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.