Campaign sign cell phone reunited with owner

Woodell says he would never pull up signs

Menlo Park police have closed the case, but the Saga of the Missing Campaign Sign continued to unfold over the weekend as John Woodell surfaced with a few terse comments for the press.

"I would never do such a thing," he wrote in an email, disavowing all responsibility for pulling up Virginia Chang Kiraly's campaign sign from a neighbor's yard last week.

The neighbor, Chuck Bernstein, had the sign posted in his yard. But when the candidate asked why she couldn't see it any longer, on Oct. 18, he discovered the sign tossed into his bushes. Next to it, he found a black Samsung cell phone displaying messages that referred to "Woodell."

Saying he thought he might be accused of stealing it, Bernstein decided to hand the phone over to police. Investigators determined there was no crime, since the sign had merely been moved, not stolen, according to a police spokesperson, and returned the phone to its owner.

In an email to the Almanac on Oct. 22, Woodell said: "That sign was in the bushes many hours before I lost my phone. I don't know exactly how or where some other person came into possession of my property, and identified the device as belonging to me, but I know when."

He didn't clarify how he knew when the sign went missing versus when he'd lost his phone beyond saying that the sign "was seen (and possibly reported) missing 'long' before my phone was lost."

Asked why the five-day delay before responding to the press, Woodell replied, "I did not respond, because this was a ridiculous accusation."

Chang Kiraly is running for one of two seats open on the board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District that serves Atherton, East Palo Alto, nearby unincorporated areas, and Menlo Park.

Fellow candidate Rob Silano's campaign sign was the sole one on display in Woodell's yard last week. But Woodell challenged claims that he doesn't also support Chang Kiraly. He said he tells people he supports both candidates. "When they ask me, I tell them to vote for Silano and Kiraly."

However, the candidate in question disagreed. "If they're not publicly endorsing me, and they're not, how can they say they're supporting me?" Chang Kiraly said, referring to Woodell and his wife, Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith, who both endorsed fellow Democrat Silano. Calling the whole thing "odd," she said her supporters report fending off encouragement from the couple to back Silano.

"Sounds like she doesn't want my support, which is not the same. You should ask a more objective source," Woodell commented.

While she'd prefer to see the focus return to issues facing the fire district, such as pension sustainability and school safety, Chang Kiraly would also like her campaign literature to stay put.

"I've only got a hundred signs!" she said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Next-Time-Give-The-Case-To-CSI
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2011 at 11:09 am

All of the Cop/CSI shows manage to get the cell phone call logs within the first three minutes of the discovery of a body. So, the the Menlo Cops actually look in the call log and see if the phone had been used by someone other than the owner? If not, why not?

Maybe this is small potatoes to the cops, but there quite a few signs get torn down during contentious elections--particularly elections where expenditures involving public sector employees are concerned.

Maybe the best thing to do is to put a video cam in the window, and give that footage to the cops if your sign(s) are disturbed.

Like this comment
Posted by myhometoo
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Simple really:
If you find a cell phone, take steps to return it to the owner.
If you want your sign back, ask for it.
If the sign in your yard moves, blame the garden gnomes.
Botton line, GROW UP.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

...and if you uproot a sign, be very careful to not leave anything behind.

Like this comment
Posted by Dee Nile
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Amazing how a cell phone goes missing and ends up where a sign (that was pulled up) is moved to some bushes. Interesting how the cell phone owner knows that the sign was in the bushes many hours before the phone was...guess that means the cell phone owner really knows what is going on around there. How often are coincidences really coincidences, I ask myself. I think of stories/scenarios that point to what people wish to not see: The Elephant in the Middle of the Room, and the Emperor's New Clothes. I suggest security cameras with infrared viewing at night, too. I caught a neighbor hacking off branches off my heritage tree via our video cameras...can't deny something with any credibility when caught on video!

Like this comment
Posted by JohnWoodell
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 26, 2011 at 1:31 am

JohnWoodell is a registered user.

Dee, the cell phone owner chose to use the term "in the bushes" for simplicity, and in reference to the Oct 19 article. The cell phone owner has no idea how the sign went missing, but does remember not seeing it all day Saturday. After all, the cell phone owner lives on the same cul-de-sac.

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

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