Campaign signs go missing -- so does cell phone

Menlo Park election season takes quirky turn

Who will be elected to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District (MPFPD) Board of Directors is not a question keeping most people awake at night, but some are taking it very, very seriously.

So seriously that campaign signs for Virginia Chang Kiraly seem to be vanishing. The Republican community activist is running for one of two seats open this year in the district that serves Atherton and East Palo Alto, nearby unincorporated areas, and Menlo Park.

Chuck Bernstein had her sign posted in his yard. But when the candidate asked him why she couldn't see the sign any longer, he discovered on Tuesday that it had been tossed into the bushes. Lying to the right of it? A sleek, black Samsung cell phone emblazoned with "Google."

As he studied the phone, he said, two incoming messages that mentioned "Woodell" scrolled by in the upper corner of the screen.

He wondered if that meant John Woodell, the husband of Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith, since the couple lives several houses down the street.

Woodell and Keith endorsed her fellow Democrat Rob Silano in his bid for election to the Menlo Park fire board, and had his sign in their yard.

Woodell didn't respond to multiple inquiries from the Almanac about whether he'd lost his phone, and if it somehow may have landed in Bernstein's bushes.

"I have no way of knowing that it IS his phone," Bernstein told the Almanac, but called the circumstantial evidence interesting since whoever dropped the phone in the bushes on his property "couldn't be just walking by casually."

He turned the hot potato of a phone over to the police to investigate.

"I wish it didn't happen to me," Bernstein said. "Why did it have to be my house?"

Spokesperson Nicole Acker said police determined it wasn't an enforceable crime since the sign was neither taken nor damaged -- just relocated. "Detectives are working on this case as far as conducting more research into disturbing a political sign on private property, and contacting the parties involved," she said.

The case didn't appear in the daily crime log released by police Wednesday morning, according to Acker, because officers weren't sure how to classify it. She said it should have been included in the log as an informational case, and had advised that in the future, cases be listed in the log even if they weren't sure of the premise.

For her part, Chang Kiraly would like her signs to stay put. "I've noticed that some of my signs have been missing on major streets, such as Valparaiso, near my home. Unfortunately, that's par for the course in elections."

In an email, she said she hopes that people understand and realize that signs are considered campaign literature and cost money.

"People should also realize that trespassing on private property is illegal. Most important, since I am a strong believer in the First Amendment, I hope people will respect others' right to voice their opinion on issues and/or candidates."

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Like this comment
Posted by Two-Sets-of-Rules: Free-Speech-For-Me-And-None-For-You
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 6:57 pm

> A sleek, black Samsung cell phone emblazoned with "Google."

Isn't Google the company with the motto: "Do No Evil?"

Wonder if they really mean it, or it's just for show?

Like this comment
Posted by evil
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2012 at 5:15 am

There is no need to wonder is a company is evil because their logo appears on every phone that runs their operating system. Finding the phone may have seemed like a gift from God, but it was actually a test from God.

Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2012 at 9:07 am

Curious, this article states the candidate asked Bernstein, "why she couldn't see the sign any longer", but Bernstein lives around the corner on a long dead-end street. Did Kiraly place the missing phone next to her campaign sign and later ask Bernstein to go searching for it?

Also curious, this article does not mention that Bernstein ran against Woodell's wife the year before, and lost. Bernstein and Kiraly both previously ran for office and lost. Bernstein states, "I wish it didn't happen to me", and turned the phone over to the police to investigate. The reporter complains that the case didn't appear in the daily crime log, and the story was written and published before the police reported the incident. Was this story manufactured and leaked to the press to generated free publicity for Kiraly's campaign?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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