victor Petersen, told The Republic he was near town hall when he saw Bobbi Smith’s van pull up across the street. Smith appeared to be removing campaign signs, Marchant said.

“I went over there and said, ‘Hey, you can’t do that,'” Marchant said. “I didn’t see her cut them down; I just saw the pliers in her hand, and she was yelling at me, telling me the signs were illegal.”

The sign made reference to incumbent Councilwoman Linda Abbott’s husband Tom,who has been accused by some residents of stealing campaign signs. The sign’s message read, “If you’re reading this sign, it’s because Tom Abbott hasn’t taken it down yet,” Marchant said.

Former Gilbert Councilman Don Skousen later arrived at the scene to speak to Smith. He told The Republic he feels the negative signs are slanderous and that Smith made “a mistake in judgment because she was infuriated with these idiots.”

Smith has removed signs before that she said she believed were illegal because they did not include identification of ownership, Skousen said.

With the Town Council general election set for Tuesday and six candidates vying for three seats, the campaign has become increasingly negative. Anti-incumbent signs are springing up on numerous street corners and accusations are flying.

“I’ve been through 10 elections in this town, and I don’t recall anything near this level of vitriol,” Skousen said.

Smith has been an outspoken supporter of Abbott, and her endorsement is posted on Abbott’s campaign website.

She wasn’t arrested, but misdemeanor charges of committing damage to political signs will be forwarded to the Town Prosecutor’s Office, police said.

Police said they have no record of charges being filed under the municipal code for damaging signs since at least 2005.

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